Receiving training now helps United Methodists everywhere be better responders down the road.
By Susan Kim*
November 20, 2012—From Hurricane Katrina to tornado outbreaks, the south-central portion of the U.S. has, for better or worse, a lot of experience responding to disasters. In an October gathering of nearly 80 people, seasoned responders in the United Methodist South-Central Jurisdiction were able to walk alongside beginners who were eager to learn how to help disaster survivors in the best way possible.
The 2012 Disaster Academy was offered by UMCOR in cooperation with Volunteers In Mission (VIM). From workshops on long-term recovery to discussions about Early Response Teams, the training offered both information and inspiration.
“Many of the attendees who attend Disaster Response Academies are completely new to disaster response,” explained Debra Vest, VIM coordinator for the South-Central Jurisdiction. “They have skills and a heart for helping those in need, but typically don’t have familiarity with how to proceed in disaster situations.”
The Disaster Response Academy was developed to equip responders with protocols, procedures, resources, direction, and contacts. “It provides attendees with guidelines that enable them to function as trained response team members and leaders, rather than moving into a disaster area as unaffiliated and unrequested volunteers, who may unknowingly hamper recovery efforts,” said Vest.
More experienced responders also got a chance to advanced their knowledge even further. “They were very excited about it,” said Mary Hughes Gaudreau, an UMCOR consultant who helped Vest lead the training. “What we heard was how wonderful it was to talk to peers and to think at an advanced, experienced level. They just understood each other.”
In one workshop, experienced responders were asked to give an assessment of the professional quality of their lives, to talk about the impact of stress, and to reflect on why they serve as disaster responders. “They were writing fast and furiously, and they shared their personal reasons with each other,” said Gaudreau.
Ultimately, responders end up feeling as grateful as the disaster survivors they help, added Vest. “Not only do disaster survivors receive blessings from our volunteers’ efforts, our volunteers receive many personal blessings as well,” she pointed out.
As participants left the training, both beginners and advanced responders felt more connected as a whole, said Vest. “Hopefully, for most of our attendees, the biggest takeaway is connectionalism. They understand that they are a part of a larger whole, and that the parts are very connected.”
Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, will support UMCOR’s efforts to help disaster-prone areas to be prepared.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.