A Brief Review of The Mangrove Activities in 2005
Centre for Performing Arts; Kind Heart Friends Club; FORUT; PPDRO; United Sikhs/Mental Health Outreach Project; Third Eye; Shade; Shadow; Terre des hommes; DESMIO; Netra; ESCO; Unicef; Batticaloa Befrienders; Koinonia; NESEDA; Professional Psychological Counselling Centre; Catholic Youth Association; Family Rehabilitation Centre; Beacon of the East; SIM-Sri Lanka; OXFAM GB; OXFAM Australia; Escape; Save the Children in Sri Lanka; Sarvodaya; SLRC/DRC; Ministry of Health Mental Health Directorate; WHO; Mental Health Unit, Teaching Hospital Batticaloa; Handicap International; MDM Portugal; Peace & Community Action; Batticaloa Zonal Education Department; IOM; Psychosocial Support Programme; ACTED; YMCA Batticaloa; CARE International; Butterfly Peace Garden; National Youth Services Council; EHED; Survivors Associated; Meesan; Norwegian Development Fund; PEDO; POPE; Suriya WDC; KPNDU; Jesuit Refugee Services; TRO; Canadian Relief Organisation; VSO; Ashram; Inayam; FCE; Ramakrishna Mission; YMCA Kallar; ACF; World Vision; Women’s Coalition for Disaster Management; Female Teachers Union Kattankudy; Sewalanka; Amici dei Bambini; Independent Danish Physiotherapy Students; Operation USA; Kinderberg International; IWARE; MSF – France; Yale-Griffin Team; Psychologists Without Borders (Spain); Merlin & GVC (Italy).
Mapping of agencies still operational within or involved with the district as of January 2006 is currently underway, in collaboration with UN OCHA, and should be completed by mid-March 2006.
The Mangrove has also attempted to establish Divisional Secretariat (sub-District) level coordination mechanisms that are closer to field implementers and beneficiaries, but this has been largely unsuccessful - with the notable exception of the Psychosocial Referral Desk in Vakarai run by personnel from a number of organisations active in the area. The fact that decision-making for agencies is not devolved to DS level structures is a key factor that militates against meaningful coordination at that level. However, The Mangrove has developed (and continues to update) information resources (ie. Contact Sheets for Humanitarian Workers, Resource Books for Agencies, DS level Maps and Grama Niladhari division level databases) in collaboration with network members and the UN Organisation for Coordination of Humanitarian Agencies (OCHA) to assist frontline workers and humanitarian managers in making referrals locally at a DS level.
In addition, The Mangrove provided direction to organisations newly arrived in the district or which were embarking on psychosocial projects for the first time. This included advice and guidance on project design and implementation, as well as on where specific services were required or how new projects might link with existing services. There was a particular focus on assisting organisations to work collaboratively, and in some instances The Mangrove was able to link organisations that mutually benefited from collaboration (ie. a local theatre and arts group was linked with an international agency involved in camp management to facilitate entertainment and community social events in a few displaced persons’ camps). Given the large numbers of organisations involved in the psychosocial sector in Batticaloa, The Mangrove was often called upon to mediate in conflicts or coordination difficulties between organisations in field. In one extreme example, over fourteen separate organisations were attempting to implement psychosocial interventions with the same population (at the Thiraimadu resettlement site) without any coordination between them. In such instances, The Mangrove would facilitate dialogue between the parties, and using the principles of Do-No-Harm and the language of the ‘best interests’ of the affected populations, would attempt to produce a workable framework for cooperation between the various players. In the case of the Thiraimadu resettlement site, the organisations are now engaged in a (slow) process of joint participatory needs assessment and planning of interventions.
Capacity-building: Enhancing the capacities of individual workers and institutions to provide quality services is a key objective of The Mangrove, and human and financial resources were mobilised from within the district and from external sources to provide training, supervision and support to agencies and personnel in the psychosocial sector. The Mangrove attempted to assist organisations that were new to psychosocial intervention, and whose personnel had limited training. It also attempted to channel professional training resources coming into the district, to link them to initiatives and groups that would be sustained beyond the initial months of the disaster. During the first six months, over 27 organisations (including international and local agencies and teams) received individual support and advice from The Mangrove personnel on their psychosocial programmes. Each organisation was met a minimum of 2 times and a maximum of around 30 times during the six month period. During the initial six month period, over 16 separate training/capacity-building events were organised through The Mangrove. These ranged from ½ day sessions on “What is Psychosocial?”, four day workshops on “Understanding Fears and Tsunamis”, micro-skills training sessions for member organisations to a 21-day training on “Play Interventions with Children”. Over 30 separate organisations participated in these events. During the second six months, the numbers of training events have declined, although The Mangrove continues to provide programme guidance and training around specific issues. The Mangrove also draws from the human resources of its membership to provide weekly group supervision sessions for social workers and counsellors.
