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UWI Team Assists Recovery Effort

UWI Team Assists Recovery Effort


A delegation from the Social Work Unit of the UWI St Augustine Campus, Faculty of Social Sciences arrived on island on December 9th,2010.  The main purpose of their visit was to provide ‘psychological debriefing’ to St Lucian Counselors , Social Workers  and  Relief Workers who for many weeks have borne the brunt of  the emotional fallout  caused as a result of the passage of Hurricane Tomas.

The team’s visit was part of a University of the West Indies ‘Disaster Recovery Initiative’ sponsored by the Faculty of Social Sciences at St. Augustine after discussions with  Mrs.Veronica Simon, Country Head, Open Campus, UWI, St. Lucia about the post-Hurricane Tomas situation in St. Lucia.

Led by Dr. Linda Hadeed, Deputy Dean (Graduate Studies & Research – Faculty of Social Sciences, UWI, St. Augustine), the delegation also included Ms. Petra Roberts, Instructor in Social Work, UWI, St. Augustine and Ms. Khadijah Williams-Peters, Part-Time Lecturer in Graduate and Undergraduate Social Work, UWI, St. Augustine.   Dr. Hadeed is also the Coordinator of the Postgraduate Mediation Studies Programme at the UWI St. Augustine Campus.   All three Lecturers are trained in a range of mental health issues including trauma among adults, children and adolescents.

While on island, the team held a series of ‘debriefing’ sessions aimed at giving highly stressed local relief workers an opportunity to ventilate their feelings in a context of group support.  Psychological debriefing is a popular intervention tool used as a coping strategy for disaster relief personnel who face multiple stressorsover an extended period of relief operations.

Participantswere invited to share their experiences of the traumatic events recently experienced within the “maternal environment” provided by a group setting.  Advice was also provided about emotional reactions that might be expected,the value of sharing the experience, and the importance of resumingactivities fairly quickly in order to minimize phobic avoidance. 

The team which was jointly hosted by the Open Campus St Lucia and the Division of Human Services and Family Affairs, visited and provided counseling services in the communities of Bexon, Forestierre, Marc, Soufriere and Fond St Jaques where their efforts were greatly appreciated.  They also spent time with staff of NEMO, the St Lucia Fire Services Department, the Red Cross and held a special counseling session at the UWI Open Campus on Morne Fortune.  Dr. Hadeed also took the opportunity to assure participants of the UWI’s ongoing concern and commitment to the people of St. Lucia in this trying time of disaster recovery.

Perhaps the most memorable session for the team was their Art Therapy afternoon with the children of the Deglos, Bexon community.  This form of therapy is particularly effective with children and had most of them happy and smiling afterwards.

This latest and most generous contribution of the University of the West Indies to the disaster relief efforts in St. Lucia is just one of a series of such  efforts that the UWI has embarked upon since the passage of Hurricane Tomas.     As noted by local Head Mrs Veronica Simon, the fact that the UWI is a full-fledged University with a plethora of resident expertise makes it extremely well placed to provide such assistance to the governments and people of the Caribbean when necessary.   The visit by the team was a very tangible demonstration of the UWI’s ongoing commitment to the development and support of this region's human resources.