Voices of September 11th (VOICES) was recently awarded a 14-month grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Funding is supporting VOICES initiative to create a training program that will assist communities in preparing for and responding to acts of terrorism, mass violence, and natural disasters. The project is an initiative of VOICES Resilience Center. This is the third grant VOICES has received from the prestigious foundation.
"Not a week goes by without a report of another tragedy occurring in our country, both natural and man-made disasters, so the notion of 'it can't happen here' is fading," noted VOICES Founding Director Mary Fetchet. "It is critical that communities are better prepared to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of victims' families, survivors and the community at large."
Recent acts of mass violence and natural disasters underscore the need for communities to be better prepared. VOICES Resilience Center Initiative will incorporate the organization's lessons learned from 13 years of experience in providing support services to victims' families, responders and survivors as well as other research projects VOICES has conducted.
In the fall of 2014, VOICES released Preparing for After, a comprehensive Resource Kit to assist communities in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from incidents of mass violence. The Resource Kit recommendations are based on extensive research and interviews conducted with hundreds of service providers who responded to the September 11th attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the shootings at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and in Tucson, Arizona. The Resource Kit outlines best practices in areas such as the following: organizational setup, family assistance centers, communications, volunteer management, funding, partnerships, support services, advocacy, and commemoration.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant will help develop the Resource Kit curriculum and training and expand upon the lessons learned to include natural disasters.
"There are more similarities than differences when individuals suffer a loss in a terrorist attack, an act of mass violence or a natural disaster," noted Ms. Fetchet. "Community stakeholders need training to be better equipped to effectively take action in the short-term to facilitate a long-term model that promotes resiliency in their communities." The curriculum and training will be geared toward local leaders, emergency managers, social work professionals and other key community stakeholders.
VOICES Resilience Center Initiative will validate the Resource Kit findings and incorporate lessons learned from two New Jersey communities - Brigantine, which was devastated by Super Storm Sandy, and New Brunswick, which was impacted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
As part of the project, VOICES is leveraging the past investments by RWJF in the Mental Health Association of New Jersey's (MHANJ) work in response to Super Storm Sandy. VOICES has partnered with the MHANJ and other public and private sector stakeholders in Brigantine as well as in New Brunswick and Middlesex County to document their first-hand experience in supporting their communities.
"Our ultimate goal is to make the VOICES Resilience Center Initiative a national curriculum and training program that helps improve the existing support models available for victims' families, responders and survivors and promotes healing and resiliency in communities following major traumatic events," added Ms. Fetchet. "We are delighted to be partnering with the Mental Health Association of New Jersey on this initiative."
For more information on VOICES work or to download a copy of the Preparing for After Resource Kit, visit www.voicesofseptember11.org.
About Voices of September 11th and VOICES Resilience Center
Founded in 2001, Voices of September 11th (VOICES) is internationally recognized for its innovative approach to providing a wide range of support services that promote resiliency for thousands of 9/11 families, first responders, and survivors. VOICES 9/11 Living Memorial, an extensive collection of over 70,000 photographs and personal keepsakes that commemorates the lives of the nearly 3,000 lost on 9/11, is available on VOICES website and is a core component of the In Memoriam exhibition at the 9/11 Museum in New York City. A strong advocate for national preparedness, VOICES promotes reforms to make the country safer and shares best practices to heal families and communities after tragedy.
In 2014, VOICES Resilience Center was launched, as part of the organization's commitment to helping families and communities heal after other tragedies. VOICES Center acts as a clearinghouse of information, sharing over a decade of expertise and research findings that address the long-term needs of victims' families and survivors. The Center works collaboratively with VOICES public and private partners to share lessons learned and best practices in preparing for and responding to traumatic events.
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