The volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma continues, over 2,000 homes have been destroyed. The Spanish Baptist Union is working on initiatives to help with psychological support and volunteers.
The volcano in the Spanish island of La Palma is still in full activity. In the last two months it has not stopped emitting lava, ash and pyroclasts, changing the landscape of the island and affecting thousands of people who have had to leave their homes, land and businesses.
“There is a demand for psychological and spiritual assistance. The social workers are exhausted, the helpers need help", pastor Pedro Ángel Rodríguez, who has been helping in one of the pavilions where hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes since the beginning of the eruption, told Spanish news website Protestante Digital.
The pastor warns that “the aid promised by the authorities is being delayed, which generates uncertainty. Furthermore, trade and the economy have been severely paralysed, with no tourism arriving and local consumption stagnating”.
However, the individual stories are the most moving. “I was helping a person who came, after 66 days, to register as a victim. It is surprising to meet people who struggle to ask for help or admit they need help”, says Rodríguez.
“Another lady told us that she had hoped that her house would be saved, but a week ago the lava took it away. This uncertainty is all-consuming”, says the pastor.
In one church, a family of German pensioners had their home affected, thanks to the insurance they have been able to cover part of the damage. Another woman in the same church, on the other hand, did not have home insurance and is now waiting for the government aid.
“The truth is that we lack economic and human resources", adds the pastor, who has seen an increase in the demand "of the solidarity wardrobe that we offer and the shopping cards that we are giving to those affected".
Furthermore, they “have noticed a wear. At the beginning there were people with more spirit, but as the situation continues, there are many who are tired. But we are still at the forefront to offer our support”.
He believes that one of the great needs is the psychological and pastoral help, to be able to “manage the situation in the face of loss”.
“As helpers, what do we say to someone whose house has been destroyed? Some people don't want to know how their house is because it distresses them”.
Several representatives of the Evangelical Union of Baptist Churches of Spain (UEBE) recently travelled to La Palma. In coordination with Pastor Rodríguez, they were able to visit the most affected areas and meet with authorities, volunteers and those responsible for social action on the ground.
Following this visit, the UEBE has informed its churches in a letter signed by its general secretary, Daniel Banyuls, that it will launch “an aid project to benefit the population in general and especially children and the elderly, the groups that we understand to be most exposed to psychological tensions and post-traumatic stress”.
[photo_footer]Representatives of the UEBE met with mayors of particularly affected municipalities and the regional president. / UEBE [/photo_footer]
“We confirm the deep uncertainty and concern that the volcano continues to produce in everyone, including the crisis managers, and we believe that Christian professionals can be of great help because social services are overwhelmed”, underlines the UEBE.
The three areas of help that will be addressed are “first, to provide specialised volunteers, such as psychologists, psycho-pedagogues, counsellors, mediators, etc, who will come to La Palma to help citizens directly or indirectly affected by the situation, to deal with losses and grief”.
Secondly, they will also send “non-specialised volunteers to help in the removal of volcanic ash from places of strategic and community interest”.
Finally, they will allocate “part of the resources exclusively for families with specific material needs, in coordination with the social services”.
They also point out that, relying on the logistics of the municipality and the local church, “each volunteer will have their basic needs covered for the week”.
Another initiative that has been launched is the publication of the devotional book 30 days with Jesus, written by Pastor Eduardo Delás (from Valencia, elsewhere in Spain) “The profits will go entirely to strengthen the offering for La Palma”.
This book, in a limited edition, can be received for a donation of €10.
“In this challenging situation of crisis and need, several ministries of the UEBE and the local church as recipient partner, are working together to multiply the reach of this aid project, so that all may be for the glory of God”, concludes Daniel Banyuls in the UEBE letter.