Spiritual First Aid in IDP Camps in COVID-19 Pandemic

May 6, 2020 | Feature Story by Robert Tolosa of MCMN

When the local government of Makilala, North Cotabato requested the installation of a public paging system to disseminate information on COVID-19, PCMN agreed to install them in 6 camps to support the LGUs campaign against COVID. Daily the government issues bulletin on safety against COVID through the paging system. PCMN, while in lockdown, likewise dispenses information through recorded messages on the safety of children in the camp.

 

In an IDP Camp in Barangay Flortam, an evacuation camp of around 250 families, the paging system is more than what the government thought it could be used. The Camp Manager at Flortam built a multi-purpose tent that can be used as a worship area by all types of religious groups and beliefs. The shared facility is free of use which encourages camaraderie and respect among various faith leaders conducting their Sunday services in the camps.

 

When social and physical distancing became mandatory, the church meetings turned public to include everyone reached by the public address system.  As when it is thought that COVID will paralyze church operations, it bounced back healthy and well.  The faith leaders are allowed use by camp management of the paging system in their public sermons. Encouraging messages are now a fixture in Flortam with the ministers’ use of the paging system on Sundays. The preaching provides spiritual first aid to the IDPs amidst fear of COVID-19 and the uncertainties it brought among the populace.

 

On May 3, Pastor Isaac preached to the crowd using the public address system, admonishing them to be faithful while continuing to serve the Lord with the use of their gifts, talents, and resources. When everyone’s mind wallowed in fear of the invisible COVID, God’s message is not hindered providing the emotional relief through every Sunday sermon.

Public address system installed high up in the coconut tree.
Road to Flortam IDP camp in Makilala, North Cotabato.

Postscript: This camp in my February 2020 visit has shown how good camp governance is possible. Through consultation with the populace and in utilizing local knowledge, the camp management was able to introduce innovations to keep the camp a  little bit habitable and safe. The floorings of tents have been raised 6 inches above the ground to protect the people from the moist and wet grounds causing many of the respiratory illnesses among the residents. The residents are also arranged according to their origin and neighborhood, which meant, your neighbor in your past village is the same neighbor as you have in the camp. This increases resilience as people know each other, and promote safety as they trust their neighbors.

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