PHILIPBURG— Community connectedness, collaboration and the creation of safe spaces are some additional elements needed to bounce back collectively from the psychological, material, environmental and financial wounds caused by Hurricane Irma which descended on the island on September 6, 2017, according to The St. Maarten Foundation For Psychologists & “Orthopedagogen” (SFPO).
SFPO officials said on Thursday, October 5, 2017, that the pain and stress experienced as a result of the hurricane is being experienced both on the individual and community level.
Healing and rebuilding therefore can be brought about via the provision of psychological support to the individual, as mentioned by colleagues of the Association of Psychologists and Allied Professionals (APAP SXM) but also through the coming together of people within districts in practical ways.
For example, two days after the passing of the storm, young men of a particular district were observed drawing water from the district well and filling the buckets of women, children and the elderly.
This simple act led to the ‘recreation’ of the old society during which individuals were intertwined with the whole community, whereby one person’s pain was felt by the entire community, and whereby community solutions were sought to assist the individual member.
SFPO officials believe that the process of collective healing and rebuilding can be facilitated and supported within existing safe spaces such as the (extended) family, the district and the church community. This process of healing and rebuilding has already started within various districts whereby neighbors have come together to organize clean- ups and also the provision of necessary supplies to fellow neighbors through the conducting of home visits.
Creating a caring and safe environment within the family and even within the churches, whereby children and adults can, for example, tell their stories if they so desire, can be viewed as a form of collective healing, SFPO said. “People need to make sense of the disruptive event. At the same time, through story- telling, the focus should not only be on experienced emotions, but also on instances of resistance (how we hid during the storm), heroism (how we saved the neighbor) and compassion (how our neighbor offered us shelter).
SFPO officials concluded by saying that “the passing of the storm could be seen as a reminder that the building of strong, supportive and caring communities helps to create self- worth and self- fulfillment, lessons taught to us by the elders”. However, the longer we manage to hold on to this sharing and caring community, which was recreated as a result of disaster, the better it would be for the collective healing and rebuilding of this great nation.