Community Based Psychosocial Support Programme for Resiliency Building in Tsunami Rehabilitation of Kanyakumari District
Social work as a profession is having an essential empowering agenda in different field of interventions. While focusing on empowerment it becomes obvious to look for sustainability by building resiliency. Considering the ‘capabilities-based’ approach of Sen (1999) and Nussbaum (2001) that focused on interventions for the people living in unprecedented difficulties, it is evident to work for resiliency building during disaster interventions for the survivors. Disaster intervention is a continuum that includes capacity building, community mobilization and ensuring sustainability by strengthening individual initiatives, rebuilding social support mechanism, and ultimately facilitating resiliency building through series of psychosocial support activities.
Tsunami, one of the most devastating disasters in the 21st century was a grave threat to the human existence through the coastal line of the Indian Ocean. In such a situation working with the community was a major problem solving effort to re-establish social support and human relationships to empower people to achieve a sense of well-being, a ‘sense of place’ and building resiliency through psychosocial support. Considering the needs and following the national- international guidelines multiple activities were conducted in 40 specifically selected communities in Kanyakumari district where the survivors were engaged as the key stakeholder. The article focused this process of building resiliency through psychosocial support and draws the crucial learning for social work practice that are based on core methods of social work with a strong mechanism of community based monitoring and appreciation of local knowledge, cultural wisdom, strength and resource base for building resilient communities.
Key words: Tsunami, disaster relief, social work strengths approach
Social Work is an important empowering profession of 21st century that has special focus on the people living in distress in different difficult circumstances. Disaster is of the most threatening situations in human existence that makes the survivors vulnerable to a great extent. The incidents of disasters are not new but the impact of the disasters on the human lives is increasing progressively and characterizing every disaster with very new dimension to understand and work for the rehabilitation and resiliency building. There are number of social workers in the field of disaster intervention and disaster management as a course has been included in social work teaching curriculum in number of universities in India (Bhadra, 2010). Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu is one of the worse affected districts in South India, is the place where the author was engaged to provide community based psychosocial support to the survivors of Tsunami is the context of this article to derive the learning for social work practice.
Working for the survivors of disaster is essentially an enabling process considering various humanitarian concerns like, ensuring human dignity, encouraging participation, strengthening available resources and capacity for holistic recovery. Barker (2003) defined empowerment as “the process of helping individuals, families, groups, and communities to increase their personal, interpersonal, socio-economic, and political strength and to develop influence towards improving their circumstances” (p.142). In social work profession empowerment focused practice seek to develop the capacity of clients to understand their environment, make choices, take responsibilities for their choices and influence their life situations through organization and advocacy (Zastrow, 2010). The empowerment focused practice in social work is broadly being termed as strength based perspective and Saleebey (Saleebey, 1997) described five important principles that are also crucial for working with the survivors of disaster and ensuring a community based rehabilitation planning. The first principle describe that every individual, family and community has strength. This implies that the internal strength, cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and each and every human being can be considered as resource and those resources to be identifies and capitalized for the growth and development at any circumstance, may it be even after a disaster. The second principle of strength perspective explained, trauma, abuse, illness and struggle can be injurious, but they also can be source of challenge and opportunity. The disaster experience is one of the severe traumatic experiences for the survivors and there is continuous struggle involved in rebuilding life and get back to normalcy. Similarly, the post-disaster rebuilding is always focused to a better situation and ensures adequate disaster preparedness as part of resiliency building. Disaster specifically brings focus to the area and in long term the effort may also ensure development. The third principle is crucial for the social work practitioners in the field of disaster intervention as it focused on the innate capacity of the survivors to visualize the change and bring better developmental opportunities for themselves. This principle noted, “assume that you do not know the upper limits of the capacity to grow and change, and take individual, group, and community aspirations seriously (Zastrow, 2010, p. 72). The fourth principle of the strength perspective mentioned about the collaboration with the client to ensure an equal footage as a stakeholder in the process of intervention. In the disaster rehabilitation the community as a client becomes major collaborative partner in the process of disaster recovery and resiliency building. The last principle is “every environment is full of resources” (Zastrow, 2010, p. 73). The strength perspective always try to identify the resources make use of the same in the best possible fashion. Even after the great losses in the disaster people have their inner capacity to rebuild their life. People try to connect the thread of life by collecting things and by taking up activities to survive.
