After the disaster, comes the recovery
When it comes to disaster welfare in NSW, the Synod of NSW and the ACT is never shy in stepping up to the role of providing ecumenical chaplaincy to evacuation and recovery centres.
This vital support is organised through the NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network. Coordinated by Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson, four Uniting Church ministers, who operate as Senior Chaplains or Duty Officers, also provide assistance.
Disaster Recovery Chaplains are experienced clergy representing a wide range of faith groups. They are nominated by their religious bodies before undertaking specialised training to become accredited for this work. Once accredited, they agree to work under a set code of ethics and guiding principles to ensure the best possible level of care.
“During the recent NSW bushfire crisis, the Synod organised teams of chaplains to care for people in nine evacuation centres over an eight-day period.
“Working three shifts a day through 24 hours, chaplains helped to bring calm, practical aid and God’s loving presence to hundreds of evacuated residents. Evacuation centres were at Raymond Terrace, Doyalson, Swansea, Lithgow, Springwood, North Richmond, Picton and Tahmoor, and the information centre was located in Penrith,” explained Rev. Dr Robinson.
The main focus now is on rebuilding communities and assisting in the recovery process as families face the physical and emotional realities of rebuilding or moving on. Rev. Janice Freeston from Springwood Uniting Church is working with the Wellbeing Committee headed up by Phil Koperberg, the Chairman of the NSW Emergency Management Committee.
“We are trying to get information out about what’s available and looking for ways to start community building. So things like street BBQs in the affected areas give people an opportunity to chat with one another,” Rev. Freeston said recently.
Rev. Freeston is also an Ambulance Chaplain, which gave her access straight after the fires to support those who had power cut off and offer assistance.
“We’ve tried to find things that we have the capacity and resources to do, helping support the local community where we can. We are trusted and already here in the community, which helps facilitate that,” said Rev. Freeston.
Rural Chaplain Rev. Julie Greig also offered around-the-clock help, mobilising chaplains where they were needed most in affected areas.
Chaplains came from a wide range of denominations including Uniting Church, Anglican, Baptist, Churches of Christ, Catholic, Australian Christian Churches (AOG), Presbyterian and Salvation Army. These are all ministry agents with a heart to serve together to bring God’s love in the toughest times.
Hope and encouragement
As well as providing practical support, hope and encouragement to victims of disaster, the Uniting Church encourages its members to give generously to the recent appeal to support victims of the bushfires.
You can give online at https://secure.donman.net.au/client/livingisgiving/donate.aspx or transfer funds directly into the Synod Bushfire Appeal account (BSB: 634-634, ACC: 100017927). Please be sure to note ‘Bushfire Appeal’ in the reference field so it can be allocated where most needed.
Please note that donations are not tax deductible.