Category Archive: Volunteer

Do No Harm: Humanitarian Volunteer Self-care

Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

I know that many of you are quietly working away. Your gift is beautiful and you are changing the world. But the world needs you rested too.

-Heather Leson, President Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team -heather.leson@hotosm.org

image

Tips For Humanitarian Volunteer Self-care… From Experience

  • Set boundaries.  If struggling to do so, you may need to reach out for support.
  • Rationalization is a dangerous mechanism.  It doesn’t matter the types of tasks you assign or complete: you still need to practice self-care and enhance well-being.
  • Do no harm: don’t bring affected population into your decision-making if you lack the ability to think clearly, overwhelmed or are suffering from sleep deprivation or insomnia.  You are incredibly more useful when your head is on straight.
  • Do no harm: if you are a leader, what kind of example are you setting for your team?  People look up to you and are most likely are following your lead.
  • You are not alone!  Other disaster response and humanitarian volunteers have experienced burnout, compassion fatigue, anxiety, toxic stress, and other physical and mental issues.  Support is available if you just ask for it!
  • You are a human being.  You will make mistakes.  You are susceptible to the circumstances you are in and exposed to.
  • Coordinators or leaders, it may seem like it all falls on you.  It doesn’t.  Life happens, events can never be fully controlled.  Your sole mission isn’t being present every minute.  You are more effective when you allow yourself to sleep, eat, take breaks, and breathe.  If you’re worried about leaving your crew, take breaks together.
  • Remember that the fact that you are providing aid or responding does not harden you from being personally vulnerable to disturbing content, no matter how you’ve coped in the past.
  • Asking for help shouldn’t have shame or stigma attached.  Make self-care a top priority and focus, not what others think.  It is absolutely to critical reach out if you can’t cope anymore.
  • Suppression, bottling up emotions and dishonesty are not coping mechanisms!
  • Difficulty thinking and performing simple tasks means your brain needs rest.
  • Be proud you are smart enough to recognize the need to rest, take care of yourself and/or reach out for help.
  • Listen to your body.  If you don’t feel well, or can barely keep your eyes open then rest, don’t rationalize.  Physical cues from your body mean you need to act now, or suffer later.
  • Observe yourself from time to time to make sure you’re in a healthy place emotionally, and mentally.
  • Refresh and revitalize!  Listen to your favorite music, read a book, enjoy the outdoors, do something you love.
  • Stay hydrated.  How much water are you drinking versus coffee?  If you don’t prefer water, there are other choices, non caffeinated and healthy.
  • Spend uninterrupted time with those you love.  Log off, stay off.  They need and deserve your love and time.  You do too.
  • Respect yourself and your well-being.   If scheduled and dreading the next time you volunteer, don’t.  Tell your coordinator you will not available.  Talk to someone you love or trust.
  • Don’t be talked into working longer than you planned.  Just because someone isn’t present doesn’t mean it’s automatically your responsiblity to take their place.
  • Keep a log of hours worked.  If you don’t have an official schedule, keep one.  See for yourself how long those “few extra minutes” turned into.
  • Consider the value in preserving your long-term ability to help others.

Relevant Self Tests

Tests don’t diagnose, but they are useful for evaluation and self-reflection.

Life Stress Test

PDF DIRECT LINK: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/pages/lifestresstest.pdf

Professional Quality of Life Scale Test

PDF DIRECT LINK: http://www.proqol.org/uploads/ProQOL_5_English_Self-Score_3-2012.pdf

Compassion Fatigue Test

HTML ONLINE TEST: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/pages/cfassessment.html

Anything We Can Help With?

When you press send submit it may not look like anything happened… I would like to assure you, your request REALLY has actually been submitted!

[contact-form to=’admin@info4disasters.org,kellimerritz@gmail.com%26#x002c;’ subject=’INFO4 REQUEST.RESPONSE FROM VOLUNTEER POST’][contact-field label=’Name or Nickname’ type=’name’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Skype username (optional)’ type=’name’/][contact-field label=’How can we help?’ type=’select’ required=’1′ options=’Need more resources,Need someone to talk to,Unsure how to get professional help,Need resources in a different language,I would like to give feedback,You missed something I feel is an important resource,There is something else that I need. Please contact me.’/][contact-field label=’Is there anything else that you would like to elaborate on or feel we need to know?’ type=’textarea’/][/contact-form]

Privacy notice: We will never share your information with ANY third-parties unless YOU ask us to, or if we have SIGNIFICANT REASON to believe you are in imminent danger.

