With each year trending towards a global uptick in displacement, the need for aid workers and volunteers could not be greater and their work more valued. Yet, the frontline work of constantly bearing witness to people’s suffering and immense loss can have tangible effects on responder’s own wellbeing, with particular concern over burnout and secondary trauma. Aid workers are frequently themselves targetted by violence and subject to extreme risks of kidnapping and death. This past year we have seen a rise in organisations dealing with an increase in suicides among human rights researchers and aid workers, and an overall fallout from reduced retention among highly-skilled practictioners.
These concerns are often overlooked in all stages of planning, deployment, and return. Much of the weaknesses here lie in the lack of resources on staff care and few collaborations between humanitarian organisations on building awareness and capacity for psychological support for staff and volunteers, especially for aid workers and health practitioners who have themselves been directly displaced. In the context of resettlement, community groups and schools working alongside those newly arrived are equally exposed to the risk of secondary trauma.
Bearing Witness addresses three key areas - prevention of burnout; prevention and dealing with secondary trauma; and self-care techniques and coping mechanisms for all those working alongside displaced communities. Practical workshops and trainings will be taught in small focused groups and further supported online through interactive lessons, a dedicated self-care community of practice, and toolkits. These workshops will be supported through creative and expressive forms of self-care and healing.
Bearing Witness also looks at better policy engagement to promote more serious internal commitments by organisations and institutions on staff self-care and greater awareness amongst individuals of timely self-care interventions.
Our working group brings together leading practitioners on vicarious trauma to connect expertise and strategise our collaborative work here.
Overseas Development Institute
Refugee Trauma Initiative
FROM THE FIELD