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Our response to Australia’s bushfires

In response to Australia’s horrific bushfire crisis, we hope these notes written by various members of our skilled and experienced Care and Indirect Care teams can help to give you a sense of community and some practical support during this time.  We will be adding more words over the coming months so please check back or follow our social media platforms to view them. With love, our Lighthouse community.

 

Note by Harry Nazikian – Clinical Psychologist, Lighthouse Manager of Clinical Services

Given that there is considerable information already available on how to cope with trauma following a natural disaster, it is hard to think what more could be added to the advice already available from organizations such as the Australian Psychological Society and the Red Cross. What advice can Lighthouse Foundation offer on the basis of our experience of helping young people recover from damaging life experiences and homelessness?

Lighthouse Foundation facilitates recovery for young people who have suffered trauma and homelessness by offering a therapeutic community which works thoughtfully to rekindle trust and healing that stems from the experience of safe relationships. Our experience at Lighthouse has taught us that when normal patterns and assumptions of daily life have been shattered, it is vital to empower young people to feel secure enough to re-engage meaningfully with others and the world around them.

In the context of a natural disaster, attending to the emotional needs of children and adolescents is especially important. Parents impacted by a natural disaster inevitably become preoccupied with numerous worries and uncertainties and may easily overlook signs from their children seeking reassurance and connection. Simply listening to children and acknowledging what they feel they need to say helps them to feel valued and safe.

The healing process for adults will reside in seeking connection within social networks such as family, friends and local community organizations offering support as well as promoting recovery efforts. Young people, including children if they show an interest, should also be given the opportunity to contribute to recovery tasks no matter how small in order to also help them rebuild confidence in their reparative capacities.

 

Note by Tia Di Biase – Lighthouse Research Analyst

When someone experiences tragedy, sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can impact their life in unimaginable ways. We never know how much we can truly affect someone when we show them care and kindness, from the smallest gesture of simply being present and sharing conversation, right through to the shelter that we provide each other in tough times. At Lighthouse Foundation, we have learned the value of community as a way to heal emotional wounds caused by complex traumas. Our community provides young people with the chance to feel a sense of belonging – for many, this may be the first time they have experienced the feeling of being a part of a larger community with shared experiences and support. We have learned that feeling part of something bigger is essential to any truly meaningful therapeutic experience
At this time, many people in the Australian community are experiencing loss, displacement and trepidation about their future. Children are at particular risk of developing trauma either as a direct victim or through indirect exposure to fear or distress experienced by those around them. Children can feel a sense of safety and empowerment from getting involved in planning for disasters and expressing their emotional world with you. Remaining calm and validating their experience are just a couple of the many gestures we can provide in our communities. The way a community gathers around and helps each other is vital to overcoming the emotional trauma that can develop during times of disaster.
Note by Michelle Michie – Lighthouse Philanthropy Manager

This summer’s bushfire crisis triggers heightened anxiety across the Lighthouse community. As the smoke haze chokes our cities, and terrifying images from media reports bring us close to this unfolding disaster, the children and young people of Lighthouse look to us to provide calm reassurance that they are safe, and all will be well. This is hard to do when we feel our own anxieties. Children who are already vulnerable, and who have experienced significant loss, require a maintenance of the usual routines and the opportunity to talk things through with emotionally resilient adults they can trust. Many children are particularly pained about the animals who are burnt, and they want to find a way to help. Right now, the Lighthouse team is devising plans for our own community to help the recovery efforts in some practical way. Everyone wants to help, within their limited means and capacity, in some way.

We are very proud that several of our wonderful philanthropic partners (such as Portland House Foundation – who have donated $1m to bushfire relief efforts) have stepped forward to make a significant contribution.  We are a strong, united and resilient community, and we will get through this – together.