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Prafulta Reaches Out To Cyclone Affected Myanmar

By Godfrey D`Sa sdb
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Mumbai, Aug. 11. It was at the personal invitation of the Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon that Fr. Godfrey D'Sa sdb, Director of Prafulta, along with his team, set out for Myanmar. The Archbishop wanted his people to be helped in dealing with the psychological trauma caused by the overwhelming loss and destruction they experienced.
Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon equates the destruction on May 4, 2008, wrought by Cyclone Nargis in the Delta Region of Myanmar with the ''mutilation of Myanmar people's soul.'' More than 1,50,000 people perished and over 2.3 million displaced and homeless people now face the painful challenge of restoring their faith and restarting their lives. This is no easy task when all you have laboured for over a lifetime has disappeared overnight. The Catholic Church in Myanmar, fighting against great odds, is doing all it can to restore faith in life and help survivors start anew.

Providing food, drinking water, warm clothes and safe shelter were the priorities immediately after the Cyclone. Dead bodies and carcasses floating in the flood waters had to be cleared in haste to avoid disease and plague. The Archbishop with his team of clergy and religious, set aside everything else. Risking their own lives, they went about the heroic task of burying the dead and bringing solace to the surviving millions. ''We have a three-year plan of systematically helping people who have been affected by the Cyclone to re-build their lives,'' says Archbishop Charles.

It was at the personal invitation of the Archbishop that Fr. Godfrey D'Sa sdb along with Mr. Suraag Lambrou and Ms Mimansa Popat set out for Myanmar on July 20, 2008. Besides providing food and shelter, the Archbishop also wanted his people to be helped in dealing with the psychological trauma caused by the overwhelming loss and destruction they experienced. Over a month and a half of communication with the Archbishop and his Psycho-Social Delegate Fr. Christopher Raj, helped Fr. Godfrey and his team to make the necessary preparations for this fifteen-day trip to Myanmar.

With the help of Mr. Suraag Lambrou, an experienced trainer in Somatic Healing, the team conducted two Trauma First-Aid Training Programmes of 5 days each. Over 85 priests and religious were given basic training in Trauma Healing using Dr. Peter Levine's approach that helps traumatized people access their body's natural immunity to stressful events by releasing stored survival energy and completing interrupted biological patterns that are ''stuck'' in the nervous system. Groups of children who were badly affected by the Cyclone having lost parents, home and family, were brought in on the last day of the training programme. The participants, using skills they had honed at the training, worked with these children and brought immense relief to them. Seeing the smiles on the children's faces and their determination to move on in life after the trainees had worked on them, was sufficient to proof that this Myanmar adventure was more than worthwhile.  Participants pledged to use their new learned skills and reach out to many more people in need. The team also got the opportunity to work with other groups of children affected by the cyclone.

Archbishop Charles Bo and his auxiliary Bishop Justin were both participants at one of the training programmes. In his letter of appreciation, the Archbishop writes: ''It was my great joy and pleasure to see and experience the effective results of Trauma Healing Seminar given to the clergy and religious of the Archdiocese of Yangon. It was a blessing and from the bottom of our hearts, we would like to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation for sharing with us your precious time, your knowledge and wisdom, your care and love. Through this Seminar, we have learned a simple and effective method of taking care of ourselves and to help those we will reach out to in our healing ministry.''

Prafulta, a Don Bosco Organization for Psychological Services, is grateful to the Provincial and Salesians of the Mumbai Province, the Archbishop of Mumbai, and many other religious congregations and individuals who contributed generously in making possible this 'healing journey' to Myanmar. Without your help, this meaningful experience would have been just a dream!
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