Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Resultado de ser arrancado por un desastre (Root Shock)



"El vídeo adjunto representa como un grupo de estudiantes interpreto la perdida causada por un desastre y el proceso de recuperación. Como podrán notar la metáfora es la de un árbol que debido a un terrible desastre sufre la perdida física y emocional de ser arrancando en forma brusca de su lugar. Con la ayuda de socorristas logra re-establecerse en un nuevo lugar y comienza el proceso de echar raíces--en el proceso aumenta su resilencia."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Current Democracies, Time to Reflect

It is extremely saddening to see innocent civilians loose their life and dignity in the Middle East and North Africa just because they are daring to voice their dissatisfaction in their current form of government whether it is dictatorship, theocracy, monarchy or any other. Most of these rulers and/or leaders had a long time to meet the needs of the people, provide them with equal opportunities and take their respective countries on the way of development and progress.

But they failed and therefore they face the rebellion. They may argue whatever to justify their position and accuse the rebels of whatsoever but the crude reality is that the people that they governed for all these years, at least the majority of them, are not satisfied.

When one fails, one pays. Who knows this better than these powerful people, I wonder how many were punished (many times, brutally) because they failed to satisfy these rulers. Time to wake up, big guys! When small people unite, they become bigger than all the 'big guys'. Then democracy is born!

Unfortunately, the birth of democracy is always painful. Moreover, just the birth of democracy does not guarantee the rule of people. Continued efforts are required to make it an actual rule of the people. A rule where everybody gets the opportunity to progress, everybody gets a say in their life, everybody feels free.

While the democratic leaders who are watching the developments in the Arab world and hoping that democracy is born, it is also the time for them to introspect and reflect. Are we where our forefathers wanted us to be? Are 'ALL' my fellow countrymen actually free? Is everybody able to make decisions for her/himself? Does everybody get their equal share of dignity and respect?

Let's come together to ponder where we have reached and whether it is the dream destination? Let's come together to stand up for ourselves, our future children and shared principles. Let us come together for dignity and respect for all. Let us move together to progress, prosperity and peace for all!

More info:
  • http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml
  • http://stutzfamily.com/mrstutz/WorldAffairs/typesofgovt.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy

Friday, March 25, 2011

March Until You Arrive!

Struggle with the darkness until light emerges 
Explore the rocks until the brilliance emerges
Nurture until & beyond the flower emerges 
Hope until what you're hoping for emerges
Dialogue until an agreement emerges 
Strike the cord until the tune emerges
Question until the answer emerges
Wrestle until victory emerges
Grieve until a smile emerges
Fail until success emerges  


Persist until peace emerges!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NO to violence against women!


"Every year, millions of women and girls are subjected to harmful traditional practices. Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting, with more than 3 million girls annually at risk of the practice. Over 60 million girls are child brides, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.3 million) and sub-Saharan African (14.1 million). Women who marry early are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might be justified in beating his wife."
Source: WHO, ‘Female Genital Mutilation’, Fact Sheet No. 241 (Geneva: WHO, 2008).

Recently, I got the opportunity to review Annual Report 2010 of the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. The fund has supported several programs around the world including Zambia, Guatemala, Egypt, Nepal, Peru, Cambodia, Republic of Congo, etc. that strive to end violence against women and promote gender equality. 

I would like to share some best practices that I gathered from this report:
  • Provide safe spaces for girls and women where they can:
    • Share their feelings, their concerns and fears.  
      • Develop community mapping where they have every household data and highlight the areas in the community where there is heightened risk of gender-based violence. These maps are finally shared with the community leaders for further action.
    • Learn from experienced women and gain confidence.
    • Receive education on adolescent sexuality, human rights, how to challenge gender stereotypes, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
    • Acquire vocational skills to improve their economic status.
  • Engage boys and men in promoting gender equality by sensitizing them during the recreational activities and in the schools and universities.
  • Involve traditional leaders in the campaign to promote gender equality as they are ones with the authority and people like to follow them.
  • Sensitize the police and other law and order personnel so that they can deal with cases of gender violence with respect and sensitivity. 
  • Use media such as broadcasting radio programs that deal with gender related issues. These programs provide an open platform for groups of women in the villages to discuss the issues and relate them to their lives. 
  • Recognize those who excel in the process.



I am amazed how effectively these organizations have involved local leaders to lead the campaign to end the violence against women and as a result these communities, slowly but surely, are moving towards gender equality. Active participation of community leaders is crucial because they are ones who can develop locally based solutions which are culturally appropriate and sustainable. 



More information:
  • http://www.unwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/UNTF_AnnualReport2010_en.pdf

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The triple disaster in Japan, “Root Shock” and the route to Psychosocial Well-being


By Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz[1] PhD

In 2004, while planning for the psychosocial response in the tsunami affected countries of South Asia I became aware of the term “root shock” (Fullilove 2002) to explain the experience of disaster affected people after the tsunami. Today once again we revisit the term, as we try to make sense of the effect of the triple disaster experienced by the Japanese people.
The traumatic stress reaction experienced by the Japanese as a result of the massive destruction of their emotional ecosystem is best explained by the term “root shock”.  Fullilove (2002) indicates that root shock has important parallels to the physiological shock experienced by a person who, as a result of injury, suddenly losses massive amounts fluids. Such a blow threatens the whole body’s ability to function. Shock is the fight for survival after a life-threatening blow to the body’s internal balance (p. 11).
The disaster-affected people have a way of maintaining the external balance between themselves and the world. This way of moving in the environment maximizes the odds that the person will survive predators, find food, maintain shelter, and live in harmony with family and neighbors. When the external system of protection is damaged the disaster-affected person will go into root shock (Fullilove, 2002, p.11)
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedies, the support and direction from the first responders, in the form of providing shelter, food and ensuring shelter will stabilize the situation. But the experience of root shock does not end with the emergency phase, but will stay with the disaster affected people for a lifetime.
Five basic principles that have received broad empirical support for facilitating positive  adaptation following trauma guided the selection of PFA strategies and techniques: (a) promoting sense of safety, (b) promoting calming, (c) promoting sense of self- and community efficacy, (d) promoting connectedness, and (e) instilling hope (Hobfoll et al., 2007).

Promoting a sense of safety.  As much as possible bring the disaster affected people to a secure place. Help them understand that they are safe and are being cared for to assure their safety.  Provide timely and accurate information so that threat, and the perception of threat can be reduced. Educate parents and caregivers to monitor the type and amount of information being shared with their siblings so as to assure security.

Promoting a sense of calming. Engage the disaster-affected people in activities that may alleviate their concerns. Provide information regarding the well being of family and friends. Provide psycho education regarding the typical reactions to disasters, that these reactions are typical and normal. Suggest activities that will reduce anxiety and stress regarding incident specific new fears. 

Promoting self- and collective efficacy. Provide resources so that the loss cycle can be reversed. Involve disaster-affected people in decision making activities and rebuilding efforts. Promote activities that are planned and implemented by the community such as religious activities, and collective healing and mourning rituals. Promote activities in the affected community that encourage the well-being of the people. Assist community members in planning, and implementing rebuilding projects, and activities that restore order. Have the community members share their hope for the future and identify activities where they can volunteer and share of their goods, resources, and skills.  Include children and adolescent in the planning and implementation of community recovery activities.

Promoting connectedness.  Provide the mechanism for disaster-affected people to identify and establish links with loved ones. Facilitate reconnection of children with parents and caretakers. Increase the quantity, quality, and frequency of supportive transactions between disaster-affected people and the support systems. Address negative social influences through community wide activities.

Instill hope.  Provide services to disaster-affected people such as housing, employment, relocation, and replacement of household good, and clean-up kits. In as much as possible bring community groups together so that they can plan and implement the rebuilding of the community. Identify and assist those who lack strong support, who are likely to be more socially isolated, or whose support system might provide undermining messages. In cases of evacuation and destruction of homes and neighborhoods, or where informal social support fails, make it a priority to keep individuals connected,  and train people how to access support.

