Central American Mitch Disaster

Jim Snow jimsnow at idt.net
Wed Dec 9 08:52:16 PST 1998

Kathi & Taylor: This is one person's description of the heartbreaking ravages of
Mitch. I got this from the "Open Space" listserve, a training/planning format for
large groups and used here, I believe, to try to mobilize a wide variety of
resources to deal with the aftermath of Mitch.
    Looking forward to seeing you on the 19th.

> >This message was sent to the IAF Association Coordinating Team (ACT). Gil is a
> >member of the IAF and in on the ACT.
> >
> >
> >Date: Sun, 06 Dec 1998 12:47:22 -0500
> >From: Gilbert Brenson Lazan <gbrenson at impsat.net.co>
> >Subject: UPDATE: Facilitator training in Central American Mitch Disaster
> >
> >Good morning, friends:
> >Several of you have asked for updates on the Central American Facilitator
> >Training Project that we have initiated with the staff of the Fundacion
> >Neo-Humanista, MAP International and the newly-formed Latin American
> >Facilitator Network (RELFA). I just returned from a "recon mission" to
> >Nicaragua and Honduras and I cannot remember a natural disaster in which I
> >have worked (and there have been many) that has affected me more than this
> >one.
> >There are three million people homeless, most jammed into makeshift
> >shelters where there is at best one scant meal a day. The northern half of
> >Nicaragua, southern and eastern parts of Honduras and scattered sectors of
> >Guatemala and El Salvador are totally destroyed. The next crop cannot be
> >harvested until at least July or August so there is nothing to eat and no
> >source of income until then. The best financial estimates by the World Bank
> >indicate that it will take from 15-20 years to rebuild the region. And
> >then there is the human suffering that words cannot express: the anguished
> >face of the seventeen-year-old mother with her newborn child and without
> >food...her husband and parents died in the avalanche; the trembling voice
> >of the artist that lost his life's work in the flood; the stupor of
> >exhaustion of the young soldier that even after fifteen hours refuses to
> >stop shovelling mud in search for the bodies of his entire family; the
> >hysterical young social worker reduced to uncontrollable sobbing while
> >repeating over and over again: "They didn't prepare me for this in the
> >university".
> >Then there is the secondary tragedy: the government officials that are
> >stealing money and materials sent by other countries and reselling them to
> >the highest bidder; the NGOs that squabble amongst themselves to get a
> >piece of the foreign money; the immigration of thousands of poor peasants
> >from other, non-affected regions of the countries to the disaster zone in
> >order to try to get some of the aid money and services; the cholera
> >epidemic that is on the way; the incest and rape in the shelters; the
> >suicides that have already begun; the post-traumatic stress disorders that
> >are crippling entire populations; the well-meaning but poorly advised
> >public figures that tell everyone to cheer up, that everything is all right
> >now and that all the pain has passed. It hasn't and the biggest challenges
> >are yet to come.
> >And then there are other scenes: the volunteer workers from a hundred
> >different organizationas that are on the scene day and night; the North
> >American Mission Doctors that fly in for two-week shifts to see 180
> >patients a day...and that's just half of those waiting in line; the (few)
> >responsible journalists that are using their media to educate and to
> >comfort and not to exploit or to discount; the dedicated NGOs that are
> >working with nothing and doing the impossible; the human spirit multiplied
> >by thousands that in a hundred different ways are saying: "We care and we
> >are here for you."
> >During my visit we met with several groups of facilitators to plan a
> >massive facilitator training strategy. What beautiful and dedicated people
> >they are. In Nicaragua, under the leadership of the Woman's Network
> >Against Violence, we will be working through Christmas with ten NGOs and
> >thirty facilitators to prepare for facilitator training programs in
> >January. In Honduras the leadership has been effectively assumed by the
> >Central American Technological University (UNITEC) to gather together
> >facilitators from more 30 NGOs and GOs to begin their training the first
> >week in January.
> >We are using a cascade strategy. Thirty experienced facilitators in each
> >country will be put through an intensive course for one week and monthly
> >follow-ups for one year. They will be trained by my colleague-wife and
> >myself, with support from dozens of other volunteers, in facilitation
> >skills for emergency situations, community reorganization, social
> >organization in shelters, etc. A team of four facilitators from our
> >Foundation is hard at work designing two workshops with all their materials
> >to transfer to these Core Facilitators, who will then spread out throughout
> >the countries to train local facilitators (teachers, medical personnel,
> >social workers, rural extension workers, Red Cross volunteers,
> >psychologists and any other professionals that work directly with the
> >affected population) in the techniques and workshop designs. These people
> >will then repeat their learnings with the victims of the tragedy. In this
> >way, these 60 Core Facilitators, each one working with two groups per month
> >of Local Facilitators, will be able to reach at least seventy thousand
> >victims per month.
> >Additionally, we are supporting these efforts with the following services:
> >1) As available funds permit, we are massively reproducing and distributing
> >two "recovery manuals" for children and adults that we wrote for the
> >Armero disaster in Colombia.
> >2) On our website, we have published two dozen books and articles on
> >disaster intervention, for the use of any interested person or
> >organization. In just the month of November, there were 800 downloads of
> >these materials.
> >3) We have in place a virtual consultancy through a "Cyberbulletin Board"
> >on our website, manned and womenned by a dozen international
> >Spanish-speaking experts, who are available to help any person or agency in
> >the field that wants to ask for suggestions and advise.
> >4) A corps of fifty international, Spanish-speaking volunteer facilitators
> >and other experts in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders has been recluted,
> >including many members or friends of the Grp-Facl list. These people have
> >offered to give a few days of their time to go to the area and help local
> >NGOs and GOs with their efforts in different areas. Their names, address
> >and specialties will soon be posted on our website.
> >A special thanks to all of you that have sent us your moral, spiritual,
> >professional and economic support of this project. I have shared all of
> >your letters with the respective groups of Core Facilitators and their
> >agencies and they too send their appreciation.
> >Hope to see you in January at the IAF Conference in Williamsburg, where I
> >will fill in all the details to those interested in listening. Any
> >Spanish-reader that is interested in weekly updates and information may
> >subscribe to a special e-list through our website.
> >Since Mechas and I will be working straight through the holidays, we'd like
> >to take this opportunity now to wish you and yours the very best for a
> >Happy Holiday season.
> >Gil
> >***********************************************************************
> >FUNDACION NEO-HUMANISTA - Dr. Gilbert Brenson Lazan
> >Consultoria y Formacion de Facilitadores
> >en Procesos de Transformacion Organizacional y Comunitaria
> >Apartado Aereo 50717 - Santafe de Bogota, Colombia
> >Tel:+571-217-0985; Web: http://neo-humanista.org; Fax:345-2072
> >mailto:info at neo-humanista.org mailto:gbrenson at ibm.net
> >***********************************************************************

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