Franciscan Institute Trauma Team (FITT)
The Franciscan Institute Trauma Team (FITT) is a coalition of 30 professional therapists in the Caribbean with specialised training as trauma therapists. Under the auspices of the Franciscan Institute, FITT provides psychological trauma services on a voluntary basis, following disasters in our region. FITT’s mission is to provide as much help and support as possible without being a burden to the affected community/territory.
The Director of the Franciscan Institute is Sister Julie Marie Peters, a trained Marriage and Family Therapist. She has led trauma relief efforts in the Caribbean region for several years. To quote a proposal made to the Antilles Episcopal Conference Permanent Board Meeting in 2011, ”The Franciscan Institute for Personal and Family Development (FIPFD), a ministry of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother (SSM), has — for over the last 10 years — been … addressing the emotional and psycho-social impact of natural disasters and human tragedy upon our Caribbean peoples through trauma education for first-response persons (paramedics and hospital staff, police), clergy, professionals /paraprofessionals; as well as direct treatment and intervention for victims.
Truly itinerant in its approach, FIPFD has conducted trauma workshops and coordinated the trauma treatment response efforts of teams of psychologists and therapists, throughout the region: trauma education for the local chapter of the Red Cross post the volcanic eruptions in Montserrat; direct intervention and trauma education with victims, parents and educators post-Hurricane Ivan in Grenada, and again, in Bartica, Guyana, in the wake of the brutal slayings of twelve (12) of its citizens. FIPFD has provided trauma treatment for the victims of violent crimes and victims of kidnappings in Trinidad; persons traumatized by the Cathedral fire and murder (in) 2000 in St. Lucia, the 2006 plane crash in St Vincent and, most recently, St Lucia post (Hurricane) Tomas.”
In 2011, the Franciscan Institute made a decision to form and train a trauma response team comprised of Caribbean nationals, sensitive to our cultural experience, with a commitment to respond on a volunteer basis to the needs of our people following natural and man-made disasters in the Caribbean region.
In November 2012, specific trauma training was conducted with some 30 mental health professionals from around the Caribbean region. The training was conducted by Dr. Ricky Greenwald, Executive Director of the Trauma Institute and Child Trauma Institute, based in Massachusetts, USA, and an internationally recognized expert on trauma.
This body of professionals, several of whom had previously worked with the Franciscan Institute in disaster mental health efforts in the Caribbean region, constitutes the Franciscan Institute Trauma Team (FITT).
In the wake of the recent national disaster in Trinidad and Tobago, FITT is prepared to respond by providing services in its areas of expertise to affected persons and communities. The initial phase of this response consists of information gathering and needs assessment. FITT is conducting this exercise via its network of Parenting For Literacy trainers, who work with schools throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
The next phase will involve planning how best to meet the needs identified, e.g., via training, psychoeducation or direct trauma services to individuals and groups, and execution of this plan. FITT’s aim is not to duplicate efforts, so services are offered only in areas where gaps in mental health services have been identified.