People who signed up for a Church World Service hands-on disaster recovery workshop might not have expected hands on to include assembling a jigsaw puzzle.
Of course, there was a point to the exercise, which opened the workshop for disaster case managers, case management supervisors, construction managers and long-term recovery group leaders working to help New Jersey households recover following Superstorm Sandy.
Held on the eve of the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the workshop demonstrated the flow of cases through the long-term recovery group process. It was offered four times, reaching a total of 226 participants in Vineland, N.J., on Oct. 21; Egg Harbor Township Oct. 22; Ocean Oct. 24, and Hillside Oct. 25. The American Red Cross provided funding.
At each workshop, a few participants were assigned to small teams, each of which was given a 16-piece puzzle to put together. As it turned out, each team was missing a puzzle piece or two.
When teams reported the problem, Joann Hale, a CWS emergency response specialist, said, “You’ll have to search for the missing pieces. Ask around until you find out who has it.”
The pieces were in other workshop participants’ pockets, and once they’d all been found, Hale’s colleague Sandra Kennedy-Owes underscored the point: Helping a disaster survivor recover is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
Someone might need muck out, a new furnace, emotional care, donated building supplies and the help of a volunteer construction team – each a piece of that person’s recovery puzzle, she said.
“Many times, disaster survivors have complex needs they can’t resolve without the community’s help,” said Kennedy-Owes, who like Hale is a CWS emergency response specialist. “The mission of local long-term recovery groups is to locate the needed resources, then work with disaster survivors to put the pieces together. The disaster case manager is the point of contact for the client.”
Workshop participants had the chance to practice processing cases through linking families to resources by using the case management, construction and unmet needs committees. The ultimate goal: to more effectively serve the disaster survivor, and especially to restore them to safe, secure, sanitary housing.
Deloris Keels is a disaster case manager with New Community and pastor of the Church at Shalom, both in Newark. A participant in the Hillside, N.J., workshop, she reflected, “Each ‘case’ in front of me is a human being who needs to be made whole. For me, disaster case management is a labor of love. I ask each client, ‘What do you need to be whole?’ I listen, I share available resources, and we work on a recovery plan.”