Although The Mangrove has advocated for long-term capacity-building inputs into State and non-government service structures since the initial weeks after the tsunami disaster, after the passage of six months of the disaster response, The Mangrove has redoubled its efforts to promote initiatives to establish high quality lasting mechanisms for training personnel and providing them ongoing professional development opportunities. At present, the two major foci of The Mangrove’s efforts in this regard are 1) the establishment of applied psychosocial courses and training capabilities at the Eastern University; and 2) the strengthening of the recently established Batticaloa Counsellors Association.
Specific Projects/Interventions: The Mangrove also played a role in initiating or supporting strategic interventions within the psychosocial sector. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, The Mangrove coordinated a multi-disciplinary multi-agency group that conducted rapid assessments of access to psychosocial services and education for displaced children living in camps. Certain problems highlighted by these assessments were fed into the Education Task Force or referred to relevant agencies, whilst information about other difficulties and positive experiences was used when providing guidance to organisations working with children in camps. In collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross, volunteers from the Sri Lanka Red Cross, the Sri Lanka Police, personnel from the Batticaloa Hospital Mental Health Unit and personnel from Shade (a community mental health service provider), The Mangrove established a procedure for supporting family members of the missing who would arrive at local police stations to identify photographs of persons who had died in the tsunami. The Mangrove also played a key role in lobbying and providing guidance for the consultation of displaced communities in the placement of water and sanitation facilities in temporary camps. The network also provided a platform from which a programme for disaster preparedness in schools was launched with the involvement of the Zonal Departments of Education, Medicos Dos Mondos Portugal and the Mental Health Unit. In the event of tsunami rumours, The Mangrove has mobilised personnel to manage panicking crowds and provide reassuring and accurate information. During the run-up to the first anniversary of the tsunami disaster, The Mangrove issued guidelines on sensitively commemorating the event and supporting communities, which helped shape the plans of many organisations both within the district and beyond. The Mangrove also utilised an impasse between over 14 organisations implementing psychosocial interventions at the Thiraimadu resettlement site to initiate a participatory needs assessment and planning process involving the residents of the site and the personnel of the various organisations. The Mangrove has continued to lobby and provide models for monitoring and support to separated children who are currently in community-placements within the households of their relatives.
Planned Activities for 2006
Although The Mangrove must respond to a dynamic (and sometimes unstable) situation within the Batticaloa district and psychosocial sector, the following activities have been identified as priorities to be pursued in 2006:
Planned 2006 Key Activities for Coordination
§ Improving mapping for coordination and planning, in collaboration with UN HIC
§ Improving referral resources (ie. contact lists and psychosocial personnel database) and systems (referral points at Divisional Secretariat level)
§ Establishing a psychosocial website for Batticaloa
§ Further support to coordination at specific locations (ie Thiraimadu Resettlement Site)
Planned 2006 Key Activities in Capacity-Building
§ Development of Certificate Courses in collaboration with Centre for Social Research and Development, Eastern University
§ Strengthening of psychosocial practitioner associations (ie. Batticaloa Counsellors’ Association)
§ Facilitation of long-term training initiatives, (ie. Directed Play Intervention Training for childcare workers)
§ Development of Samuththana Mental Health Resource Centre, in collaboration with UK-SL Trauma Group
§ Provision of support and supervisory services for field staff and management
§ Facilitation of Play Activity Exchange events
§ Provision of support and guidance to individual projects and organisations
§ Organisation of lectures, discussions and reading groups
§ Development of needs assessment and monitoring capabilities of organisations and personnel
§ Coordination and ‘harnessing’ of ad-hoc training activities
Planned 2006 Key Activities in Advocacy
§ Improvement of documentation on district-level and site-specific issues
§ Promotion of better needs assessment
§ Strengthen network links to District Task Forces and other sectors of humanitarian and development work
§ Improving representation of psychosocial network concerns at District-Level Meetings and at Divisional-Level Meetings
Planned Special Projects for 2006
§ Campaigning for establishment of a Monitoring & Support System for Separated Children linked to the District Child Protection Committee and Department of Probation and Child Care
§ Support to cross-regional networking initiatives, in collaboration with the district networks and the Psycho-Social Forum of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies
§ Contribution to initiative to develop a national psychosocial policy through the Ministry of Social Welfare
§ Development of participatory needs assessment and programme development within the Thiraimadu resettlement site