Our first ACS Emotional and Spiritual Care class outside of the North American Division was conducted last week in Rwanda. The 'Assisting Individuals in Crisis' course was taught by W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS Disaster Response Director, in the city of Kigali from August 13-15. A few months ago ADRA Rwanda reached out to us asking if we’d be willing to offer guidance in Emotional Spiritual Care training to their team onsite. Many of the other ADRA country offices in Africa also expressed interest in attending the training, as well. We had 35 people from seven countries (Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania) that turned up for it.
One of the clearest indications of how different some of our work is within the NAD occurred during the introductions when each participant was asked to say their name along with a disaster they had responded to in the last six months. The list of events that was compiled included cholera, malaria, Ebola outbreaks, refugee influxes, cyclones, drought, and mudslides. War conflicts within countries were also highlighted as one of the major crises. These events signify the degree of trauma many in attendance were dealing with daily. As the first day of the class began, it was evident that the attendees had a need to share their experiences and the challenge of meeting their concerns was one Derrick took very seriously.
Each day of the session focused on how part of our task was to offer support to communities that in several cases were still recovering from crisis events in various areas. An example of this was described by one of the country directors from the South Congo. Since war has been a reality in this area for over 20 years, many of those he encounters have been displaced from their homes and living in a refugee camp for 5-10 years, which is beyond the norm and original intent of a refugee camp. These families continue to be impacted by the loss of a home and exposure to an outbreak of cholera in the area, leaving them in a perpetual state of crisis. These are the type of multilevel events that compound an already challenging situation.
Another country director spoke of communities that are in such a sense of shock that they will not verbalize or communicate the level of tragedy to anyone trying to help or assist them in any way. This challenge complicates the assessment of the needed support for this group. These are the type of issues that were discussed over the course of the session with those in attendance. The responses we received from them was overwhelmingly positive. "I hope we can again work out the particulars of how ACS and ADRA can work together in support of communities that experience crisis around the world. As we become more familiar with the strengths both organizations bring to recovery efforts, those affected will ultimately be better served by the Seventh-day Adventist Church," said Derrick.
Here are a few photos of the Emotional & Spiritual Care session in Rwanda: