The load:

By far the most commonly mentioned challenge is how immense the load is—the sheer overwhelming nature of the task at hand. The reality of working in a community service role is demanding at the best of times, without throwing a disaster in the mix. Social sector and community-based organisations operate on the smell of an oily rag and their workers (be they staff, volunteers or members) are already stretched. In disaster recovery, every dimension of community and personal life is altered and a whole raft of additional demands are added. Whether in a role which pre-dated the disaster or in a recovery specific role, unrealistic case/workloads, deadlines, demand far outstripping the people available to assist, competing priorities, the weight of public expectation, and the burden of responsibility are, in the words of Fiona Leadbeater, "a huge weight on so few shoulders." The possibility of delegation disappears too when everyone involved is in the same position.

The interesting aspect of carrying a load of bricks is that whilst you are carrying a load, any one brick, which you could usually sort out, becomes difficult to handle the way you would like to, without risking an avalanche of the other competing priorities. For those used to performing at a high level or multi-tasking with ease, doing the 'brick-dance' is a stressor in itself.

They were so tired and so sick of flying blind. This was a man who was usually very in control of what he did and probably very good at what he did and then had been thrust into this role as xxx (position removed for anonymity) and had never done it before and he was living in the community as well.... There were all these new issues becoming apparent in the community that needed to be dealt with. ... And he said, "I was just so tired, I was so overwhelmed and all I could see was that it was just getting bigger and I just couldn't figure out how to slow it down..." It must have terrifying for him. Kate Brady - Australian Red Cross

They are doing a completely different thing on top of all the complex stuff they used to do. People say I am doing twice as much as I used to do, and I was already doing too much before. Anon – New York

Print Email