Meeting the Emotional Needs of Those Living Through an Emergency

by chrismcgregor
Categories: Divisional News

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

That famous inspirational quotation is what drives Divisional Retired Officers’ Secretary Major Roxzena Hayden to provide volunteer spiritual and emotional support in times of emergency and crisis.

As part of Ontario’s Emergency Disaster Services, Major Roxzena travels anywhere she is needed to bring hope, compassion, and a listening ear to those living through a traumatic experience. Following the devastating windstorm that ravaged the province, Major Roxzena travelled from her home in London and headed for the nation’s capital.

In four of the hardest hit areas of the city, The Salvation Army joined other agencies to support people from these Ottawa neighbourhoods. At any scene, Roxzena says years of experience allow her to read the room to determine which individuals are receptive to receiving help.

“If something happens to someone, it is traumatic event for them. They just want someone to listen to their story and share the experience to give it importance,” Major Roxzena says.

Often all it takes is a simple offer of something as simple as a snack or a hot beverage to get the conversation started. She recalls one senior gentleman affected by the Ottawa windstorm who agreed to her offer to sit down and talk.

“He had worked in different parts of Canada, and came back to retire to Ottawa, the place where he first worked when he was a young man. He told me how he lives by himself and wanted to spend his last years here,” Major Roxzena recalls.

“But now he needs some support, and he is happy to come to one of the reception centres in Ottawa for some food. I mentioned that he can come anytime to receive breakfast and dinner, which he was not aware of.”

Major Roxzena has been in her emergency response role with The Salvation Army for 30 years, but her history with crisis response goes back further than that. Her late husband was a paramedic and volunteer firefighter.

As a member of the fire department’s Ladies’ Auxiliary, Roxzena would be called to support affected homeowners with a hot coffee or some comforting conversation. That was 40 years ago. When she and her husband became Salvation Army officers, she joined Emergency Disaster Services as a volunteer to continue to provide emotional and spiritual care. After all this time, she has no plans to stop helping others in need.

“This is something I have a passion for, and it is a unique gift that I can share by bringing some comfort in a stressful situation. I try to bring a light into their life, and if I can, I get them to smile,” Major Roxzena says.