Healing work never ends

A 8.4-magnitude earthquake hit Chile in mid-September. The aftershocks — both geological and human — will be felt for months.

Chile earthquake 2015

The Brookfield Institute has helped hundreds of earthquake survivors over the years. Our approach is humane, delicate, caring and needed. The 2010 earthquake was particularly traumatic and we were keen to see the effects and aftereffects from this one.

We’re happy that the Chilean government and emergency services were much better prepared and able to respond quickly and effectively this time. Elena Huegel, chaplain of the Shalom Center in Chile, says, “I am amazed at the differences in the responses to this earthquake compared to the one in February 2010. It is clear that the emergency simulations and the constant training of police officers, firefights and the general public has paid off.”

Huegel said fewer buildings were damaged, thanks to new building codes. Still, eight people died, 1 million people were evacuated, mines were closed and tsunami warnings were rampant. Aftershocks continued for days. Fishing villages were buried in mud and roads leading to them became impassable.

“In the aftermath, Chileans responded with immediate solidarity,” Huegel said. But, she said, “I can also see how the trauma of the 2010 earthquake has been triggered in many people. It is hard not to relive the horror of those days and weeks in spite of the response and the lesser damage or the fewer lives lost.”

Once the immediate danger is over, the Shalom Center will begin its resiliency training and disaster healing workshops at the churches in the disaster zone. The workshops have helped many people deal with their trauma, fear and mental well-being after previous earthquakes.

Watch Maria explain how the training helped her recover from the devastation and trauma of the 2010 quake, with help from the training offered by the Brookfield Institute. Ellie, who is with Maria, is a 16-year-old who has taken part in our workshops for teenagers.

Trauma healing workshops also will be offered at then end of October in the northern Chilean cities of Arica, Iquique, Pozo, Almonte and Antofagasta. People there were affected by the 2014 quake. The Brookfield Institute has expanded it training to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru and Argentina, teaching facilitators in those countries to lead their own workshops.

We can never underestimate the effect a natural disaster has, on both physical sense of safety and on communities and relationships. Congregations play a vital role in responding after a disaster, and can help communities gain resilience for the future.

Our STAR training, which is part of Huegel's background in developing the Chilean workshops, uses research-based theory and neurological practices to address the needs of trauma-impacted people. We want to bring the "blessing of healing" to people, Huegel says, and you can help us continue our work by donating today.