The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in the Caribbean recently co-hosted psycho-social training for mental-health professionals in Sint Maarten to assist in building community resilience as the island’s residents recover from three hurricanes that hit in 2017. The training was ADRA’s third major post-hurricane intervention on the island, ADRA leaders said.
More than 80 percent of the island’s homes remain damaged and have tarpaulins over their roofs. Rebuilding has been slow, and family life is still disrupted. ADRA was called on to assist with the training, said Alexander Isaacs, ADRA Caribbean director.
“Soon after the devastation of the storms, ADRA responded with basic needs like food, water, hygiene kits, hot meals every day for months, shipment of goods until the end of December,” said Isaacs. ADRA also arranged a one-day training with Loma Linda University’s International Behavioral Health Trauma Team with psychologists and provided service in several schools on the island.
The most recent training in Sint Maarten drew more than 35 health and mental-health professionals from several government and non-government organizations. They received instruction in the neuroscience of resilience and the skill set necessary to cope with mental-health trauma.
“You see how affected people still need to rebuild their lives,” said Isaacs. “Many still are without jobs, and their lives continue to be disrupted, so ADRA continues to be available to assist in Sint Maarten.”
ADRA Caribbean coordinated with the government of Sint Maarten, LLU’s International Behavioral Health Trauma Team, and the Trinidad and Tobago Behavioral Health Trauma Team, an LLU-trained team, to provide the three-day training session.
Sint Maarten’s minister of Health Care, Social Development and Labor, Emil Lee, commended ADRA for its support on the island through the months after the hurricanes and thanked the Adventist organization for introducing the ADRA behavioral health model to the community, one that the government plans to implement.
“We believe that through this partnership, families will be strengthened and stabilized, since many of them are still living under stress,” said Ruth Douglas, local ADRA coordinator in Sint Maarten.
The training centered on a psychological model, the Community Resiliency Model (CRM), that teaches individuals how to better handle life’s stresses and traumatic events by using self-care techniques that stop trauma from “hijacking” the nervous system, organizers said.
The training also taught participants that the inevitable benefits gained through using resilience techniques include increased faith and a stronger advocacy for being good citizens.
Vashni Cuvalay, a pastor and Coordinator of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sint Maarten, said the practicality of the training makes it easier to help children and families who are going through stress after a disaster.
“This will help the church be better able to help the members and families in need,” Cuvalay said.
As a result of the recent training, the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development, and Labor in Sint Maarten has reached out to ADRA to schedule additional capacity-building events later in 2018 for local professionals who work in the area of psycho-social care, Isaacs said.
The ministry will identify a wider pool of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, and other care providers to develop the correct skills of self-care, enabling them to better handle the needs of the population they serve.
The past few months have been trying times for many of the islands in the Caribbean, said Isaacs. “ADRA will continue to engage in partnerships and assist Sint Maarten as much as possible to help rebuild people’s lives.”