BALTIMORE - When psychologist Michael Finegan arrived in Sri Lanka the week after the tsunami struck, he wondered how just one man could help amid so much misery.
The answer provided itself when leaders from Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian communities told him that psychological services were needed as well as medical care, food and shelter.
decided to help those who could help others.
The Sri Lankan leaders were asked to identify teachers, priests, nuns, clerics and others who were educated and mature enough to receive a crash course in dealing with trauma.
Over the next three weeks, about 550 people were trained and asked to train others, starting a process that Finegan
knows will take years."What we did was that we boiled down the advanced psychological and psychiatric concepts of trauma intervention into its simplest basic forms that could be rapidly learned," said Finegan, executive director of Peninsula Mental Health Services in Salisbury, and lead trauma counselor for the Maryland State Police.
The lesson included simple concepts such as telling those being trained that tsunami victims may take years to grieve and there is no set schedule; that children often cannot express what they are feeling; and that young children often think they may be to blame for what happened.
What wasn't contained in the four-hour course, Finegan
said, was the cooperation he
found among the groups that had been openly hostile to each other in the past.Finegan said the leaders he worked with pledged to tell their religious superiors how the members of the various faiths worked together so "in 20 years what will be remembered is not the tsunami, but how people of different ethnic and religious groups came together to help their fellow man."
The psychologist said he
was prompted to volunteer because of a lesson he
learned from the brothers who taught him at the LaSalle Military Academy
, in Oakdale, N.Y.
"You are given certain gifts," he