MCC works with a local Philippines organization in response to typhoon.
A crucial part of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s response to last November’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines includes training pastors to build networks for responding to future disasters and to improve their skills in helping people heal from trauma and resolve conflicts.
MCC is partnering with Peacebuilders Community Inc., (PBCI)—a local Philippines organization and a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada Witness, with ties to the Integrated Mennonite Church of the Philippines—to train pastors in each city in Samar and Leyte provinces.
PBCI’s four-day trainings and ongoing education build the pastors’ capacities in disaster preparedness and trauma healing and their skills in conflict transformation.
“The process includes a continuing dialogue in which each participant can identify their strengths and areas for improvement,” says PBCI’s Kriz Cruzado of Davao, Philippines, who is active in the project and also helps monitor MCC’s other typhoon response efforts.
As part of trauma healing, pastors share the challenges of ministering to families affected by the typhoon in the midst of rebuilding their own homes. The conflict transformation sessions promote peaceful methods of dealing with stress in the ravaged communities.
In addition, pastors are encouraged to create plans to build disaster response networks in their own communities and of how they will share those plans with local officials.
Pastors also train in practical disaster response skills. PBCI encourages each pastor to purchase basic rescue items, such as a 50-meter-long nylon rope. Instead of life vests, they suggest using something more accessible and affordable such as empty bottles in a backpack.
And the training includes a simulation of a water rescue in case of flash flooding.
“The physical exercises built my confidence that I can share what I have learned with others,” says Lorenza Ecalde, pastor of God’s Glorious Church in Samar.
After the training with Ann Campbell-Janz, an MCC staff member who traveled to the Philippines to monitor MCC projects in May, several pastors said they now see the importance of heeding typhoon warnings early, protecting a certain amount of water and food with plastic, preparing a survival kit and encouraging all their congregants to do likewise.
Each pastor who took part in the training is expected to form a disaster response network in her or his community. Cruzado is working with pastors to help them plan and ensure they have the support and confidence they need to pass on their learnings.
“These networks are learning how to encourage their local government unit to develop a disaster preparedness plan and to offer their volunteer services so that their churches and local government can work hand-in-hand when and if another disaster occurs,” Cruzado says.