The definition of the social work profession given in the final document adopted at the general assemblies of IASSW and IFSW in Adelaide, Australia in 2004 states the imperative of social workers to aid the survivors of disaster: The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance wellbeing. Utilizing theories of human behavior and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work (Sewpaul & Jones, 2005, p. 218). This definition of social work connects to the needs of the survivors as the disaster suddenly alters the social equilibrium and human life gets affected severely in many dimensions. The material needs of food, clothing, housing, livelihood and medical care are common, but there are a number of non-material needs, which must also be recognized to ensure the wellbeing of the survivors. Disaster imposes problems not only for the survivors but also for government organizations, professionals, and others. Therefore, disaster intervention work is a major problem solving effort to re-establish social support and human relationships to empower people to achieve a sense of wellbeing (Des Marais, Bhadra, & Dyer, 2012, pp. 352-353).
Psychosocial support programme for the disaster intervention is based on the empowerment concept and strength perspective that facilitate resiliency building among the survivors. Psychosocial refers to the dynamic relationship between the psychological and social dimension of a person, where the one influences the other. The psychological dimension includes the internal, emotional and thought processes of a person – his or her feelings and reactions. The social dimension includes relationships, family and community networks, social values and cultural practices (Hansen, 2008, p. 184). The Psychosocial Framework of 2005 – 2007 of the International Federation defines psychosocial support as “a process of facilitating resilience within individuals, families and communities” thus, enabling families to bounce back from the impact of crises and helping them to build capacity to deal with such events in the future. By respecting the independence, dignity and coping mechanisms of individuals and communities, psychosocial support promotes the restoration of social cohesion and infrastructure” (International Federation of Red Cross, 2005). The most accepted definition for the social work practices can be “psychosocial care as a broad range of community-based interventions that promote the restoration of social cohesion and infrastructure, as well as the independence and dignity of individuals and groups. Psychosocial care fosters resilience in survivors and the community, and serves to prevent pathological developments and further social dislocation” (Aarts, 2000).
Based on the defined and accepted concepts of psychosocial support the Indian model of psychosocial support is developed with nine basic principles. Some of the important principles are, ‘no one who experiences the event or witnesses the event is untouched by it’; ‘survivors respond to active interest and concern’, and ‘support systems are crucial for recovery’. These principles broadly explained that every survivors need to be provided psychosocial support by engaging them in various activities and ensuring normalization of reactions through building social support net-works and engaging people in the rehabilitation to develop their own recovery mechanism. In this process ensuring capacity building of the community and engaging all the survivors become a vital requirement. Ultimately, the psychosocial support leads to psychosocial well-being.
The Psychosocial Working Group (2003) suggests that the psychosocial well-being of individuals and communities is best defined with respect to three core domains, i.e. human capacity, social ecology, culture and values. Human capacity refers to physical and mental health and specifically considers individuals’ knowledge, capacity and skills. Identifying an individual’s own human capacity is the same as realizing his or her own strengths and values. Social ecology refers to social connections and support, including relationships, social networks, and support systems of the individual and the community. Mental health and psychosocial well-being are dependent on cohesive relationships that encourage social equilibrium. Culture and values refers to cultural norms and behaviour that are linked to the value systems in each society, together with individual and social expectations. Both culture and value systems influence the individual and social aspects of functioning, and thereby play an important role in determining psychosocial wellbeing (Hansen, 2008, p. 28). Psychosocial well-being only could be achieved through capacity building, enabling and empowering the survivors and thus a sustainable resilient community could be developed. These contribute towards development of the capabilities of the survivors. Capabilities are constitutive elements of well-being and capture the valuable doings and beings that individuals can achieve or become (e.g., being adequately nourished, and being sheltered, able to take decision, participate in enjoyable activity, engaged in meaningful livelihood etc.). The capability approach propagated by Sen (1997) and Nussbaum (Nussbaum, 2011) in the field of development economic policy, brought a human oriented approach in the development that is different from traditional measures of development based on income levels (Anand, Hunter, & Smith, 2005). The capability approach measured the development of the society is a function of the level of well-being or standard of living of individuals within that society. The capability is different functionings as described by Sen (1999). Functioning is the things a person actually does and experiences. Functionings may vary from the elementary, such as being adequately nourished and being free from avoidable disease, to complex activities or personal states, such as taking part in the life of the community and having self-respect. “Capability” refers to the feasible alternative combinations of these functionings. The best possible combinations of the functioning help to achieve the capability and enhance well-being. There are evidences that a wide range of capabilities exhibit statistically significant relations to well-being (Anand, Hunter, & Smith, 2005). Further Nussbaum (2011) outlined the capabilities classified by types of activities that people are enable to do in a given situation. Her list included ten distinctive aspects of activities. Some of the important aspects are, living normal span if life (life) being able to have good health (bodily health), being able to use the senses; being able to imagine, to think, and to reason (sense, imagination, thought), planning of one’s own life (practical reason), and control over one’s environment. These concepts are connected to each other where the disaster survivors need to be supported for resuming normalcy through psychosocial wellbeing by strengthening capability. These aspects are the most essential indicators and outcome of the psychosocial support programme that focus on community organization methods through participatory models of interventions in the rehabilitation of the disasters survivors.
