The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Karen Payne: Liaison and Support Advisor

Catholic Schools Support – Christchurch Catholic Education Office

West Coast principal Karen Payne worked last year in a support role to Catholic schools coping with the Canterbury quakes.

The broadly defined role saw her assisting schools with staffing and funding calculations; roll reviews, job descriptions and performance agreements; and funding applications for parents and children. She also worked on a Positive Parenting Programme to support parents of children with behaviour problems. Being a teacher, she even took a few classes to release teachers for performance appraisals or meetings.

But her most rewarding experiences came through working with children on the Stormbirds Programme to help children process their experience of the earthquakes and the aftermath. Sometimes it’s hard to know what impact you’re having in your work. But, ‘the feedback from parents shows we’ve made a difference.’

The programme teaches children that change is a part of life. It focuses on how to stay strong and deal with feelings.

Karen wasn’t in Christchurch for the 22 February quake herself, though helped family members in the immediate aftermath. Working with children on the programme, she herself got ‘a wee bit emotional’. ‘I had to put into practice the strategies I was working with.’

One such strategy is ‘claim, name, tame and aim’. Children acknowledge they have a feeling, they name it, eg ‘sad’, or ‘anxious’ or whatever it is. They then tame it by thinking about what they can do when they feel like this – ‘things they can do to lift their spirits.’

Then they aim to do something for others, which is also doing something for themselves. ‘It might be taking the younger children out for games, or they might go and visit an elderly person.’

‘It has been heart-warming to see how well our principals, teachers and support staff are looking out for each other in our Catholic schools,’ says Karen. ‘Many are facing their own problems as a result of the earthquake, but they are fronting up for their colleagues and the children. The support from outside the area has been outstanding.’

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust