From Sr. Chaplain Sheila, who has been serving virtually since September 2020:
I have been participating in a virtual deployment for All Hands and Hearts (AHAH), one of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) members involved in community rebuilding in the Bahamas. Most of the time, when you think of the Bahamas, you think of pristine beaches and beautiful views. This was not the landscape that greeted AHAH volunteers when they arrived after hurricane Dorian left its mark nearly two years ago.
There is still much work to do in rebuilding; AHAH staff and volunteers do not always get to see significant results when they leave after 6-12 weeks of labor. This can be difficult to process. There are limited stores, and supplies are not always available. Many have not been away from home this long or at this distance before. When they take time off, they are often unable to find a place away from the devastation to relax and unwind. This can lead to many different issues. Add to this the COVID-19 pandemic and their concerns regarding their families and friends.
With each of the AHAH groups that I have served, there have been many challenges that have been discussed. The best thing we can do, as Chaplains, is to listen. When there have been challenges within the group, we work with staff to provide suggestions on how to help mitigate the issues. Having the advanced training in Assisting Individuals in Crisis (ICISF) helps me give guidance without counseling. With this particular organization being a secular group, any religious discussion is limited to the volunteers and staff who ask for that type of assistance. We honor the organization’s stance in this strongly with each discussion.
Confidentiality is also something that we keep in mind for each of the participants. Even with all the challenges, this has been a very rewarding deployment, and I look forward to each virtual visit. My hope is that my faith and the love of Jesus shine through, even though He is not expressly mentioned in our group discussions. I continue to pray for each of the deployed AHAH groups, the participants involved in our virtual sessions, and their families. Thank you, I.F.O.C., for the opportunity to serve.