 

Do No Harm: Embracing Core Humanitarian Standards

Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Introduction

Technology has presented many opportunities and challenges for those involved in the emergency, humanitarian crisis and disaster relief fields.  Revolutionary advances have allowed support teams to evolve in many ways to assist operations on the ground from remote locations.  Disaster and humanitarian-related remote volunteers sometimes experience extremely high stress levels, compassion fatigue, lower priority of self-care, and vicarious trauma, alongside other physiological and psychological effects.  This post aims to discuss research related to health, volunteering in humanitarian and disaster response covering the concept “do no harm”, am humanitarian core standards.

image

Manner of Response Determines Results

During response to disasters, volunteers become submerged in their work, feeling a duty to the people they are helping.  Under high stress levels, workers perform with all of their energy, working longer and longer hours.  Mixed motivational messages can occur when a team leader or facilitator continually recognizes achievements of volunteers while failing to maintain a healthy working environment.  A health-centered work environment has volunteers take regular breaks, promotes emotional well-being, advocates self-care, respects personal priorities, supports team members in building amicable relationships, and encourages a non-hostile working space.

Workers may ignore the red flags of overwork and fatigue.  In supportive environment, teaching the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and toxic stress are now more commonly addressed.  Increased irritability, confusion, headaches, symptoms of cold/virus, or extreme exhaustion are glaring signs of overwork and toxic stress levels. These may go either unnoticed or simply pushed aside.

With little to no energy left from prolonged hours of work, basic needs and personal wants may begin to become neglected.  What a person loves to do: spending time with family and friends, playing with a pet, engaging in sports and physical activities, enjoying social outings or the luxury of relaxing and pursuing peace of mind… these aspects are usually sacrificed first in order to “finish up those details”.  These basic wants help contribute positively to health and emotional well-being and are unique for each person.  Even basic needs that we all share, such as: consumption of food and water, a healthy amount of sleep, regular practice of hygiene, exercise, and maintaining emotional well-being may become secondary.

 

Some of these items seem simple or extravagant considering the emergency at hand, but many of us have burnt out during emergencies.  It will sneak up on you – the stress and the rollercoaster.  You may downplay it.  This is why we share to remind you that digital contributors can become strained too.

-Heather Leson, President Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team -heather.leson@hotosm.org

Overload vs. Sense of Coherence

Overworked responders’ stress can reach toxic levels, causing their coping mechanisms to fail.  Toxicity of stress goes largely undiscussed, and magnifies stress as it combines with encounters of highly distressing information.  Witnessing unbearable scenes with the haunting faces of destruction, death, and suffering is unfortunately a common occurrence in disaster response and humanitarian crises.  Toxic stress happens when “unsuccessful coping due to lack of adequate internal capacities as well as poor external support” happens, or if a worker’s neural architecture is simply unable to handle stressors (McEwen, 1998).

Increasing hours worked means increasing exposure to deeply tragic elements.  Elements that aren’t fun to talk about, aren’t faced with ease, and can leave within us incredibly charged emotions.  Suppression and plowing onwards serve only as temporary coping mechanisms. Lack of proper self-care and toxic stress may reach what feels like the point of no return.  In all cases, this “allostatic overload” is volatile (Dias-Ferreira, et al., 2009).  Allostatic overload eventually leads to physiological dysregulation. Physiological dysregulation may then cause physical or mental disease.  It is important to remember however, that jobs creating worker burnout and/or depression can happen in any line of work.

Observations have shown that volunteer participation in group collaborative activities gives each volunteer a “Sense of Coherence” or SOC.  SOC is significant in that it helps build and strengthen coping abilities for situational stressors when a volunteer identifies their experience within a group as “comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful (Haraoka, Ojima, Murata, Hayasaka, 2012).”  When a team encounters “collective stressors”, SOC is felt at very high levels.  “The present findings show that strength of SOC in a community links more with willingness to carry out collaborative activities with volunteers (Haraoka, et al., 2012).”  Mutual support within a responding volunteer community is vital for the group’s collective SOC to solve problems more effectively.

