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Neighbors help flooded neighbors

Faith-based organizations focus on ways to help caregivers, disaster survivors cope with trauma

BY BOND BRUNGARD | BIGGSVILLE, IL | July 13, 2008

Cindy Peck is doing her part to help her neighbors recover from recent flooding. Peck, who lives in Galesville, IL, helped to coordinate a four-hour trauma counseling training session at the Biggsville Presbyterian Church July 10.

Biggsville, like many Midwestern communities, is dependent on agriculture as well as residents who work across the river in Iowa. And farmers and commuters suffered when the floodwaters covered fields and shut down bridges and routes to work.

“A lot of them lost their homes and their belongings,” said Peck, “or they lost their crops and a way to make a living.”

Breadwinners are not the only ones suffering. Children witness everything and absorb the stress too, and Peck said school counselors were invited to participate in the training session, which was sponsored by the Presbytery of Great Rivers and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

As the water continues to recede in Illinois, it’s still too early to conduct long term assessments. But the trauma toll is evident, and many, including the clergy who have been providing care, are not immune to stress.

“We want to give them the tools, so they can understand what’s happening to them” said Dave Roth, president of Illinois VOAD and director of Public Policy Lutheran Child & Family Services of Illinois.

Residents in Indiana are still recovering from flooding, which plagued the state throughout the winter, spring and early summer. And now state health officials are telling residents to beware of the West Nile Virus, which is carried by mosquitoes.

Conditions are similar to those experienced in 2002 when Indiana endured a wet spring, followed by hot, dry summer conditions. Mosquitoes have now been active for several weeks, and they tend to breed in sitting water and open containers, such as discarded tires and paint cans. Public health officials are advising residents to dispose of tires or any unused containers that can hold water.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced recently that the new Office of Disaster Recovery will be opened to help residents and farmers meet the deadlines needed to apply for assistance. Of Indiana’s 92 counties, 37 have been declared disaster areas.

Lura Cayton, who helps coordinate relief efforts in Indiana and Illinois for the Emergency Response Program of Church World Service, expects the long-term recovery there to take years. Cayton said she uses a formula that multiplies anything by 10 to help those displaced by a disaster.

She explains if a family is initially affected by a flood for a week, or seven days, then it may take 70 days for them to regain their footing and a path toward where they were before the disaster. And then those 70 days are again multiplied by 10, or nearly two years, to where a new life’s path has possibly been forged.

“You make an attempt to get people to that new normal phase,” she said, “whatever that is.”

Bob Babcock, the disaster response coordinator for the Southern Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church, has been busy aiding recovery in the Bartholomew, Shelby, Brown, Marion, Vigo, Daviess, Johnson, and Jackson counties.

Babcock said training classes in case management are being offered to those willing to help. And United Methodists in Mississippi are sending $10,000.00 to help with efforts in the Hoosier state in recognition of all of the work Indiana volunteers have donated to the Hurricane Katrina recovery, Babcock said.


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