Help people help themselves — Community resilience conference in Vilnius


The PsyCris partner “Kitokie projektai” organised the conference “Help people help themselves” on the 15th of May, 2015 in Vilnius, Lithuania. One of the purposes of this conference was to screen and identify non-formal organisations that could be included in formal crisis management structures. The 58 participants were active members from various social initiatives in organisations, communities and the general society in Lithuania. Some of the initiatives represented were institutionalised, while others consisted in non-formal activities networks.

There are good examples from previous disasters in Europe of how people can help themselves. The success stories from Spain, Germany, Luxembourg and Lithuanian show, how initiative of one person or group of people can be integrated in the management of crisis. For example, the shopping center Maxima accident in Riga (Latvia) demonstrated how professionals of psychotherapeutic associations who are not involved in formal crisis management were able to timely organise the early psychological support for affected families. On the 1st of November 2013, the Zollitude shopping centre roof collapsed resulting in the deaths of 54 people, including three rescue workers, and injuries to another 41 people. The head of psychotherepeutic associations initiated a rapid communication via emails and facebook to organise the available psychologists for debriefing and individual consultations for families of victims and injured people in next two-three days right after the accident. This success story shows how a lack of preparedness on community and governmental level to respond quickly with psychosocial support resources, can be compensated by the initiative of one person and the use of the existing network of professional volunteers.

The main focus of the conference was to explore the possibilities to encourage and promote the initiatives that strengthen the resilience of people and communities. The theoretical background of the resilience concept was elaborated by the PsyCris consurcium partners: LMU (Germany) and Kitokie projektai (Lithuania). One of the presentations specifically focused on the idea of community resilience.

Six speakers presented examples based on personal experience. To the question, what strengthens the motivation to join the initiative and invite others to join, Kęstutis Navickas, the speaker that reflected on the historical lessons from the “Atgaja” initiative, answered that it is a “belief in the aims, and a leader who sees the vision”. Attitudes are changing while implementing the initiative. They change either in a natural way or as a result of coordinated efforts that push towards change. “To change the attitudes of people – this is our task. This is not only the mayor’s or president’s responsibility but also ours”, echoed Vilija Šap, the initiator of the suicide prevention initiative in the area.

The second part of the conference centered on the discussion of three topics in focus groups: “Empowering of initiatives: who and how?”, “Social networks and connections”, “Learning from yourself and form others”. The results of these focus groups will enable us to explore and analyze new opportunities of community-based psychosocial support.

help people help themselves Infographic


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