MENTAL TOLL: Pastor Drew Harrison saw first hand the emotional and mental toll the March Floods 2017 had on shop owners around the Lismore CBD.
MENTAL TOLL: Pastor Drew Harrison saw first hand the emotional and mental toll the March Floods 2017 had on shop owners around the Lismore CBD. Marc Stapelberg

Chaplains take care of business after floods

AFTER the devastating floodwaters receded last March, many Lismore business owners found their troubles were just beginning.

Pastor Drew Harrison was one of 15 volunteer chaplains who supported business people as part of a project initiated by Lismore City Council and the Combined Churches of Lismore.

 

Mr Harrison, 34, from Lismore Baptist Church, said although the mud and mess was soon gone and many businesses were back up and running, albeit in a lesser form, the impact of helping family, employees and customers saw many people struggle with emotional and mental stress.

He said the chaplains sought to provide care and emotional support to business owners who were struggling.

"One of the great opportunities we had was to visit business owners with no agenda other than to listen to their stories and offer the support we could as they rebuilt after the flood," he said.

"We weren't there with a survey or to collect data, we simply asked people 'how did it unfold for you?', 'how can we help?'"

Mr Harrison said after the adrenalin of surviving the event wore off, tough times could hit people hard.

He said all business chaplains were assigned a geographical zone.

"We were asked to commit a day a week and we tried to find a time which most suited the business owner," he said.

"Recovery takes a long time and has a real impact on people's wellbeing, and the trauma of the event and the intense physical work of the flood took its toll."

Mr Harrison said he felt humbled to be part of the group who were all trained ministers or had undertaken NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network disaster recovery training.

He was also able to empathise about the floods first-hand, as the home he shares with his wife and two children had about 1.5m of water underneath. And he works part-time at Republic of Coffee, which was severely damaged by the flood.

"As chaplains we were very fortunate to have the support of psychologist Lia Hibner, the co-ordinator of the project," he said. "We'd debrief with her every week, so having someone of her calibre and heart on board helped manage the load."



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