Re-establishment of Place as a tool CBPSP
The major activity of psychosocial support after a disaster to is begin community mobilization activities that will begin to re-establish place. The objective is to engage the disaster-affected people in a set of exercises that will identify vulnerabilities, resources and the adaptive capacities of the community. All affected people should become engaged in a dynamic and context oriented process to determine how internal conditions impact the response to the disaster. The disaster affected people explore:  (a) which behavioral components of a community weakens the ability to respond to the disaster sequalae, (b) what behavioral characteristic help the community to respond to the disaster, and (c) what are the communities abilities to change their behaviors to cope better with actual and anticipated social, psychological and ecological stressors.

 Community based psychosocial support as a platform for recovery supports rebuilding of local economies that allow individuals to resume their daily vocational activity, and prevent ongoing resource loss cycles. Existing community groups should be engaged in establishing systems that enable those in recovery from similar traumas to share their experience and hope with those struggling with recovery, accepting that their lives and their environment may have changed, and making more accurate risk assessments.



References:
Fullilove, M.T. (2002). Root Shock. New York: Ballentine.
Hobfoll, S.E.  et al.(2007). Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: Empirical evidence. Psychiatry, 70(4), 283-315.
Prewitt Diaz, J.O. (2011). Psychosocial support for disaster affected people:
An overview of a program to enhance resilience and improve well-being in disaster affected people. Rio Piedras: University of Puerto Rico Press.




[1] Dr. Prewitt Diaz is a humanitarian psychologist who served as the Functional Advisor for psychosocial support with the American Red Cross in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami in South Asia. He is the recipient of the 2008 APA International Humanitarian Award

Monday, March 21, 2011

So, what are the next steps for Libya?

The imposition of 'No Fly Zone' and air attacks on Gaddafi's jets and attack helicopters, managed to mitigate the violence against the civilians, which is an excellent thing. In addition to the implementation of the UN resolution to protect the civilians, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, spent the weekend meeting with leaders in Europe and Egypt to achieve peace through talks and diplomatic pressure. However, is this the best scenario for Libya in the current situation?


Just like there are protestors that want to oust Gaddafi, there are others who are protesting against the international attack on Libya. Everybody has the right to have their own opinion but the unfortunate outcome in this situation is that the innocent people are being killed on both sides and the country as a whole is being weakened. 


Those who think that that these attacks are inappropriate must take concrete steps to convince the current government of Libya to ensure that the common man in the country is not killed but is heard and respected. At the end of the day, it is Libyan leadership that is responsible for the future of the country, the well-being of its people and the diplomatic relationship with the international community. 


The United Nations and NATO forces can only intervene when the local government fails to protect its civilians. However, international intervention is not the ideal situation for any country. 


It is never too late, Libyans can still do the right thing and take control of their country. Here are some broad suggestions, which need to be contextualized and given a timeline: 

  1. Gaddafi and his aids refocus their strategy from 'fighting with the whole world to retain power' to 'empowering their nation by peaceful talks and recognizing the voice of the masses'.
  2. Libyan leaders from both sides come together and commit to fair elections in the country. It is not easy but a sincere start will surely calm down the international intervention.
  3. Col. Gaddafi is retired in a dignified way and settle down where he feels secure and comfortable. If any of his sons want to inherit the power, they run for the office in the upcoming elections and work hard for the well-being of their countrymen to prove their worth. 
  4. In the meantime, a neutral leader or a coalition governance is put in place. If needed, leaders like Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, can assist in the negotiations to reach a consensus. 
  5. Democracy is established in any form  that is acceptable by all, as soon as possible. 
  6. All steps are taken to protect the civilians and to compensate as much as possible for the loss that they have suffered due to government actions during this unrest.
Once steps such as these are implemented, Libyans can take full control of their country and its oil. But by violent repression of the masses, it is impossible to ensure a bright future for the country. Libya, please respond to the call of Peace!

