Ten Blanco County residents have completed the training class for victim assistance, and are on the roster to be called when needed to help people get past the trauma of disasters in their lives, work through the grieving process, and start back toward living normal lives again.
The course is from the National Organization for Victim Assistance, NOVA. Originally designed for helping crime victims, it has since expanded to include disasters, and beyond the direct victims to the community around them.
“Basically, the work is ‘educated listening,’ although that is a bit simplistic,” said Will Bearden, a Baptist minister and retired Army chaplain, the instructor for the course.
“When a survivor of any traumatic event can talk about the experience with a compassionate listener, it shows there are people who care about them and their problem. It helps the victim work through the shock and begin to focus on what’s needed to return to normality...whatever the new ‘normal’ may be.”
The new graduates won’t be counselors, who stay with a recovering survivor for a long time, Bearden explained, but will make one-to-one contact during the person’s crisis to help him or her start the recovery process.
He said the shock of a sudden loss of home, loved ones, job or community often throws a person into grief, depression, and stunned inability to function.
“It’s not something someone can just ‘shake off’ or ‘snap out of.’” Beard said, “Trite cliches like ‘it’ll be OK’ and ‘God will see to it that some good comes out of it’ don’t help, either, and in fact can make things even worse.
“Psychological, spiritual, and emotional trauma recovery is hard work, and you can’t just recite some magic phrase off a greeting card.”
So is spiritual intervention a religious message?
“It is a demonstration of the volunteer’s faith that takes him into the job,” Bearden said, “but it’s not a platform for evangelizing or ‘selling’ a particular religion or message. In fact, that can get you sent home. This is a job for people who live their faith, not just talk about it.”
The main purpose was preparing graduates for duty in the big emergency shelters in San Antonio, but they also can apply their skills wherever they find people in stressful situations who need a sympathetic ear... and a caring person who knows how to start them on the recovery process.
The NOVA course was sponsored by the Blanco County Disaster Response Group and was held in the Johnson City First United Methodist Church.