Emotional and Spiritual Care: An Essential Need in Disaster Response

September 20, 2017
Jacqueline Rachev | Jacqueline.Rachev@usc.salvationarmy.org | (773) 205-3508

Emotional and Spiritual Care: An Essential Need in Disaster Response

Victoria, Texas (September 20, 2017) - After a disaster strikes, The Salvation Army is immediately on the scene to provide food and shelter for first responders and survivors. In addition to the survivors' immediate needs, the Army also focuses on the emotional and spiritual well-being of those impacted. Trained emotional and spiritual care staff and volunteers are often dispatched to work alongside The Salvation Army mobile feeding units as they minister in hurting communities.

“A disaster changes us,” said Pastor Alexis Twito, coordinator of The Salvation Army Milwaukee’s chaplaincy program. “We don’t often notice the trauma right away, and we rarely see it in ourselves, but it is there and it can affect how we recover.”

Twito was deployed to Victoria, Texas, for two weeks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. She and five other emotional and spiritual care (ESC) volunteers spent time visiting with area residents during neighborhood meal distributions providing a hug, comfort and if needed, a prayer.

“When people come to get a hot meal, they’re hungry...they’re not looking for a prayer,” Twito said. “Simply giving them a bottle of water and asking them how the cleanup process is going provides them an opportunity to talk. And before you know it, you’re hugging people, providing support and offering a blessing.”

The Army’s disaster services model includes emotional and spiritual support because it has enormous influence over physical aspects. People dealing with emotional trauma after disasters may see these symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Quickness to anger
  • Deep anxiety
  • Strained relationships
  • Lack of appetite
  • Extreme exhaustion and weariness
  • Prolonged increase pulse rate and high blood pressure

The ESC team remains a vital part of services as the Army transitions from relief to recovery and rebuilding. “Recovery is exhausting and physically demanding,” said Twito. “We help throughout the entire process so people can rebuild and begin again.”

About The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army annually helps more than 23 million Americans overcome poverty, addiction, and economic hardships through a range of social services. By providing food for the hungry, emergency relief for disaster survivors, rehabilitation for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, and clothing and shelter for people in need, The Salvation Army is doing the most good at 7,600 centers of operation around the country. In the first-ever listing of “America’s Favorite Charities” by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Salvation Army ranked as the country’s largest privately funded, direct-service nonprofit. For more information, visit www.SalvationArmyUSA.org. Follow us on Twitter @SalvationArmyUS and #DoingTheMostGood.

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The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
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