This article focused on the Tsunami devastated Knayakumari district of Tamilnadu, South India where I was involved from the very initial days in 2005 onwards through the phase of rehabilitation for five years while I worked with NIMHANS - Care India Tsunami response project and then through American Red Cross supported TRP (Tsunami Rehabilitation Project) implemented through Kanyakumari District Branch of Indian Red Cross Society. As a technical expert I was responsible with team members for developing the projects, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
The huge death, destruction loss in the communities across the coastal villages of Kanyakumari districts was an immediate attention for the humanitarian workers and organization. The initial strategy of working with the survivors was to train a large number of community volunteers/ community worker in government and non-government sector for facilitating emotional care “based on the accepted principles for providing emotional support to survivors of any disaster” (Sekar, et al., 2005, p. 40). This is also termed as psycho social care that included seven basic principles (ventilation; active listening; empathy; social support; externalization of interest; relaxation and recreation; spirituality) of providing care to reduce the stress reaction due to traumatic experiences and enhance wellbeing (Sekar, et al., 2005, pp. 43-48). At this relief phase a large number of community members who were working with the heath, education, child and family welfare departments were trained and also different NGO/CBO (Non-Government Organization/ Community Based Organization) workers who were present in the community were included (e.g. teachers, child care personnel, health workers, community leaders, representatives of local self-government, student volunteers, volunteers from different forum, self help group members, members of religious institutions). There was huge response and immediate mobilization that showed the community’s capacity to determine for its own future. This strength of the community was the key to design the work with the higher community engagement that builds the capability of the community people to take ownership of their own recovery. The training was based on sharing of experiences and participatory methodology that helped the participants to relate with their own situation and build confidence to deal with the problems by involving others in the community (NIMHANS and WHO, 2006).
At this immediate phase in the aftermath of Tsunami the distinctive characteristics of communities’ response were crucial for next direction in the psychosocial support programming. The spirit of voluntarism was higher among the people in the community as the impact of the Tsunami was overwhelming and people got together to help each other. This feature can be called as the honeymoon phase after a disaster (Weaver, 1995), that any community experience roughly from two weeks to two months. Therefore, the crucial aspect was to sustain the energy of the community and making them active partner of the recovery process following the community organization principles and process. The trained community level workers were provided with subsequent handholding support that included structured, follow-up, monitoring, and refresher course, regular sharing at different level supervised by the TOTs (Trainer of the Trainees) and trained social workers (NIMHANS, 2007). Eventually, different levels of training were designed and implemented that ensured continuous engagements of the survivors in the community at the individual, family or group levels. The community members with the contacts of the trained volunteers/ community level workers who were mostly neighbors, had gained confidence and also a positive role model to follow. This approach lead to an actual practice of strengths based practices that “concentrates on the inherent strengths of individuals, families groups and organisations deploying peoples‘ personal strengths to aid their recovery and empowerment” (Pulla, 2012, p. 52). A number of documentation of work done in this phase showed that the survivors developed positive attitude to deal with the challenges in the post disaster life, as they regularly attended the community meetings, group meetings and started taking more active role in decision making being participative with the number of external agencies (Sekar, 2006; Sekar, Bhadra, & Dyer, 2007; Becker, 2009). The survivor’s community in the initial months after the disaster usually gets divided in number of groups based on kinship, caste, religious identity and at times cause friction and tension to develop a comprehensive model of rehabilitation. It is also seen that the politically, socially or economically powerful groups of survivors try to control the recovery mechanism, and the survivors from lower caste become marginalised (Sekar, 2008). At this juncture community organization principles become most crucial to ensure integrated, inclusive approach to deal with issues of marginalization for the weaker sections among the survivors. Establishing community control over the resources either external or internal depend on how the community as a whole is being empowered to work together. Through the trained volunteers as the community become aware and able to deal with the traumatic experience, on the other hand also learn to join together to bring a better rehabilitation process.
