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Stormbirds training takes flight in Eugowra

The small community of Eugowra in NSW was affected by a flash flood in November last year. The force of the water was so strong that it swept away homes and vehicles. Businesses, the local Catholic school, the town’s preschool and many homes were completely destroyed by the flood.

Two people lost their lives and a third of the township’s population were airlifted off their roofs. Yet despite these enormous changes and losses and the grief experienced by the people of this town, the community is pulling together and supporting one another to get through this traumatic experience. Our Stormbirds training provided an opportunity for the staff from the Catholic school, pre-school and Centacare to come together and discuss the impact of the floods on their community, themselves and the children in their care.

“We discussed the importance of self-care and the best ways that they could support the children and their families as they returned to school and preschool,” said Stormbirds Trainer Fiona Hart.

Stormbirds is a small group education program based on the belief that grief is a normal response to change, loss and uncertainty that often results from natural disasters. Children, young people and adults benefit from learning about how natural disasters can impact their lives. As part of the Seasons for Growth suite of programs, Stormbirds provides an opportunity for participants to learn the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to understand and respond well to such experiences.

The Stormbirds program creates a safe space for children and young people to practice new ways of thinking and responding to change and loss following natural disaster events. The program is child-centred and evidence-based, relying on research and learning processes that are consistent with high quality psychosocial education. It has a sound curriculum structure incorporating a range of age-appropriate activities including writing, drawing, discussion, stories and music.

The Stormbirds model seeks to increase the capacity for the community to support each other, with those trained able to run sessions directly with children and young people. Fiona explains that MacKillop’s support does not end with the training.

“We are currently running a Community of Practice session with the Stormbirds participants which provides the group the opportunity to ask questions and share ideas about running Seasons for Growth programs in their communities.. We will also run a Parent/Carer session for Eugowra families in the near future,” Fiona said.

“Through exploring the Stormbirds program together we shared some fun and laughter, shed some tears, listened to stories, and ate amazing food and drinks provided by local businesses. Nerida Cuddy, a teacher at St Joseph's, is a very talented singer/songwriter and wrote a song about the floods in Eugowra. Nerida shared this beautiful, heartfelt song with us all at the Stormbirds training and it was a very moving experience.