The main streets in the village of San Miguel Escobar are cleared, community members have started work again, and school is back in session. Anyone passing through town would be surprised to learn that just six weeks ago the community was consumed by the overwhelming destruction created by tropical storm Agatha. Streets were covered in several feet of mud, rocks, and other debris, and all activity in the community was focused on trying to dig out as well as to provide food, water, and medical care to those whose homes had been destroyed.
Despite the significant cleanup efforts that have already occurred, inside the homes and within the local public school, many San Miguel residents are still suffering the aftermath of the storm. But inside the homes and within the local public school, many San Miguel residents are still suffering from the aftermath of the storm. Homes still need to be repaired and rebuilt, furniture needs to be replaced, communicable diseases still need to be treated and monitored. And, the emotional aftermath remains. “There are some children that are very affected, and there are some that haven’t come back [to school] yet,” says Elly Estrada, Common Hope’s Education Promoter for the San Miguel school.
The school teachers will no doubt play a significant role in accompanying the children through this ordeal, but many of the teachers themselves were affected by the storm. Common Hope psychologists began working as soon as possible with San Miguel teachers to provide emotional support so teachers could in turn offer support to their students.
To provide this, psychologists held a workshop on “Emotional Closure” for the San Miguel teachers. The objective was to encourage the teachers to communicate their emotions through artistic expression and trust-building exercises. “Many of the teachers live [in San Miguel] and they were affected,” says Common Hope psychologist Felipe Bagur, “we wanted to provide emotional attention for them.”
The psychologists also gave teachers ideas about how to guide students through the recovery process, using a manual created by Mercy Corps after Hurricane Stan. Elly reports that the teachers responded positively to the workshop and were grateful for Common Hope’s support. “At the end, there was a moment of relief and tranquility,” says Elly. “Thanks to the workshop, now teachers have ideas about how to handle the situations they will face with students back in the classrooms.”