So you’ve just returned from volunteering to support people who have become refugees in the largest movement of people across Europe since Word War 2.
Your head’s mashed yes? Too much inside to know how to start explaining it to friends who care but only know how to ask ‘how was Calais/ Greece/ Italy’. People’s petty conversations about cereal and soap operas are doing your head in. How can people be getting on with their normal lives when there is such a crisis going on so close? You try to switch off, but images replay in your mind, and the many new friends you have made in solidarity continue to post updates which only enhance your disconnection with either reality.
So, what can you do to help yourself?
If you were volunteering with one of the big aid organisations the chances are you would have been offered an opportunity to debrief when you left. (You would have had an induction and training too, but alas we can’t turn the clock back that far!)
One UK organisation has offered a FREE 24 hour debriefing opportunity which you can take advantage of. Based in Birmingham, you can stay overnight and spend a few hours with someone who has helped lots of people think about how to readjust to life in the UK after a time working overseas in the midst of poverty and disaster.
Get a Peer Buddy
If you were volunteering with one of the big aid organisations the chances are you would have been offered an external supervisor or professional mentor when you started. You weren’t? It’s not too late. Contact SSUN (Solidarity and Support Network) here to get a ‘Peer Buddy’.
When we operate in crisis mode we often do not think! The adrenalin causes us to prepare for fight or flight and shuts down many thoughtful parts of our brain. This is a natural response but it does not help us to notice what is going on around us or to us or to build bridges across the difference spheres in our lives. If we are able to step back and reflect on our experiences we are more likely to be able to function effectively. This is good for us, good for those we are working with and good for those we are seeking to care for.
This guided reflection is designed to help volunteers reflect on their experiences in a constructive way. It can be done at the end of each day volunteering, or in the morning the day after. It can be done at the end of a week volunteering, or once a period of volunteering has come to an end as part of a debriefing strategy. Organisation leaders can get their teams to use this as part of their support package.