Back to school

As an organisation, as managers, as governance, as funders… proactively work to educate yourself in disaster recovery. Develop an understanding of the typical trajectories and challenges faced by communities during long term recovery, and consider how these might also apply to those with a role in recovery—in their dealings with the community, in attempting to respond to evolving community needs and in terms of their own experience if they are impacted themselves.

Develop an understanding of the psychosocial aspects of recovery, remembering that recovery is foremost about people, so that this lens can helpfully guide all interventions. This will also reduce the need for those working in recovery to educate those ‘up the chain’ within the organisation while they are simultaneously addressing the local need. Developing a common understanding will help with being able to understand the challenges and support the goals those working in recovery are aspiring to. 

It was our first time working after a disaster. It was hard because we were learning ourselves. And it was hard because we had to increase the understanding of others. …Psychosocial programming wasn’t known before. A real challenge has been the work we have to do on conversion. We needed to find a language that worked for the different audiences. Mie Kashiwade – Plan Japan

Education, across all levels, as to the importance of including staff support in the health and safety equation is invaluable. Understand an organisation’s role in protecting workers (whether voluntary or paid) from the hazards of negative stress, as we would from any other physical hazard. Learn about the science (yes there is plenty of hard evidence) behind promoting resilience and wellbeing and the mechanisms and impacts of stress.[1]

As with any hazard, supporters need to be educated in the risks associated with a role in recovery so they are not unwittingly exposed, then have an awareness of the strategies and tools to minimise risk (both organisational and self-supports) and to understand their own responsibilities in the equation.

Volunteers who do not feel prepared for what they are doing, may be unwillingly and unknowingly exposed. They need to be told of the potential emotional costs. If they know the risks then they can make choices knowingly and be prepared—knowing what they’re diving into, the risks, the difficult issues and what they can do to look after themselves. Louise Steen Kryger – IFRC PS Centre

Education should normalise and create universal expectations regarding prioritising worker wellbeing. Think both preventative strategies and strategies to address the negative impacts of stress if they emerge. A key message for the latter is that seeking support is a sign of professionalism and strength, not weakness.


[1]The Headington Institute is one organisation who specialises in this science and their website has a wealth of knowledge to inform and guide organisations and individuals. Their website is a good place to start: www.headington-institute.org

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