The integrated community recovery project of Red Cross was designed subsequently to implement in with an aim to strengthen recovery through community and school based interventions and build resiliency among the tsunami survivors (IFRC, 2008). The outcome was envisioned as developing safe, healthy, and competent individuals, families and communities through community engagement processes, strengthening internal resources of the community and developing better functional community organizations and institutions like, schools, community training centres etc. The objectives were designed to empower the Tsunami affected communities’ and schools’ with better functioning capacity and strengthen local resources and support systems (Hansen, 2008, p. 47).
Through a cascading model of capacity building the project staffs were trained and the staffs intern trained the community volunteers. “The cascade model involves the delivery of training through layers of trainers until it reaches the final target group” (Elder, 1996, p. 13). There were two categories of volunteers to implement the programme in the community. The 1st category of volunteers was given intensive TOT (Training of Trainers) training to work with the 2nd category of community level workers who were directly engaged with the families. This cascading effect of the training (Sekar, Bhadra, & Dyer, 2007; Des Marais, Bhadra, & Dyer, 2012) is one of the proved mode of transferring the required knowledge and skills was adapted to implement and engage the community in the long-term. As a natural process of this community engagement the local volunteers who were identified in the communities were provided various knowledge and skill inputs considering the objectives of the project to achieve the goal (IFRC, 2008, p. 8). The volunteers were common men and women from the community. Through the regular session with the volunteers and the project staff the specific factors of joining as volunteers were identifies which can be seen as the milestone in the community participatory process. This mass level participation of the survivors of Tsunami at the community level was an essential component of the capability building of the community that ensured their control over their environment, participation in the social life and ability to contribute for the rehabilitation of their own community. The essential feature of strength of the volunteers that encouraged them to participation were identified as the successive force in the project that sustained the effort at the level of individual commitment, group initiates and community recognition. The commitment of the volunteers was grossly connected with the importance that they received in the community as they were able to facilitate support to their own people. Feeling of self-worth was associated with the spirit of voluntarism in the post disaster situation also helped to work as community volunteer. The women volunteers felt that their position in the family has changed and many a time they are seen with more respect as they were engaged for the welfare of the community people at large. The volunteers also felt that they have been able to contribute something very different and a new experience that made them to be more close to their own people and got to know many new concept and ideas. At times they were given various higher responsibilities even by the formal leaders of their community. Therefore, voluntarism as a pro-social behaviour in the post disaster situation becomes an important determinant of the community participation. Volunteers as the community representative become part of the larger civil society organization and become the voice of the affected people, as it was recognized in the situation of Tsunami response programme in Kanyakumari district (Bhadra & Pratheepa, 2009). Though, the selection and participation of the volunteers is a gradual process, yet the community members, the students, the women, men, youths of the community who continued to be part of the recovery programme were able to engage the whole community as they were viewed with higher regards by the community people.
In this Tsunami rehabilitation project the psychosocial support intervention was used as a platform (Diaz, Bhadra, & Krishnan, 2007, pp. 4-7) to build the capability that the community could take-up all other initiatives for the recovery. The community recovery project was referred as the actions that address both the psychological, social and health needs of individuals, families and communities. Therefore, this project targeted at all the three levels to strengthen resiliency and wellbeing of the Tsunami survivors. Through the trained staffs the community mapping was initiated. The process was evolved as most interactive, inclusive to review of the situation and assess needs identified by the community members. The map includes community facilities, special human capital, and specific liabilities of the community, marginalised and diverse groups (The Hindu, 2009). All the targeted communities prepared their maps, which were updated regularly. These maps were effectively used for the programme planning in the communities. Subsequently the Community Committee (CC) was formed in every community. The committee comprises of a group of Red Cross volunteers from the village, village leaders, and local mass leaders of the community. The CC was involved in various stages of the recovery programme like planning, implementing and monitoring and to ensure the sustainability of the project. The committee meet regularly to discussed and designed the interventions for their own community and also contribute (financially and volunteer time) as per the requirement and consensus decision. The process was maintained in such a manner that the community representative could take control over the recovery process gradually and the intended programme can be facilitated. Further various community mobilization activities were aimed to ensure that the community members join and develop capacities to work together.
