Fifteen volunteer chaplains will be providing ongoing support to Lismore business owners affected by the March flood as part of a new project initiated by Lismore City Council and the Combined Churches of Lismore.
Lismore Business Chaplains is a new project that will provide care and emotional support to business owners who may be struggling following the flood.
The volunteer chaplains are all trained Ministers or have undertaken NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network disaster recovery training. They will each be allocated a geographical area so they can visit the same businesses each fortnight, build rapport with local business people and provide ongoing support.
Lismore City Council Executive Director Sustainable Development Brent McAlister said people often struggle emotionally three to six months after a major natural disaster, as the adrenalin of surviving the event wears off and the pressures of normal life, from paying bills to day-to- day business operation, kick back in.
‘Some of the research we have commissioned post-flood emphasises that the business community needs mental health support given the trauma they have gone through,’ Mr McAlister said.
‘Lismore Business Chaplains will cover the greater CBD and North and South Lismore business areas.
‘We have asked the chaplains to commit to a six-month period with visits at least fortnightly.
‘We decided to start the program in July as disaster mental health studies have shown that issues tend to arise three to six months after the event. Many of our business owners have been through the massive effort of getting back on their feet plus getting cashflow going. The impact of the trauma they have been through is starting to hit.”
The chaplains will get to know business owners and staff, and provide referral to counselling through NSW Mental Health and Lifeline where necessary. The chaplains will also refer people to Council’s Lismore Business Flood Recovery Unit and the NSW Office of the Small Business Commissioner for insurance claim issues and Council business support.
Lismore City Council has a trained psychologist coordinating the project, managing referrals and supporting the chaplains.