More info:
  • http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/detail/116977.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12802531
  • http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/03/21/libya.civil.war/index.html?hpt=T1

Pasos a seguir cuando ofreces primeros auxilios psicológicos



By Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz[1] PhD

Los Primeros Auxilios Psicológicos (PAF) se ha identificado como una herramienta efectiva para proveer apoyo psicosocial  a personas afectadas por un desastre.  Estos pasos sirven como guía a los socorristas para  a enaltecer la resiliencia de la población afectada.

1. Observa y mantente alerta.  A veces lo que vez y escuchas podría ser el primer indicio  que una persona afectada por un desastre este atravesando por una situación emocional difícil. Al afrontar la situación recuerda que tu seguridad personal es tu prioridad.

2. Inicia la interacción.  Preséntate y concéntrate en la persona. Acuérdate que en ese momento tu tienes la confianza de la persona afectada. Se paciente, y comprensivo. No subestimes la importancia de tu presencia.

3. Ayuda con las necesidades básicasFrecuentemente cuando una  persona experimenta una situaciones de estrés olvida satisfacer sus necesidades básicas, como comer, beber agua, descansar, o dormir.

4. Escucha. Escuchar a una persona que ha experimentado estrés, facilita que puedas comprender lo que ocurre. Confirma que sus sentimientos y preocupaciones son válidos. El enojo o la frustración suelen ser una forma de expresar temor y ansiedad acerca de la situación. Si no quiere hablar, no es necesario forzarla. A veces, aguardar en silencio puede ser la manera más eficaz de escuchar.

6. Alienta formas positivas de afrontar la situación. Todos tenemos nuestros propios estilos y estrategias particulares de afrontar el estrés. Las personas hacen frente a los momentos difíciles poniendo en práctica lo que aprendieron en el transcurso de su vida.

7. Ayuda a las personas a relacionarse con los demás. Pregúntale a la persona con quién suele hablar cuando necesita que alguien la escuche o necesita consultar una cuestión determinada. Luego, sugiérele que se comunique con la persona; tal vez sea todo lo que la persona estresada necesita para poder establecer ese vínculo útil.

8. Ofrece información  correcta y oportuna. Es importante ofrecer información exacta y oportuna en una situación estresante. En momentos de estrés la concentración, atención y memoria de una persona pueden verse afectadas.

9. Finaliza la conversación. Al finalizar la conversación, asegúrate de poner a la persona en contacto con otros/otras antes de irte.


[1] El Dr. Prewitt Díaz  es un psicólogo humanitario que sirvió como Asesor Funcional en Apoyo Psicosocial con la Cruz Roja America durante el tsunami de 2004 en el Sur de Asia.  Es el recipiente del Premio Internacional Humanitario de la Asociación de Psicólogos Americana.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Col. Gaddafi, open your eyes!

Somebody who has ruled his country for over forty years and has lived a life of a king should at least thank his motherland by (a) developing the country, (b) improving the living standards of his countrymen and (c) ensuring security, wellbeing and good future to the children of his country.

But what can be said for Muammar Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for 42 years, accumulated enormous wealth, had a lavish lifestyle since he came to power but kept his countrymen in virtual isolation from the rest of the world, brutally punished the dissidents, sponsored terrorism worldwide and now letting hundreds of Libyans die just so that he can remain in power. Are 42 years of power not enough?

After repeated appeals from Libyans and later from the international community to oust Gaddafi, he  continues to remain in power at the cost of hundreds of lives of his countrymen (number is still going up), unrest and violence in his country. How pathetically ironic is that Gaddafi is fighting for the power that is slipping from his fist anyway!

After days of negotiations and considerations, United Nation's Security Council has voted for military action and the imposition of 'No Fly Zone' in order to protect the civilians. Although, military action against Gaddafi has begun, lives are being lost on both sides.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muammar_Gaddafi
Col. Gaddafi, lust of power has blindfolded you and your aids. Open your eyes and save your country from regressing to whatever progress it has made in past decades. Please don't let people sacrifice their lives, many of them are just 15 years old. This is a time to think about how you want to be remembered by your countrymen and the rest of the world. It is never too late. Please, stop thinking about power, think about yourself, your legacy. 