Embracing Core Humanitarian Standards

A volunteer collective that tackles obstacles together might be a new concept for coordinators. Practices that consider the well-being of each person in the organization must evolve to develop a healthy level of community SOC that benefits everyone.  Only then, can volunteers develop better stress coping abilities, and have their problem-solving capabilities strengthened.  The organization can offer greater impact when working as a cohesive unit. It is a collective responsibility to see that volunteers within every community treated with dignity and care.  Leaders too often add to factors of burnout and depression in workers, weighed with the truth that ultimately only the worker can follow through with self-care and maintenance.

Leaving sole volunteers to deal with problems during a crisis with no help from the rest of the community represents a harmful expectation.  It isn’t a healthy experience for volunteers to face stressors without leader and community support.  Additionally, members of a volunteer community may see this and experience a higher burden of stress themselves because of projected expectations.  The SPHERE Project’s Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards, particularly the 6th core standard, reminds leaders and organizations of the responsibilities and rights of their workers, “Equally, agencies are responsible for enabling aid workers to perform satisfactorily through effective management and support for their emotional and physical well-being (SPHERE Project, 2012).”

Common Sense: Do No Harm

I have heard time and again volunteers referred to as handy tools, free labor, time savers, and other disparaging terms when some organizational leaders and coordinators discuss affiliated volunteers publicly.  In these cases, there is little consideration of the volunteers’ well-being or SOC, collectively or individually.  Volunteers make the choice to dedicate time, often with specialized skill-sets.  I do not write to accuse, but rather to discuss, educate, and remind organizations of the positive or negative effects they have on volunteers.

Conclusion

If humanitarian and disaster response organizations continue to embrace the core humanitarian standards, and the principle “do no harm” to those they serve, it MUST be equally important to these organizations to avoid deleterious internal treatment and harmful practice to those who volunteer their time, intellect, and heart.  In the same way, if humanitarian and disaster volunteers wish to embrace and admonish “do no harm” and core humanitarian standards to those around them with equanimity, they MUST include care and treatment of self.  It is emotionally and physically essential for volunteers to consider that it is those around them, are directly affected by the personal decision to embrace, or deny their own well-being and self-care.  For responders, “do no harm” must stay a vital concern when considering those affected and in need due to humanitarian crises and disasters… the same must apply to themselves, and those closest in heart and home.

 


 

References

Ahola, K., Hakanen, J., Perhoniemi, R., & Mutanen, P. (2014). Relationship between burnout and depressive symptoms: A study using the person-centered approach. Burnout Research, 1(1), 29-37. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213058614000060

 

Dias-Ferreira, E., Sousa, J., Melo, I., Morgado, P., Mesquita, A., Cerqueira, J., & Sousa, N. (2009). Chronic Stress Causes Frontostriatal Reorganization and Affects Decision-Making. Science, 325(4290), 621-625. doi: 10.1126/science.1171203.

 

Enman, N., Sabban, E., Mcgonigle, P., & Bockstaele, E. (2015). Targeting the neuropeptide Y system in stress-related psychiatric disorders. Neurobiology of Stress, 1, 33-43. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352289514000083

 

Franklin, T., Saab, B., & Mansuy, I. (2012). Neural Mechanisms of Stress Resilience and Vulnerability. Neuron, 75(5), 747-761. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2014.09.001.

 

Haraoka, T., Ojima, T., Murata, C., & Hayasaka, S. (2012). Factors influencing collaborative activities between non-professional disaster volunteers and victims of earthquake disasters. PloS one, 7(10), e47203. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047203.

 

McEwen, B. (1998). Seminars in medicine of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. New England Journal of Medicine, 338(3), 171-179. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199801153380307

 

McEwen, B., Gray, J., & Nasca, C. (2015). Recognizing resilience: Learning from the effects of stress on the brain. Neurobiology of Stress, 1, 1-11. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352289514000022

 

SPHERE Project, The. (2012). Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response. Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://www.spherehandbook.org/en/core-standard-6-aid-worker-performance

 

WHO, War Trauma Foundation, & World Vision International. (2011). Psychological first aid: Guide for field workers. Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://whqlibdoc.who.int/ 

 

Yolanda: Update and Resources

Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

As of November 11, the DSWD has extended free satellite net service to close to 2,000 individuals in areas in Tacloban affected by the supertyphoon. Among those who have used the service are members of the media and NGOs. Said service was made available for our countrymen who wish to contact their loved ones.

