As part of its continued response to working with persons who have experienced, and are being affected by disaster of various origins, the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) spearheaded the implementation of post trauma counselling interventions in Bartica, one of the communities in Guyana recently impacted by wanton violence. Together, the districts of Lusignan and Bartica experienced the indiscriminate killings of a total of twenty three (23) persons on January 26, and February 17, 2008 respectively.
These interventions were organised by the CCC in collaboration with the Franciscan Institute of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother (SSM) and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Georgetown, Guyana. The initiative was supported by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Guyana.
The main aim of this intervention was to reduce the negative impact of the psychological trauma experienced by members of the affected communities through therapeutic trauma counseling and psycho-education in trauma and support.
The interventions were the result of an offer made to the government of Guyana by the CCC’s General Secretary in a letter of support to President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana.
In this letter Mr. Granado observed that “these incidents threaten the welfare and security of citizens, creating a pervasive sense of anxiety at the national level. Indeed, such incidents are erosive of the social fabric, striking, as they do, at the very core and foundation of civilized society – viz. respect for the sanctity of human life and the related right and guarantee of individuals to a certain quality of existence.”
Continuing, the General Secretary noted that: “Given the gravity of the matter, and at such a fundamental level, we consider it imperative that all sectors of Caribbean society consolidate efforts and resources in making a concerted response – one which is constructive, urgent, prudent and effective. This is by no means merely a ‘Guyanese problem’. It is rather a regional Caribbean concern.”
The various elements of the intervention would have assisted these communities in achieving some measure of normalcy and stabilisation in their daily lives, while providing various persons with skills to better address the needs of community members on an on-going basis.
To operationalise the intervention, a seven-member team of therapists, led by Sr. Julie-Marie Peters, SSM, was assembled and visits to Bartica and Lusignan were organised. The team, which comprised experts in the areas of trauma therapy and psychoeducation, conducted initial assessments which informed their therapeutic and psycho-educational sessions. During the first visit which took place in March attention was focussed on persons in the community of Bartica.
During the team’s initial stay in Guyana several national and community agencies and groups also provided valuable assistance. Included in these was Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs which facilitated the team’s ease of entry into, and movement within Guyana. The Benedictine monastic community at Bartica led by Br. Paschal Jordan, OSB also played a critically supportive role in the delivery of the services offered. Roman Catholic Bishop Francis Alleyne provided the necessary local leadership as the Head of a CCC member church in Guyana.
The CCC and its partners know that the process of healing will be a continuous one and intends follow-up visits to Guyana. As part of these follow-up visits, work will be done with various agencies, as requested, to plan strategies for addressing post trauma counseling needs.
The counselling sessions have so far been executed in three (3) phases commencing March 9, 2008.