Episcopalians Offer Trauma Counseling in Sri Lanka, Attest to Devastation in India

Episcopal News Service. February 10, 2005 [021005-2-A]

New Hampshire couple bound for Sri Lanka through ERD; Manhattan church leader reflects on observations in India

Episcopal Relief and Development is providing access to counseling services for Sri Lankans recovering after the tsunami. Many survivors lost family members and remain traumatized by the disaster.

ERD is working with the Diocese of Colombo to coordinate a trauma stress relief and rehabilitation program for people in need of counseling. David Baughan, a physician, and his wife Jennifer White-Baughan, a clinical psychologist trained in the field of trauma, will be stationed in Sri Lanka for three months. There, they will train local counselors, educators, and social service workers on post traumatic stress disorder methods and interventions.

The Baughans are Episcopalians from the Diocese of New Hampshire. Jennifer White-Baughan is a consultant with the Carroll County Attorney's Office in New Hampshire, where she has specialized in domestic violence and child abuse counseling. David Baughan has designed curricula to train physicans to practice in underserved areas and consulted with the University of Costa Rica on the development of their family medicine residency program.

As a couple they have presented a culturally appropriate and innovative intervention program on PTSD in Cambodian refugees to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Border Relief Operations in Bangkok.

“Many people in communities throughout the diocese are in need of counseling,” said the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera. “‘The sea that sustained us took everything from us,’” said Bishop Chickera, quoting a local fisherman. “This comment from a fisherman applies to people too. Both have the potential for nourishment and destruction.”

Current updates on South Asia relief are posted regularly on-line at www.er-d.org/tsunami.

To help families rebuild after the devastating earthquake and tsunamis in South Asia, donors are invited to contribute to the South Asia Relief Fund in the Ways to Give section of http://www.er-d.org/ or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development, South Asia Relief Fund, PO Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101.

Episcopal Relief and Development, an independent 501 ©3 organization, saves lives and builds hope in communities around the world. We provide emergency assistance in times of disaster. When the immediate crisis is over, we rebuild devastated communities and offer long-term solutions in the areas of food security, health care, and HIV/AIDS.

- - - - -

In the Episcopal Diocese of New York Yvonne O’Neal, chairperson of the dioceses Congregational Life and Mission Commission and a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Manhattan, recently returned from India as part of a diocesan delegation. In “A Witness to the Tsunami” she shared what she saw in the affected regions. This article is reprinted with permission from January/February 2005 issue of The Episcopal New Yorker, Diocese of New York, Neva Rae Fox, communications director.

A Witness to the Tsunami

By Yvonne O’Neal

When I visited Kilpaukkam on Thursday, January 20, the sea was still raging with anger, it seemed. On the shores were the broken fishing boats, catamarans and ruined nets. The fisher folk were standing by with dazed looks, wondering when they could go back to earning a living at the only job they know how to do. Perhaps some were mourning a loved one. There was rubble everywhere. The children played among the rubble, and were eager to have their photographs taken.

A curious and much photographed object on the beach was said to come all the way from Thailand. Nearby, government officials met with the people to find out about their concerns and their needs. Government aid is very minimal, consisting of Rs 4000 (rupees) ($90.90), rice and a few toys per family. Private foundations and NGOs are much more generous; they give everything the family needs. UNICEF water tanks are seen throughout villages, providing clean drinking water.

I saw the utter sadness in the eyes of a mother who lost her five-year daughter. The child was found dead in the ruins of the house. I could not be so insensitive as to take a photograph of this grieving mother, but she is etched in my memory forever.

The day before, on Tuesday the 19, we visited the shores of Budhu Pattinam Kuppam, a small fishing village of 420 families. Over half the houses of the village were destroyed completely. All the contents of the remaining houses were lost. Six people died in this village. We talked to one man who was able to rescue two of his brother’s children, but blames himself for the other two that perished.

There is sadness and despair everywhere. So many people are homeless. All the men are now unemployed because their boats and nets have been destroyed. However, there are three colorful new boats on the beach, donated by Americans and bearing the names of the donors, including Bergen County, NJ. The Hope Foundation is the name we heard over and over again, and these boats came via this organization. Another prominent NGO in the relief efforts is World Vision. The NGOs are busy providing temporary housing, mainly tents, and will provide permanent housing later on. Of course, our own Episcopal Relief and Development has been quietly helping out the nations that suffered in this disaster.

Prof. J. Samuel Cornelius, honorary director of the Department of Ecumenical Relations, Diocese of Madras, was our host and guide. Also in the party to Budhu Pattinam Kuppam was the delegation from the Diocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka to the Madras Diocesan Council 2005, the Rev. Joseph. S. Charles, Mrs. Monica Charles, and the Ven. Dhiloraj Canagasabey, Archdeacon of Nuware Eliya. The area of the Diocese of Colombo was hit hard by the tsunami. Archdeacon Canagasabey told of the massive death, destruction and despair. The ocean raged with such intensity that it brought forth from its bottom all the dirt and debris, which caused corpses to decay in less than 24 hours

For miles and miles along the beaches of Chengalpattu one sees the temporary tents that have been set up to provide shelter for the homeless. Life goes on. The children play. Some walk miles and miles to get to school.

The Diocese of Madras, headed the Rt. Rev. Dr. V. Devasahayam, is applying to the government for adoption of two or three villages for rehabilitation programs in the building of roads, houses, etc. The diocese sprang to action immediately after the tragedy and called an emergency meeting on December 27.

In his Seaquake Tragedy Appeal letter, Bishop Devasahayam summed up the situation succinctly. “Death, destruction and destitution in an unimaginably large scale was everywhere, and the people who had only a little before the seaquake and the tidal wave, have even less now after the devastation.”