By taking a stand to save the lives of your own countrymen, you will gain respect, you still have time. Be victorious on your fear of loosing power. Embrace the strength of patriotism and uphold the spirit of 'Jamahiriya'. You owe it to your country! 

More Information:
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12798568
  • http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/libya/index.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-fly_zone
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muammar_Gaddafi

El triple desastre que experimenta Japón cambia la forma en que proveemos apoyo psicosocial a los sobrevivientes



By Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz[1] PhD
Los eventos de la ultima semana en Japón nos exige examinar las practicas de proveer apoyo psicosocial a una población afectada después de un desastre. Las practicas aceptada hasta la fecha incluyen primeros auxilios psicológicas, intervención en crisis y actividades para bajar el nivel de estrés y mantener a los niños y niñas tranquilos tales como juegos, dibujos, escribir historias y hasta jugar juegos electrónicos.
Los visuales de Japón nos exigen que debemos re-examinar la practicas actuales par ayudar a las personas afectadas por los desastres.  La Asociación de Psicólogos Americana nos sugiere que debemos pensar en “El camino hacia la resiliencia”. Resiliencia se define como la capacidad del ser humano para rebotar de una situación traumática con mayor fuerza, vigor, y una visión hacia el futuro. Considerando otros desastres recientes como Katrina, el tsunami de 2004, y el efecto de la explosión de CAPECO en los niños y niñas de Cataño y Fort Buchanan sugerimos algunos pasos que nos ayuda a re-esforzar nuestra resiliencia y nos lleva a formar un plan para la recuperación.
1. Comunícate. Es importante mantener un buen vínculo con familiares cercanos, amigos y otras personas. Acepta la ayuda y el apoyo de quienes se preocupan por ti, el sentir que nos escuchan fortalece nuestra capacidad de recuperación.

2. No consideres que una crisis es un problema insuperable. Ocurrirán acontecimientos muy estresantes en la vida que no podrás evitar, pero podrás cambiar la forma de interpretarlos y de responder a ellos. Trata de mirar más allá del presente, cuando las circunstancias futuras quizás sean un poco más alentadoras.

3.            Acepta que el cambio forma parte de la vida. Es posible que ya no puedas alcanzar ciertas metas a causa de la situación adversa. Aceptar lo que no puedes cambiar te permitirá concentrarte en lo que sí puedes cambiar.

4.            Pon las cosas en perspectiva. Aun al enfrentar acontecimientos muy dolorosos, trata de considerar la situación estresante en un contexto más amplio y mantén una perspectiva de largo plazo. No le des al problema una importancia desproporcionada.

5.            Cultiva una visión positiva de ti mismo. Desarrollar la confianza en tu capacidad de resolver problemas y confiar en tus instintos fortalece la capacidad de recuperación.

6.            Cuídate. Presta atención a tus necesidades y sentimientos. Participa en actividades que te gusten y te permitan relajarte. Realiza ejercicio físico con regularidad.


[1] El Prewitt Díaz sirvió como el Experto Funcional en apoyo psicosocial para la Cruz Roja Americana en el sur de Asia durante la recuperación del tsunami de 2004. Es recipiente el Premio Internacional Humanitario otorgado por la Asociación Psicológica America. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Psychosocial Support for survivors of the Japan triple catastrophe: A practical application



By Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz[1], PhD

A week has elapsed since the beginning of the devastation of three concurrent catastrophes, two natural, and one man-made disaster in Japan.  With the immediate response it is expected that the international entities such as the MHPSS group, WHO, and UN have initiated coordination meetings with the government and other stakeholders to plan how to move ahead into the rehabilitation and reconstruction.
For the disaster affected people there is “a long road to hoe”. Hundreds of thousand have experienced the proverbial “root shock” having lost home, dear ones, neighborhood and place. Thousands of first responders have been working for long hours trying to contain the situation and normalize the daily living in spite of replicas and nuclear related dangers. What is needed now from a psychosocial support optic is to foster security, comfort and contact with dear ones for the disaster-affected people, and much needed rest for the first responders.
The many people in temporary shelter have a need for culturally appropriate activities that bring a sense of normalcy to their lives. Much of these activities are about resting, beginning to receive food on a regular basis, shelter and crisis communication that assures that the governmental safeguards and networks are in place. The disaster- affected people have been able to identify dear ones that are “no more” and burial rites are performed.
Children and adolescent should be able to receive some informal educational activities, and that there is a secure place for them to play, share their feelings and begin the emotional healing. Adults should have a space to grief their loss and to go back to their neighborhood where they may look among the rubble for familiar things, for a connection into the pre-disaster times, and can begin to participate in activities geared to clean-up, and reconstruction together with neighbors and others from their neighborhood.
Crisis communication has to provide accurate and timely information based on the cultural nuances of the society. Rituals, memorial activities, and other community activities should take place fairly soon, with participation from community members. Other cultural activities that foster grieving and a “new beginning” needed to begin taking place soon. Some examples, writing letters to the lost, visioning activities and acting them out, in addition to relaxation activities, and community dinners are all examples that will foster grieving and bring people together.
Finding out about dear ones, neighbors or friends are great morale boosters and serve to provide for emotional recovery. Reunification activities may include the use of posting photos through local TV, reading messages in local radio stations, and allowing the use of telephones and computers for disaster-affected people to contact others outside of the disaster area.
Teaching simple skills such as psychological first aid in the shelters may help for people to take care of each other emotional needs, simple activities as listening, may have great therapeutic values at this time. Identifying human capital in the shelters and affected areas may produce a body of neighbors that may assume valuable tasks in increasing communication, activity planning, and move the disaster-affected people from victims to being victorious.
Finally, the first responders need to stop and take some time off. They too have been affected, even if there is focus, discipline, and professionalism. Adequate meals, time off, group movement activities and exercise, and getting away for the destruction for some periods of time, may serve as energy boosters.




[1] Dr. Prewitt Diaz served as the Functional Advisor for the American Red Cross after the 2004 South Asia Tsunami. He is the recipient of the APA International Humanitarian Award. 

Psychological Pendulum: From Sorrow to Fear

While the media personnel are trying to get exact information regarding the rising dangers due to the nuclear crisis in Japan, the local government officials are being cautious not to create chaos amongst the survivors.

Between the rumors and raised levels of the crisis, I wonder what is going on in the minds of the thousands of survivors in addition to the thoughts related to the loss and wounds manifested in different forms. They have been attacked by nature and technology at the same time. These survivors have been dealing with the devastating impact of the earthquake and the aftershocks, tsunami, nuclear crisis, and the brutal weather. On top of all that, conjectures regarding their future must be making it very tough for them to endure.

For many, their thought process must be like a psychological pendulum going from grief of what is already lost to the fear of what they might loose due the potential nuclear crisis and then back to grieving the loss.

May God give wisdom to the Japanese officials and to their international aids to resolve the nuclear crisis soon so that at least these survivors get the opportunity to grieve for their loss in an appropriate manner, have closure on the current situation and be able to move forward victorious. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan: Goodness in the midst of Sadness

While the disaster situation in Japan's northeast coast is worsening with the damage to the several nuclear reactors, the Japanese people have managed to demonstrate their discipline, unity and the sense of togetherness in this very difficult time.

Usually after a disaster, antisocial behaviors such as looting, fight for meager resources and in some cases domestic violence and rapes go up. These behaviors add to the loss and grief of the survivors and hamper their recovery process.

But in case of Japan, where there is a threefold disaster, i.e. the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear situation, this is not the case. In addition to the devastation and loss of live, it is freezing cold, people are living in temporary shelters without enough food and water and in many cases without electricity. And yet, people are relatively calm, organized, and trying to share as much as possible.

When people are peaceful and together during a crisis, they (a) share their grief and support each other, which facilitates the healing of psychological wounds and (b) do creative problem solving and therefore move towards recovery and reconstruction quicker. Truly, Japanese population is becoming an example for the rest of the world, especially in the times of crisis. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nippon, Your Resilience is Greater than the Tragedy!

