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Reflect, acknowledge and celebrate

Create opportunities for time away and for reflection, both as individuals (or families) and as a team. Time away from the disaster-impacted environment is vital to help people keep in touch with a normal frame of reference and prevent them from becoming consumed by the recovery realities. Build in time for reflection. As recovery lacks defined progress points or signposts to success, this time needs to be consciously created.

It is unchartered territory—a new science. It is a marathon with no end in sight. At some stage we might stop running but we have no experience of feeling we’ve reach the end, no feeling of accomplishment. We don’t know when we are at the half way mark. There are no defined milestones, no finishing line. We risk running and running and running until we die. So we need to artificially build in milestones as time to reflect and celebrate.  Anne Leadbeater – Kinglake Ranges

Have the opportunity for the team to get together and have planning. Time out to reflect and get a little bit of distance. This is normally present in a workplace that isn’t as deeply involved as you are when working in recovery. So we need to consciously structure this in after disasters. Dr Rob Gordon, Consultant psychologist in emergency recovery

Value and recognise contributions and efforts. Most people working in recovery do not do it for the thanks, however, without positive feedback in some form, their involvement is personally depleting.

Praising others isn’t part of our culture—we are polite but quiet, but acknowledgement is important. We had a board member, a lawyer, tell the team, “You did a great job and we really appreciate what you have done, not just for the children there, but for our organisation.” It was hard won praise and it was sincere and it meant a lot. Mie Kashiwade – Plan Japan

Find opportunities to celebrate successes to enable people to continue to feel motivated, realise the impacts and worth of their efforts, and retain perspective.

Success stories help. They get so much negative feedback…. Success stories help keep in perspective the amazing work they’ve done. Because the complaints are smaller than the successes but typically the complaints are the things they tend to remember. …The client who sent a thank you letter or got financial assistance. It’s an important emphasis. It’s important to see the little things and the impact they have. Celebrate those successes. You have to work to help people to take a step back to look at the good that is happening in amongst such much bad. Anon - USA

After 9-11 we had a snapshot of the week, the moment that put a smile on your face and shared a few of these amongst the team which let us walk out with an image of a good moment. Because recovery is a big and never-ending process, we need people to hold onto the little moments. Sara McMullianis - New York University