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Wilts Headteacher Helps in Manchester

by Michael Ford last modified 26 May, 2017 12:19 PM

Church primary head counsels bereaved and traumatised as a volunteer Response Pastor

A sombre task brought a Wiltshire head teacher away from her regular duties for two days this week.

Becky O’Brien, Head Teacher of Marden Vale C of E Academy in Calne, spent Wednesday and Thursday in Manchester working with those bereaved and traumatised after Monday’s bomb attack.

Becky is a volunteer with Street Pastors in Chippenham, and is a Response Pastor, specially trained in how to help after major incidents.

Becky O’Brien said, “I have been volunteering a Street Pastor helping around the night-time economy in Chippenham for over a year, and as a result of that, last year I trained as a ‘Response Pastor’ to help deal with the emotional aftermath of a major tragedy.

“It’s the sort of training you do hoping you’ll never have to use.

“A month ago, we had a deployment training exercise in Chippenham, but I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be deployed for real so soon, and in such a tragic context.

“The national co-ordinators asked for support for the local Manchester-based Street Pastor and Response Pastor teams on Tuesday afternoon, and by that evening I was on my way north.

“Our job is not to give advice but to take the time to listen to people carefully, comforting them and standing alongside them as they process what has happened. We worked alongside emergency services, local clergy and religious leaders of other faiths.

“On Wednesday we were deployed in St Ann’s Square, and there was a very subdued mood in contrast to the normal Manchester vibrancy. There was also a huge sense of solidarity and people standing together, and we got a lot thanks from people for being there.”

“There are Street Pastor and Response Pastor teams out in Manchester today and over the weekend, so please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

 Marden Vale CE Academy is part of the Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust. Its Chief Executive, Mark Lacey, said, 

“We know that because of her regular volunteering as a Street Pastor, Becky is trained in how to respond to major disaster situations.

“With so many children and young people involved, we thought that Becky’s skills would be particularly invaluable. It was an important part of our values as a Christian organisation to give her the opportunity of using those skills to help others. We knew the school was in safe hands while she was away.

“This news has touched people everywhere, especially children and young people. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected, and hope that Becky has made a contribution to what will inevitably be a difficult recovery process for so many.”

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