|EMSB RESPONDS TO TSUNAMI TRAGEDY|
MONTREAL, JANUARY, 11, 2005- The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has unveiled an action plan for schools and adult centres in relation to the tragic consequences of the tsunami in South Asia.
Four elementary schools – Carlyle in TMR, Coronation in Côte des Neiges, Parkdale in St. Laurent and Sinclair Laird in Park Extension- and two high schools – LaurenHill Academy in St. Laurent and Marymount Academy in N.D.G. – have many with family in the tsunami-affected area. The same can be said for most of the adult education and vocational services centres, which have heavy immigrant populations.
EMSB officials attended a ceremony today at Carlyle where more than 75 percent of the students have family residing in the affected areas and at least two to three students per class lost relatives.
"The English Montreal School Board, as part of our world community, has been deeply affected by the enormity of the tsunami tragedy in South Asia," said EMSB Director General Antonio Lacroce. "Many families from our EMSB school community who have relatives in Sri Lanka, South India, Indonesia, Thailand, and other affected regions have been impacted by the gravity of this disaster. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
"As a school board where family is our focus, and as a character community, we pledge to support South Asia and our staff and students’ families here in whatever way we can."
EMSB Chairman Dominic Spiridigliozzi noted that while everyone has a responsibility to play a role, this is especially so for educators. "Of the 150,000 people who lost their lives, 50,000 were children," he stated. "This touches us deeply. In the Indonesian province of Aceh province alone, 420 schools were destroyed and 1,000 teachers killed. It makes you think how blessed we are."
In a memo to in-school administrators, Mr. Lacroce urged schools and centres to engage students emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. "It is difficult to understand and accept that there are events which cannot be controlled or predicted and which are not easily fixed, resolved, prevented, or even understood," he said. "As fellow human beings, we all wish to be engaged in something positive and constructive to alleviate our sense of hopelessness and helplessness."
The entire school community - staff, students, and parents – have been encouraged to engage in fundraising activities with a view to sending donations to support victims in countries half a world away. "It is in giving that we receive," said Mr. Lacroce.
In this regard, schools and centres have been recommended to consider donations to the Red Cross (www.redcross.ca), World Vision (www.worldvision.ca), UNICEF (www.unicef.org), etc. "We also fully recognize the efforts of many individuals within our school community who have already volunteered or have contributed monetarily to assist in any disaster relief efforts," said Mr. Lacroce.
EMSB Director of Student Services Lew Lewis notes that his department’s team of spiritual community animators is currently in the process of organizing various activities at the school level. He also dispatched members of the EMSB Traumatic Events Support Team to the schools with students who were more directly affected by the tragedy.
"Many of us have spent hours witnessing this disaster on television, radio, or internet and thus can be considered secondary victims and, as such, can experience trauma/stress reactions," said Mr. Lacroce. "It is important to understand that, following a traumatic event, even if it happened to someone else, it is normal to feel it personally. Although each person reacts differently, according to his/her own personality and life experiences, there is a wide range of normal feelings and reactions that are generated by these horrific events. Those who are particularly vulnerable because of previous experiences of trauma or loss may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder."
Mr. Lacroce said that it is important for principals and centre directors to be aware of the common reactions to trauma/stress and to alert their staff and community as a whole, in order to help them to cope with the experience as well as to understand and aid those individuals who may be more deeply affected. Schools and centres have been provided with an array of documentation to assist in this regard.
Michael J. Cohen