Japan is in shock and so is the rest of the world. This island  nation, Nippon (Japan in Japanese) is one of the most developed and structured country in the world. But due to the latest 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, today this nation is reminded of the tragedy of WWII.

As a result of this recent disaster, 10,000 + people are feared dead, millions of people are homeless, hundreds of people are missing. Japanese government and Japanese Red Cross, along with assistance from 69  governments around the world, is responding to this disaster.

The tragedy may amplify as a nuclear disaster. This is a second event in Japan that happens to be first ever catastrophe of its kind, first being the atomic attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Knowing the resilience of this great nation, it is certain that Japan will give a good fight to this tragedy and come out victorious through the hard work and focus of its citizens.

More info:
  • http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/13/japan.quake/index.html?hpt=T1
  • http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/13/world.quake.response/index.html
  • http://www.ifrc.org/
  • http://bobmckerrow.blogspot.com/2011/03/japan-red-cross-responds-to-one-of.html

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Let's Unite to Assist

Thousands of lives have been lost and many more have been injured due to the earthquake/tsunami in Japan and the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. Millions of people have been forced to live like refugees and internally displaced population. They are struggling to meet their basic needs while grieving for their loss.


No matter what type of emergency it is, when people loose their dear ones, looking or waiting for the ones that missing, caring for the injured with minimal assistance, forced out of their homes, live without any privacy, children and elderly pushed out of their comfort zones and normal structures with hardly anything to eat, it is extremely challenging and heartbreaking. 


Many people with chronic sickness find themselves without medication and other life support systems. The tragedy amplifies much more before it begins to heal. Sometimes, the psychological wounds take a lifetime to heal. Appropriate and timely assistance tailored for women, children, elderly, chronically sick persons and other people with special needs is enormously crucial. 


This is a time, when the resources of the world must come together to assist those who are need. We all can help in some way or the other. If you want to donate then do not worry if the amount is too small. Just go to a website of your favorite humanitarian organization and remember no amount is too small at this time. You can choose which crisis you want to help and what organization you want to donate to. 


If you are looking for family or friends in Japan, you can go to: http://www.familylinks.icrc.org/eng/familylinks-japan


More info:

  • http://www.ifrc.org/docs/appeals/11/MDR8200102.pdf
  • http://www.ifrc.org/docs/appeals/11/JPeqIB2.pdf

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gender Equality and the International Day of Women

So tomorrow few people in the world will be celebrating 'International Day of Women'. While some resources will be spent, some women and their work will be appreciated, gender equality will be advocated, the very next day all of it will be forgotten by most of these people.

Apologies for starting this post on a negative note. Actually, I am a proud woman and happy to have at least one day of the year dedicated to the women around the world.

The question is how do we translate the gender equality symbolisms into practice? There are millions of women who don't even know that all this 'good talk' exists! These women sacrifice their whole lives with no expectations or appreciation. For many exploitation and abuse is part of their existence.

One would think, this must be true only for far away tribal regions in developing and/or under-developed countries. Unfortunately, it is true for developed countries too including the United States. Even today, women are enslaved, many are victims of domestic violence and even more are treated unequally at workplaces just because they are women.

On the eve of the International Day of Women, I pray, someday all women are treated equally, where they have the space to express themselves,  can lead their families and communities towards well-being and  development, have opportunities to fulfill their aspirations, and above all can live with dignity without any fear. 

This prayer can only be granted if each one of us sincerely works towards gender equality by respecting the women around us (mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends, colleagues, service providers and others) and their needs and desires. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

To achieve Peace, you have to focus on the Almighty, and believe that He is watching over you



By Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz[1], PhD

 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  (Matthews 14:28-31)
While working in Central America there was a young colleague that I was mentoring. He followed me everywhere, and had information at the tip of his fingers. He knew that our goal was to gain the trust of the rebels, the military and the government. Once a peaceful co-existence was achieved, the group that I worked for would be able to provide crisis intervention, burial of dear ones, and achieve closure to the disappearance of dear ones. Week after week we moved from one village to another.
We had some specific rules that we needed to follow to assure that we would be able to carry out our jobs in a peaceful way. This young psychologist wanted to participate in every mission. He knew the rules, understood the risks of our job, and the consequences when we didn’t pay attention.
On one occasion we were going to a specific dangerous place called “El triangulo de Itchil”. I reminded the team of the mission, the rules and the importance of paying attention. I entered with one of the colleagues, into the bush and managed to follow a trail to the target village. I radioed back and called the other members of the team headed by the young psychologist.
Soon a radio message came back to me, saying we lost the trail, “we are going to track to the right 25 meters”. We both knew the consequences of this action. I asked him to stop where he was and wait for me. I ran up the trail and saw them some 100 meters away. I went back on the radio and asked them to walk straight to me. I waived, they waived…. an indication that we had visual and radio contact. They started walking toward me. All of a sudden there was some noise and two gun shots. I saw them take cover. I called back and asked them to walk toward me. “It is safe, I said, walk toward me.”  They walked slowly toward me, they were not far away now. All of a sudden there were noises and a gunshot.
Two memoirs of the group started to run straight towards me. The young psychologist threw his bag to the right and started running to the left of me. A mine exploded. There was plenty of smoke. I walked slowly toward the young man. He was laying on the ground, I wasn’t sure if he was hurt. When I got to him he was just opening his eyes. I asked, “How are you doing?” He said “nervous but OK”. His bag had hit a wire that exploded a mine.
As we rested in the village, I asked, “What happened, why didn’t you follow my instructions?”  He said, “I was scared and lost my concentration. I heard the noise, and saw the sign for land mines, and became very afraid.”
I was reminded of the teachings in the Book of Mathew. Peter thought he had learned everything there was to learn from Jesus. He could do anything that Jesus did. When Peter saw Jesus walking on water, he thought he could do the same. He asked Jesus, and Jesus asked Peter to walk to him. Peter saw so much turbulence around him that he lost his concentration on Jesus. He forgot that Jesus is the way, and he sank into the waters. Jesus extended his hand and saved him.
 In these days, from Lent to Easter, we spend our time studying the life and good works of Jesus Christ. We are taught to trust and obey, and He shall deliver us. Many spend a lot of time either reading the Bible or Lectionaries, going to church services, prayer meetings or masses, where they are reminded about Jesus ministry and its meanings for us today.  We get to know about Jesus in our heads and our emotions but fail to reflect on what all this really means.  
We ask Jesus for peace, when He invites us to walk toward Him. We initiate the walk but at times of thoughts, feelings, and spiritual being is diverted by external stimuli. We fall. We leave Jesus, we forget His teachings, and we fall.  But we are never left alone; He is always at our side. We live in turbulent moments: Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen are currently in those moments. If we pray for transformation and peace, we will experience transformation and peace. 
Like the young psychologist in the story, the future will never be the same as our current present. As we shift our vision from the existing turbulence to the peace brought about by the soft winds of the dessert, caress our beings, we will see and feel  the presence of God within us.


[1] Dr. Prewitt Diaz is a Pastoral Psychologist and Spiritual Director. He is the recipient of the APA International Humanitarian Award.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Flexibility is crucial!

In the absence of the desire and willingness to (a) forgive, (b) sacrifice some, (c) put our own personal agendas aside, (d) give some credit to the one across the table, (e) resolve the conflict in a 'win-win' situation for both sides, it is almost impossible to expect peace. 

All of us need to understand that 'I am right' is NOT always right. We are all wrong sometimes and it is ok. If we were right all the time, we would be equal to God.

Sometimes, we are convinced that we are right but that doesn't mean that everybody else in the world must follow us. We are right for our reality and other's may think differently based on their reality. Reality here might include their world view, culture and other external influences. 

The most important factor in a crisis or a conflict situation is how do we work together to ensure a better future for the relationship and for those who are affected by this conflict while both sides continue to live with dignity and security. 

One God of All!

The more you study various religious books, you find more commonality in the various teachings than differences. I actually wrote an artic...