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"Action by Churches Together" mission:  Aid to victims of fires (autumn 2010)

Psychological and social aid to victims of Summer 2010 wildfires in Russia

In the later part of 2010, the Russian Orthodox Church continued to give aid to victims of the Summer 2010 wildfires in Russia. Among the areas of this important church work was a program for giving emergency aid to the most affected victims of wildfires, organized under the aegis of the Moscow Patriarchate and with the support of the international Christian Alliance 'Action by Churches Together'. The program was implemented by Russia Round Table in the Ryazan and Altai Regions. The Round Table's Newsletter gave its readers detailed information about this work.

The program had as one of its components the psychological aid to victims, in the first place, women and children. This component was important because victims experienced a very strong stress during the fires as some villages were burnt down within ten or fifteen minutes and people had to leave their already burning houses. Many homeless victims of fire began to experience serious behavioural and psychological problems, especially children who met with difficulties in learning. Local clergy, teachers and doctors had not encountered a disaster of such a magnitude and had no experience in giving special rehabilitative and psychological aid to victims of emergency situations.

At the same time, the emergency aid programs already implemented by the Round Table in previous years enabled it to accumulate experience in the work on similar problems, for instance, its aid to victims of hostage tragedy in Beslan. At that time, the church program was focused on assistance to the Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social Forensic Psychiatry in its work to provide psychological rehabilitation for victims and to raise the skills of local doctors and teachers.

This cooperation was followed-up by the above-mentioned program for aid to fire victims in Summer 2010 in Russia. Russia Round Table gave the necessary support for arranging and conducting a two-week course on Organization of Psychological and Psychiatric Aid in Emergency Situations. Its aim was to give advanced training in this kind of aid to respective specialists in the Ryazan and Altai Regions. This 72-hour course included lectures, practical training and seminars and was intended for 150 participants in each region. Besides, during the course, leading specialists from Moscow had individual appointments with women and children who stood in the greatest need and conducted master classes. This course was organized by the Serbsky Center on the request of DECR chairman, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, and with the kind support of Russian Minister of Healthcare and Social Development Ms. T. Golikova. The church aid program for the homeless victims of fires helped to accommodate the Center's specialists and provided each student of the course with a set of scientific and methodological literature necessary for their further work, produced by the Center of Scientific and Methodological Literature.

Thus, the course made not only an important practical contribution to giving professional psychological aid to victims of 2010 Summer fires in the project regions but also helped to raise the skills of local specialists for giving aid to victims of possible emergencies in the future.

It should be noted that in recent years the psychological aid has increasingly become an element of many church diakonia initiatives, especially for giving aid to children. In this connection, it is necessary to mention also that during the implementation of this program of aid to homeless victims of fires, special attention was given to the need to maintain the work already carried out by parishes in this area. Thus, the program gave as much assistance as it could to parish work for counselling victims through the efforts of parish volunteers, among them teachers, psychologists and doctors in specialized fields, and for distributing children's toys, improving toys, clothes and footwear.

Russia Round Table plans to continue giving attention to psychological and social aid provided through church social projects. The Round Table's Newsletter will continue to give its readers regular reports about this work.

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