Any disaster destroys the social fabric of the society. The Tsunami had a major impact on the social life, and social gathering among the community people reduced, community based celebration was almost stopped. It was essential to normalize the situation through cultural intertwine of the programme activities. Within the programme framework the volunteers organized various community mobilization activities, where participation of the community people was most essentially emphasized with mobilization of local resources in terms of monitory contribution, giving volunteer time, sharing various responsibilities for organizing the events, providing space, facilities, materials etc. These contributions from the community were always highlighted to encourage the strength and self-reliance of the community people. Simultaneously, there were other health activities in the Tsunami affected communities to deal with various issues regarding water and sanitation, cleanliness and hygiene, prevention of communicable disease, prevention of malaria and mosquito born diseases in coastal areas etc. CBHFA (Community Based Health and First Aid) approach was used to improve the health condition of the target communities (Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS)-Kanyakumari District Branch, 2008, p. 8; Bhadra & Pratheepa, 2009; Singh & Mini, 2009). Towards this direction community volunteers were specially trained on health assessment and topics like Malaria Prevention, diarrhoea and ORS preparation, breast feeding, Tuberculosis, etc. More over house to house visits to create awareness and mobilizing the entire community to address issues were done. Clean up campaign and hang up campaigns for ITNs (Insecticide Treated Nets), rallies on de-addiction, health promotion and hygiene promotion were conducted (IFRC, 2009, pp. 33-34). Through the community participation and engagement all the activities were implemented and driven by the volunteers, community committee, leaders in the community. Some of the such important participatory events that were organized for community resiliency building by strengthening the support systems, for gradual transformation of community ownership, rebuilding sense of belonging, and capability to engage in higher order functioning are mentioned here.
Community wide meeting: For wider acceptance of the programme, and mass level communication with all the community members the ‘community –wide meetings’ were most crucial step. The ‘community wide meeting’ were conducted in quarterly manner that the community people are made aware about the progress. In this meeting there were number of social and cultural programme with the children, women, youths, and lectures by the local eminent person to facilitate a better cohesive, cooperative atmosphere in the community. This motivated them to contribute their valuable services, develop sense of ownership and ensured sustainability of the programme. The community volunteers had taken the lead role in organizing the meeting with support of community committee and other local agencies like local youth club, self-help groups etc. Prize distribution of various competitive cultural activities, recognition of local volunteers by giving training certificate and displaying the planning for the community were done as part of each ‘community wide meetings’. In each of these meeting at least sixty percent of the community members participation was entrusted that could augment the process of normalization. Dissemination of right information is a fundamental requirement in the process of community engagement and rehabilitation in the psychosocial support programme that was practiced in the recovery project.
Community health mela (Fair): The objective of the mela was to promote health awareness among the general community, encourage owning responsibility for their well being, disseminating messages to other community members on health and psychosocial wellbeing (IFRC, 2009). Community health melas as a community mobilization activity were planned by volunteers, committee members where audio visual displays, distribution of pamphlets, cultural events, rallies, community kitchen and exhibitions of various IEC (Information, Education and Communication) were conducted. Through a rigorous participatory process and following behaviour change communication (BCC) principles the IEC materials were designed and developed (Bhadra, 2012, p. 120). Health stalls were established and messages on disease prevention, health promotion, hygiene, sanitation, nutrition and the issues related to psychosocial well being were provided. This event fetched a huge participation too, not only from the community, rather the volunteers and community members from the neighbouring communities too. Hence, the event helped to showcase a lot about the community initiatives and became a model to be followed by others too in the community. Similar community mela was organized in every targeted community and subsequently the community volunteers themselves started organizing and managing the same.
Cleanup campaign: Within CBHFA through cleanup campaign awareness was created on mosquito borne diseases and environmental hygiene factors that should be practices at the individual, family and community levels. The community members were motivated to keep the drainage clean, water stagnant areas identified and removed in order to remove the mosquito breeding sites and reduce the incidence of mosquito borne diseases. In the campaigns entire communities including the young and aged participated and removed the bushes and other waste materials dumped on the streets and buried it in pits. This exercise was done in frequent interval to ensure a sustainable change. This effort brought cohesiveness regardless of age and motivated to keep the entire community clean.
