George Fox University Mental Health Counselor Among Volunteers Offering Aid to Gulf Coast Region in August

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Team of Oregonians includes teachers, business leaders and nonprofit representatives, who plan to do community service work and document findings during 10-day visit

By bringing a psycho-social-cultural lens to understanding immediate and long-term responses to such a tragic event, it is my hope to bring deeper insight into how we need to respond to the individuals, families and communities impacted – and what they teach us about our own vulnerabilities and how we need to be better prepared.

A team of 20 Oregonians will visit the Gulf Coast in August to offer community service and technical expertise to those impacted by the April oil spill that is devastating the region. As part of the 10-day visit, the team will produce a multi-media documentary that will serve both as an educational and relational tool.

The Oregonians Supporting Their Gulf Coast Neighbors team, organized by the Northwest Earth Institute, includes teachers, religious leaders, artists, students, mental health personnel, and representatives from nonprofit organizations, businesses and the media.

Among those participating in the Aug. 7-16 trip is Anna Berardi, director of George Fox University’s Trauma Response Institute, affiliated with the school’s graduate counseling degree program. Berardi will serve as a disaster mental health specialist, exploring the resiliency and vulnerabilities of those affected.

“It looks like an entire way of life – what sustains them economically – is partially, if not totally, collapsing, yet no new way of economically recreating livelihoods appears imminent,” Berardi said of Gulf Coast victims. “By bringing a psycho-social-cultural lens to understanding immediate and long-term responses to such a tragic event, it is my hope to bring deeper insight into how we need to respond to the individuals, families and communities impacted – and what they teach us about our own vulnerabilities and how we need to be better prepared.”

The Gulf Coast oil spill is likely the largest environmental disaster caused by humans in the history of the United States. At this point, the extent of damage to the environment and the Gulf Coast community is unknown and difficult to predict.

Project leader Mike Rosen, whose day job is to manage the Watershed Division for the City of Portland, said the proposed trip will, through firsthand observation, “allow us to bear witness to the catastrophe and work to ensure that its growing impact is documented, shared and learned from.”

“We will shine a sustained light on what our neighbors need to survive and what the environment needs to recover,” he added.

The Northwest Earth Institute team of Portlanders, dubbed “PDX 2 Gulf Coast,” will fly into New Orleans and tour ground zero of the spill before traveling to other cities along the coast. Team members will meet with community members to discuss their concerns, short- and long-term needs, and what messages they wish to communicate to the rest of the world.

Finally, on the morning of the group’s last day in the region, the Northwest team will engage in a three-hour debrief, with the goal of recording and assessing their experiences as a group and identifying and committing to specific and meaningful follow-up actions.

“The images and voices we capture will be engaging, powerful and influential,” Rosen said. “And, most importantly, our final documentation will contain a roadmap for individual action to minimize a second occurrence of this type of catastrophe. The proceeds we create, and any other money raised, will be contributed to Gulf Coast and national efforts to educate children about this catastrophe and how we can do the best possible job of cleaning up after ourselves – plus prevent this from ever happening again.”

The team is currently seeking sponsorships from Oregon businesses and civic organizations. To learn more about the project, visit pdx2gulfcoast.com.

The Northwest Earth Institute is recognized as a national leader in the development of innovative programs that empower individuals and organizations to protect the Earth. These programs emphasize individual responsibility, the importance of a supportive community, and the dual need to walk lightly on and to take action for the earth.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes as one of the top 100 colleges in the country and highest among Christian colleges. George Fox is the only Christian university in the Pacific Northwest classified by U.S. News & World Report as a national university. More than 3,300 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem, and Redmond, Ore., and Boise, Idaho. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, five seminary degrees, and 10 master’s and doctoral degrees.

Contact:
Anna Berardi
Graduate Department of Counseling
503-554-6144

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