Stimulate a Community Grassroots Education Effort

Idea#57

Stage: Active

Campaign: General Preparedness

I suggest that government and large corporations offer grant funding to local organizations that would stimulate a grassroots response to community disaster education and resilience. This initiative would focus on recruiting volunteers (retired, self-employed, etc.) to teach community disaster education and disaster resilience through the churches and other faith-based organizations, schools, and civic organizations in their areas.

It would be cost-effective as a “train-the-trainer” program. This would augment the services and training offered by Emergency Preparedness, the ARC, and other larger disaster response organizations whose focus is largely on response and whose manpower is limited.

In 2005 I started a nonprofit, Community in Crisis, Inc. to teach disaster education and preparedness in small, rural communities, primarily through churches. We received a grant from the BCBS Foundation of N. C. to teach Latino and Vulnerable Populations. In the last five years we’ve taught our seminars in over 50 churches in eastern N. C. However, in the last year we’ve had to dissolve due to lack of funding.

As an individual I’ve continued to teach when asked. My teaching includes a component of disaster mental health, as I am a licensed therapist and specialize in corporate crisis response and PTSD as well as being a marital therapist. I understand the long-term result when there is a lack of education in rural communities and believe that every citizen should have access to this information and learn how to help others.

My focus is strictly education in small communities and rural villages that would likely not receive much help in the event of a large disaster. We do not compete with CERT, Emergency Preparedness, or other large disaster response agencies. In fact, a component of our training is teaching about these and what they do, and how to interact with them responsibly.

My vision is to write a manual and create a set of DVD training videos specifically for churches and rural organizations. We also teach via audio recordings aired over short-wave satellite in Asia, Africa, and South America through World Harvest Radio in South Bend, Indiana.

Recently I was asked by the Methodist Conference of El Salvadore to teach my seminar to pastors there and did so this past July. I taught 40 pastors disaster mental health, counseling techniques, understanding the emotional needs of vulnerable populations, and community disaster response with limited resources. This went so well there are plans for expanding this to invite Guatemala and Honduras next year. We are seeking funding for this now. Any help or direction you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

I will be glad to help you in any way as well.

Deborah Dunn, LMFT

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  • Deborah Dunn attached: IMAG0199.jpg

    This is the New Jerusalem Methodit Church in Ahuachapan, El Salvadore. I've been asked to teach this same seminar in Sri Lanka in 2011.

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Comments

  1. Comment
    James Wirshing

    Great concept -- and you've got evidence that it is effective! Is your curriculmn available for others to impliment in their respective jurisdictions?

  2. Comment
    Deborah Dunn ( Idea Submitter )

    Thank you James. I am working on a template for this now and will create a set of videos in the upcoming year. I will be glad to travel and teach it to a any group of pastors or trainers willing to participate and pay my travel expenses. Hope you voted for my idea!

  3. Comment
    Deborah Dunn ( Idea Submitter )

    I forgot to add that a couple of years ago a nearby community was hit by a tornado, destroying an entire neighborhood. A local church we had trained quickly converted to a shelter, housed the victims, was able to understand their shock and trauma, and offer compassionate care. A shining example of community-church readiness!

  4. Comment
    Joseph Immermann

    Outstanding Deborah! I suggest we clone you (with your permission of course). We need more of what you do for incidents and for incident recovery. Psychological First Aid is an under-advertised and under-estimated asset.

  5. Comment
    Deborah Dunn ( Idea Submitter )

    Thank you Joseph! I will gladly be cloned. Or maybe we can just train some trainers. :)

  6. Comment
    Marti Pieper

    Your creativity amazes me; your ideas inspire me. Our church and community are involved with disaster relief/hurricane preparedness here in Florida. I'm sure your teaching would prove a helpful adjunct.

  7. Comment
    Vonda Skelton

    Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in those smaller communities that don't often have access to the finances or resources available to larger areas. It's a win-win proposition.

  8. Comment
    Herbert Gehring

    Idea is great--but I don't see the meme as being able to survive, much less reproduce. Society just does not believe in this.

  9. Comment
    Deborah Dunn ( Idea Submitter )

    Community Member...the idea will survive if we introduce it in grade school. Remember when "stop, drop, and roll..." seemed strange? And calling 911?

    Now even three year olds understand what to do in a crisis. If we introduce disaster preparedness to small children it will come naturally, and this will lower their fear and anxiety. This can be taught by retirees and volunteers. In fact, I even had a church that let the children teach the adults how to pack a "go kit" in children's church on Sunday. It is not a complicated process if we make it part of our everyday awareness. That is what I teach. I don't impose complicated plans. Small changes means big results over a period of time.