Community Small Projects: This was called as resiliency building activity specifically as the activity had very intense focus on communities’ capability to initiate, maintaining, sustain and evaluate an activity that would bring some developmental scheme for the community people. Small projects were identified, planned, initiated and managed by the communities with the help of Volunteers and about one third of financial help was provided from the Red Cross project budget. These small projects fostered group identity, cohesion, partnership and a spirit of working collectively to identify local problems and find appropriate solutions which were culturally and traditionally appropriate. Small projects were intended to prepare healthy and safe communities by providing opportunities to develop social networks and contributing for the programme by mobilising locally available resources. Small projects like waste management, refurbishment of library, tailoring unit, computer training, children’s park, providing play materials to youth clubs, were undertaken by the people in the communities. In every project community people made significant contribution in-terms of voluntary hours, providing space, giving financial contribution and also organised sponsorship for the community projects and had monitored and sustained these efforts.
The Tsunami rehabilitation project in Kanykumari was combination of such various activities through psychosocial support programme where building resiliency by enhancing capability of the community people through community participation were the key factors. In the initial days of the project while project staff interacted with the key community leaders, functionaries of local institution, formal, informal community groups and organizations, the acceptance of the programme was seen and gradually the active participation was derived. The process of engaging the community in active participation after a disaster is most critical step by using the community organization principles and process. The Initial passive participation include giving consent to the programme, joining in some programme on call, but as the programme need to get active participation, the essential considerations become to obtain more voluntary time and energy of the community people, contribution in organizing the programme by providing resources, utilizing the human capital (i.e. skills) in the programme and establishing stronger social capital (i.e. social support and net-works) for the programmatic benefits (Bhadra & Pratheepa, 2009).
The pre and post assessment that was done specifically for the Red Cross intervention in an interval of 30 months showed that the intervention facilitated a subjective well being, the spirit of voluntarism, quality of life, community cohesion and also facilitated community control for sustainability. Through project monitoring and evaluation system, it was seen that that quantitatively the project activities achieved almost hundred percent of targeted intervention and project activities, but qualitative changes were essential to understand how the community became the key stake holder in their process of recovery. The evaluation showed five important qualitative changes that contribute towards social work knowledge building for practice in disaster intervention.
First, as a basic method or social work practice, community organization is most crucial in the post disaster recovery programme. The IASC–MHPSS Guidelines (2007) mentioned “community mobilization and Support” (pp. 93-115) as one of the core mental health and psychosocial support programme that dealt with ensuring communities’ ownership and control of emergency response, facilitating community self-help, organizing appropriate communal cultural, spiritual and religious healing practices for the survivors. Within the time bound project though everything could not be achieved, yet a tune towards the suitability was strengthened. Therefore, the transition of a community from ‘victim’ to ‘victor’ can happen only in case of appropriate community oriented practice towards building resiliency in long-term.
Second, community organization and mobilization of the community people in the recovery programme is most vital aspect that can work as a platform for all other interventions in the community. Any kind of intervention in the community like, housing, livelihood, water & sanitation, disaster preparedness or health promotion, community engagement is pivotal for successful intervention. The community is the ultimate stakeholder and thus, the community members need to be engaged to own the programme designed for the people in the community. These all ensure the capability of the community that is connected with enhancing functionality, ensuring well-being, sustainability and marking the community resilient thereof.
Third, survivor respond to the active interest and concern (Sekar, et al., 2005, p. 42) even at the time of most traumatic event and subsequently, but the effort should be to ensure a positive strength to gain power by overcoming the traumatic experiences through normalization of reactions and by rebuilding social support mechanisms, at individual, family, and community levels (Sekar, et al., 2005, p. 46). The survivors, while interacting with the community volunteers, joining in group meetings, community events develop positive coping ability, accept the loss and work for his/her own revival and become more capable to deal with stress reactions and decide future course of action. At family level as the routine gets establishes, better relationships are strengthen among the family members and family as an unit is taken care through different other programme like housing, livelihood, microfinance, self-help initiatives that augment the holistic support. So the process of recovery through engagement is effectively an effort of building social capital (developing social support mechanisms, strengthening community based institution, groups, organization and net-works) and human capital (skill building). The circle of support is optimized, by strengthening individual initiatives, family unity and mobilizing community resources.
Fourth, community is at the center of recovery and the ultimate stakeholder in the disaster intervention. Therefore, ensuring participation in recovery means an active engagement of the survivors in a bottom up approach that empowers the community for ownership of their own recovery process. A participation of community without power transfer is disempowering. Approach of putting external resources for recovery without engaging the local community does not help to engage the community to develop a sustainable pattern of recovery and building capability. So empowering models always have to belief and focus on local resources as Zastrow (2010) described “every environment is full of resources”. (p. 73).
