Emotional needs of displaced students being addressed by Jennifer Chandler (The West Tennessee Catholic)

Emotional needs of displaced students being addressed by Jennifer Chandler (The West Tennessee Catholic)

September 29, 2005

By Jennifer Chandler
Director of Development for Catholic Schools

In response to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, the Diocese of Memphis has opened the doors of its Catholic schools to more than 300 students from families displaced by the devastation. In most cases, the schools have waived tuition, offered uniforms, books, food and even shelter.

"We have met the immediate needs of these families by offering the basics of food, clothing and shelter," said Dr. Mary McDonald, Superintendent of Catholic Schools. "But now we must address the emotional and psychological needs of these children."

In a pro-active effort to assist the students as well as the teachers, administrators and families who have been affected by the disaster, Dr. McDonald invited a group of psycho trauma specialists organized by Dr. Kevin Becker, Director of the Institute of Trauma and Crisis at Harvard University, to come to Memphis and provide guidance and support.

The Real Medicine Foundation, founded by Dr. Martina Fuchs in response to the Tsunami disaster, has offered to fund the pilot program.

"What is important to us is "real" medicine," says Fuchs, "Our focus is to heal the whole person…this means to address emotional, mental, spiritual and social needs in addition to the physical needs." Her philosophy involves creating an international network of friends helping friends heal.

The week of September 19, the first team of specialists met with Dr. Colleen Butterick, Director of School Counseling Services, school counselors and principals to develop a plan to address the needs of our community. On September 28 and 29, a second team of specialists arrived in Memphis to host community discussions for all families of the Catholic schools.

This program will be an on-going way to address the needs of students dealing with the emotional trauma associated with surviving a natural disaster while trying to maintain a normal life.

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