From July 17 to 19, Dr. Gina Hechanova of the Department of Psychology and 21 of her students were in Abucay in Tacloban City, Leyte to work with survivors of the 2013 supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Here, she shares some thoughts on their visit.
There is one psychologist for every 130,000 Filipinos. So one real challenge for those of us doing disaster response is the issue of scale. Although not all psychosocial support needs to be done by psychologists and psychiatrists, there are not enough trained. So my dream was that one day Psychology students would receive some training on providing psychosocial support even before they graduate.
This semester, I taught a seniors' class on Disaster and Mental Health for the first time. I invited my students to go to Tacloban as an optional activity and was pleasantly surprised when everyone wanted to go. So last week, I brought 21 AdMU Psychology students and we partnered with UP Tacloban Psychology students in running Katatagan para sa Kabataan, a coping skills program for teenagers.
Early this year, we had adopted a temporary resettlement site for displaced survivors called Abucay Bunkhouses. Located at the edge of Tacloban City, it houses about 200 families. For the past few months, our team has been running coping skills modules for the adults. During this trip, our program was for the teenagers. As part of the trip, we went to meet the families of our kids in Abucay.
It is hard to describe the reality of living in a bunkhouse. Imagine your entire family having to live in a room about 20 square feet. Some families tried to make do by putting up a curtain for privacy. A few tried to put a mezzanine to have more room. But most were just bare – what little belongings people had were stacked along a wall.
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