Fifth, the situation of emergency in a community after a disaster calls for immediate support, that usually do not have room for encouraging survivors’ active participation, but from the time of relief the gradual increase of participation of the community member should be envisioned and implemented by the responding agencies. The gradual involvement of community members in the recovery finally strengthens the community. As quickly the community is engaged and taken through the participative process the recovery is hastened. But, actual process of engaging the community is very crucial, as there is high chance that some powerful groups in the community may try to capture the power and control the voices the survivors. Therefore, intensive community meetings, engaging the different groups, undertaking most accurate community mapping exercise, and creating a strong base of support through mobilization activities are vital.
The implementation is a long drawn continuous process that needs to be strengthened in the community to continue the developmental activities beyond the life-cycle of the project period. In this case this was the Tsunami response project till December 2009. Strengthening the communities’ strength, to develop a better functioning community with safe, healthy, and competent individuals, families and communities was an essential expected outcome for sustaining the community interventions. The project activities in psychosocial support programme engaged the survivors at all the three levels and resiliency was built at the levels of individual capacity enhancement, augmenting the family and groups’ net-work with supporting mechanisms and communities’ ability to decide their requirements and joining as volunteers to sought change of their own condition. The recognition and use of the community resources was the visible strength that ensured sustainability at four dimensions. Considering the capability approach the human resource identification was a bigger achievement that encouraged survivors for giving maximum voluntary hours for community work and discussing the issues beyond personal and family interest in community gathering. Second, the knowledge and skills was sustainable as the program ensured the skill building while implemented the programme with community engagements at every possible way. Considering the concept of Nussbaum (2011) it is clear that the survivors were able to live in phase of rehabilitation with complete sense of control over the environment and with considerable emotional integrity. Third, a collective consciousness was seen to deal with problems in the community and an importance of self-initiatives was strongly felt of the survivors. Many of the volunteers, informal leaders and community members expressed the view that the programme has brought an energy to look at their personal and community strength. It was common that local people used to contribute their voluntary time and money for the religious purpose, but this programme showed that people are more intended to contribute for their development purposes. Fourth, the programme developed a volunteer’s base in the local communities and institutions (school, colleges, health care centers, and groups) that strengthen the local branch of Red Cross and also continues the Red Cross activities after the life of the project. Specifically, the community small project as symbol of unity and working together established a sense of community effort that is identified as’ sense of Place’.
The community to emerge as the key stakeholder in the disaster recovery process it is essential to understand the psychology of place that facilitates ownership of the community people in the recovery process. With various loss and damage the specific problem which the disaster survivors face is the loss of ‘sense of place’. After a disaster displacement is most common, may it be temporary or permanent. Though in some of the situation people return to their earlier place of living but in most of the situation after a severe disaster the people has to be resettled in other places. Therefore, they lose the sense of attachment, familiarity and identity with the place (Fullilove, 1996). A place of stay, which was considered safer to live from generations together, suddenly become unfamiliar due to the devastation in disaster. Subsequently, help rush to the affected place or community, but if effort is not made to ensure the community to revive from the shock, establish their attachment with the place, develop familiarity with the surrounding and strengthen new identity as an individual, as a community member, by ensuring their participation in the recovery process the shock may linger on for long. The psychosocial support programme establishes this ‘sense of place’ which is an essential component of well-being. For social work practice in field of disaster intervention the use of core methods of (i.e. case work, group work, community organization) with a strong mechanism of community based monitoring and appreciation of local knowledge, cultural wisdom, strength, and resource base are the driving force for building resilient communities. In this process the strength based perspective become the main guiding principle for the rehabilitation of the survivors of disaster.
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Dr Subhasis Bhadra, MSW, M.Phil, Ph. D., Assistant Professor and Head in Department of Social Work, Gautam Buddha University, Greater NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh, India, began his career working with those affected by the Gujarat earthquake (2001) and subsequently worked in areas affected by riots (Gujarat, 2002), Tsunamis (Southern India and South East Asia, 2004), earthquakes (Kashmir, 2005), terrorist attacks (Mumbai serial Train Blast, 2006), Japanese Tsunami (2011) creating and implementing psychosocial programs with organizations, like Care India, American Red Cross, Oxfam India, Action Aid, International Medical Corps. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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