Wednesday, January 26, 2005

 

URGENT--Plea for volunteers--any of my readers in U.K.

This is from the Beeb, of course. VSO (http://www.vso.org.uk/) urgently needs volunteers to work with Sri Lankans and others in the aftermath of the tsunami. Please visit the above link, which I will also post in the link bar at the left.

Tsunami volunteers put skills to test
By Lincoln Archer BBC News

One month on from the devastation of the Asian tsunami, development charity VSO says more than 200 volunteers are desperately needed to work in affected communities. While thousands of people offered to help the relief effort in the immediate aftermath of the Boxing day disaster, the focus is now turning to long-term projects requiring specific skills, with teachers and mental health workers in particular demand.

Daniel Da Costa, 32, of Faversham in Kent, is a psychiatric nurse planning to put his experience to the test in Sri Lanka.

He decided almost a year ago that he wanted to spend two years volunteering in a foreign country.

He had already accepted a posting to Jaffna, in northern Sri Lanka, when the tsunami struck.

"I saw the news but it didn't really hit home until the pictures came in and the scale of what happened became apparent," he said.

"It hit me for six, but it didn't weaken my resolve. In fact it probably strengthened my desire to go."

Thousands were killed in the area and even more were made homeless. Mr Da Costa said they would start returning to their flattened villages in the coming weeks.

He will arrive around the same time, after a final training course in Sri Lanka's south.

Once in Jaffna, he will immediately start work with psychiatric patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar illnesses and - after years of civil war in the country - post-traumatic stress disorders. He said the tsunami's impact on such patients' health could be immensely destructive, particularly in a culture where mental illness is not always accepted.

"There's a strong link between stress and mental health. Things were already bad because of the civil war so who knows what it will be like now," Mr Da Costa said.

Mr Da Costa, who has six years experience as a psychiatric nurse, has undergone weeks of training to prepare him for the posting.

Successful applicants are taught how to cope with such a daunting change, as well as how to adapt their professional skills to working in the developing world. The VSO said some people could complete the process in four months, but most take a little longer.

The charity also insists successful applicants have all the necessary vaccinations and medical check-ups before they leave.

As his departure date nears, Mr Da Costa is preparing to nurse himself through jabs for hepatitis B, encephalitis and rabies. Since the tsunami, the VSO recommends a vaccine for oral cholera too.

At the same time, he has had to tie up all the loose ends of his life in Britain.

He will be given a crash course in the Tamil language when he arrives in Sri Lanka and he has also been learning how to ride a motorbike, albeit without immediate success. "I've had a couple of lessons and I've rode off the tarmac. I don't exactly have total control over the clutch yet!"

But serious concerns also remain about how he will cope without the support of friends and family, and whether he will be able to last two years in such a difficult environment.

"I really don't know. I feel it's going to be a huge test of my character and ability to cope," he said.

"I feel as ready as I can be, but I don't think you can ever be 100% ready for this kind of thing until you are there."

You can watch a BBC News Special "Asia One Month On" on this website, BBC1 and BBC World at 1930GMT.

Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk/4206259.stm
Published: 2005/01/26 03:53:23 GMT© BBC MMV

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