California Wildfire Emergency Response

by IsraAID
California Wildfire Emergency Response

A year has passed since the Camp Fire tore through the town of Paradise, in Butte County, California. 95% of all structures were destroyed, including over 14,000 homes and thousands of additional buildings, five of them schools. IsraAID launched an emergency response mission to support the community in November 2018, and continues to do so today.

Last month, IsraAID led a training for staff from the Butte County Department of Public Health in administering Psychological First Aid. This session provided them with this key, new skillset, and explored the ways in which Psychological First Aid can be a crucial preventive measure in developing long term symptoms as a result of trauma.

This group of community leaders will now be able to respond and support their wider community, and will be conducting additional workshops on the subject for other members of their department to maximize long-term, sustainable impact.

In the coming weeks the IsraAID team will continue to build capacity for leaders from the local community through a series of trainings and workshops, ranging from 1- day workshops to 5-day Training of Trainers intensive sessions. These will be offered to a variety of our local partners including the Boys and Girls Club of America, Butte County Department of Behavioral Health, Emergency Case Workers groups, and other leaders from within the community.

IsraAID will continue to plan and implement trainings in the coming months, to address the needs identified by local leaders and organizations, in building their capacities.

Stay tuned as our IsraAID programs continue to develop and meet the community’s evolving needs.

Thank you for your support.

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In October and November 2018, weeks of wildfires razed communities in northern and southern California, burning close to 250,000 acres and causing thousands to evacuate their homes, with over 100 fatalities. In the town of Paradise, Butte County, over 95% of all structures were destroyed, including over 14,000 homes and thousands of additional buildings, five of them schools.

IsraAID has been active in Butte County since November. Starting with a rapid needs assessment, it became clear that we could make a valuable impact by offering psychosocial support trainings to community leaders in order to provide support for displaced communities. Realizing that many of the community leaders we worked with, whether they be counselors, teachers, social workers, or health care workers, all now face a new reality in their personal lives and in their professional work, we wanted to give them as much support in the form of new tools and information to assist in their missions to support their own communities.

Participants were grateful for our sessions, which served not only as an educational opportunity, but also as a safe space for their own process of healing and self-care practices during such a challenging time.

One participant said:

“[IsraAID] brought thoughtfulness and empathy. They had an engaged presence and their experiences brought perspective to our disaster, as they have seen the power of community healing. The [expressive arts tools] are all things I will use in the classroom and with family/community members affected by the fire.”

Following these initial trainings, we are now moving onto more in-depth trainings to meet the needs and fill some of the gaps of the community.

Currently we are finalizing the development of a series of workshops and trainings including Self Care, Managing Wellbeing for Teams, and Psychological First Aid (PFA). Facilitation by mental health experts will begin shortly to different actors and professionals in civil society, including groups of emergency case workers, educators, county department staff, and community leaders from the non-profit and public sectors. These trainings will be able to support those who have been working tirelessly to support their community, and give tools and skills which can remain in the county for years to come, as the local community continues to rebuild stronger together.

More updates from the field to follow ...

Thank you for your support!

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Weeks of wildfires razed communities in northern and southern California, burning close to 250,000 acres and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes in October and November, and causing over 100 fatalities. In the town of Paradise, more than 95% of structures were destroyed, including at least 14,000 homes and thousands of additional buildings, five of them schools.

IsraAID has been active in Butte County since November. Following a rapid needs assessment, it became clear that we could make a valuable impact by offering psychosocial support trainings to community leaders to provide support for displaced communities. In addition to the previous rounds of psychosocial support trainings with the Boys and Girls Club North Valley, IsraAID facilitated a series of trainings to the teachers and staff of eight different schools in the Paradise Unified School District. Workshops were also led for the Counselors of Chico State University (CSU), and Butte College to aid in their efforts to support students and community members. In February, IsraAID was invited to give the keynote speech to Enloe’s Wellness Day, organized for some 300 staff members who had lost their homes in the fire. Four different trainings were held for the health care workers of Enloe Hospital, including three art-therapy trainings (one for parents and children together), and a training for upper management.

Realizing that many of the community leaders we worked with—whether they are counselors, teachers, social workers, or health care workers—all now face a new reality in their personal lives and in their professional work, requires new and different support mechanisms. Participants were grateful for our sessions, which served not only as educational opportunity, but also as a safe space for their own process of healing and self-care practices during such a challenging time.

As one participant reflected on the training and IsraAID facilitators, “They had an engaged presence and their experiences brought perspective to our natural disaster, as they have seen the power of community healing. The hope frame, cards, and transformative drawing are all things I will use in the classroom and with family/community members affected by the fire. Thank you.” The IsraAID team is now planning a series of follow-up activities to help the communities transition from the emergency stage, and toward recovery.

More updates from the field to follow...

Thanks for your support!

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Weeks of wildfires razed communities in northern and southern California, burning close to 250,000 acres and causing thousands to evacuate their homes in October and November. Over 100 fatalities have been reported, with hundreds still missing. Many of those affected are living in temporary accommodation including tent cities, shelters, and cars.

IsraAID deployed its emergency response team from Houston to Chico, California in November to conduct a rapid needs assessment and provide support for displaced communities.

IsraAID's psychosocial support professionals are working with service providers and first responders to ensure that their emotional needs are met. Self care workshops and processing sessions with police, firefighters, and municipality workers seek to create a safe space for open communication and unpacking the emotional trauma of the fires, so that these key leaders can best support the community.

In addition, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America, IsraAID is providing psychosocial support to children to teach new coping mechanisms to expand their emotional wellbeing toolbox and bolster their resiliency. Psychologists and social workers from California have joined the team on the ground, providing expertise and support through sessions with the children. IsraAID staff members are working both directly with children, as well as training the after-school programming mentors from the Boys and Girls Club of North Valley. Many of these programs are currently running in new, improvised locations outside of Paradise, CA, as the normal locations were burnt down in the fire. It's essential, in these times of volatility and crisis, to provide children with routine and normalcy like daily after-school programming-- which IsraAID is supporting.

Jascon, one of the mentors in the Boys and Girls Club, shared with IsraAID staff: “By working closely with IsraAID, and implementing expressive art programs with our youth, I have gained a new perspective on the significance of art.  IsraAID has given me a new way to approach art programs with our members.  I now look at art as a tool to help others express themselves, and create a new sense of security and belonging.  We now utilize art as a means to share and heal during a time of tragedy.” Jason was among the community members to lose his home in the fire.

Another staff member added, "IsraAID was able to help me vent and express what I experienced during the Camp Fire. As a staff members they gave me tools to help members express the trauma they experience in creative ways. I am grateful for the resources they have provided."

More updates from the field to follow...

Thanks for your support!

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IsraAID

Location: Tel Aviv, Merkaz - Israel
Website:
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Twitter: @IsraAID
Project Leader:
Ethan Schwartz
Tel Aviv, Merkaz Israel

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