Quick Links:

Emergency hotlines
Report on government response efforts
Info for those who want to donate or volunteer in Cebu, Tacloban, or CDO
Telco services restored in more typhoon-hit areas
Matrix of international pledges
List of evacuation centres.
The Red Cross’s Yolanda – RFL and Tracing Form
List of Casualties
A Compiled List of Yolanda / Haiyan Informational Maps: Space-based information

Summary: 8 Days Ago (7th of November)

When Typhoon Yolanda, internationally known as Typhoon Haiyan, formed as an identified tropical depression “31W”, meteorologists began tracing her path towards the Philippines there was little attention given from the international media on her potential impacts as developments in her size and path became a concern.[quote cite=”Social Welfare and Development”] “As of 12 noon, the number of families affected by typhoon Yolanda has reached the two million mark composed of 9.53 million persons as Local Government Units (LGUs) from Regions IV-A and B, V, VI, VII, VIII, X, and CARAGA continue to assess the extent of the disaster.”[/quote] The day Yolanda made landfall on the Philippines as a Category 5 Super-Typhoon images and footage rolled in the international media began incredulous coverage of the Typhoon Yolanda, most continuing coverage of the complex emergency and devastation left behind.  There is (obviously) national coverage of the ongoing crisis in some detail, though many small, local news sources are not available because of the great infrastructural damage in most affected regions.

Summary: Eight Days Later (15th of November)

Eight days later, there are many concerns in the Central Philippines that have yet to be alleviated. Due to massive damages to the infrastructure it has been a challenge to get needed supplies areas critically affected by Typhoon Yolanda, but aide has arrived or is en-route.  The Department of Energy has deployed generators to Yolanda-hit areas.  
 

 A total of 17,890 personnel, 844 vehicles, 44 seacraft, 31 aircraft, and other assets / equipment from National and Local Agencies, Responders and Volunteer Organizations were prepositioned and deployed to strategic areas to facilitate response operations. —NDRRMC Situation Report on the effects of Typhoon YOLANDA, November 14, 2013 (6:00 p.m.)

State of National Calamity

Major media outlets have reported on the hard hit areas, most covering the scathed capital city of Leyte; Tacloban City. Due to its large size, the damage is apparent, and the emergent needs of this city are undoubtedly great, as are the needs of all towns, cities, and barangays in Samar, Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Palawan. The Presidential Proclamation No.682, dated November 11, 2013 declared a State of National Calamity, affecting Samar, Cebu, Leyte, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Palawan. [quote cite=”Official Gazette” url=”http://www.gov.ph/2013/11/11/dswd-provides-taclobanons-with-satellite-internet-service/”] As of November 11, the DSWD has extended free satellite net service to close to 2,000 individuals in areas in Tacloban affected by the supertyphoon. Among those who have used the service are members of the media and NGOs. Said service was made available for our countrymen who wish to contact their loved ones.[/quote ]With not enough people to properly identify every body found, it is anticipated that a number of victims will go unidentified, and with regional environmental and weather factors, time is an important factor for both identification and needed burial.  There are plausible concerns of flood waters and additional rains causing sickness, infection. Hospitals are reporting they are close to running out of needed medicines as well as doctors and nurses concerned they won’t be able to meet the needs of critical care for patients.

 

Many hope that with international resources combined, food, medical supplies and basic necessities will be able to be delivered faster and in greater quantity. Combined forces, assembled medical personnel teams, along with aid and relief packages that are now arriving in greater numbers in the proclaimed State of Calamity areas.  Measures  are being taken to help fix immediate obstacles, assist those in need of rescue, restore peace and order, maintain security, and a price freeze on essential medicines has been implemented. These examples are all indicators of the strong response that has become more tangible now that efforts have increased in pace and overall progress.

Updates from The Official Gazette

Official List of Casualties

Deceased: 3633
Injured: 12487
Missing: 1179
 

The DSWD has opened satellite repacking centers of relief goods in the NCR and in affected regions. Meanwhile, the schedule for volunteers at DSWD-NROC is already full until November 18. All those interested in volunteering, please call 851-2681/852-8081.

Food and Water

Field Bulletin No. 3: On relief operations in Yolanda-affected areas

Field Bulletin No. 2: On relief operations in Yolanda-affected areas

Status of relief and rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-affected areas as of November 15, 2013 (6:00 a.m.)

DSWD assures faster relief ops

Medical

Field Bulletin No. 4: On relief operations in Yolanda-affected areas (medical supplies)

Field Bulletin No. 3: On relief operations in Yolanda-affected areas (medical supplies)

Contact persons and hotlines from the Department of Health, Eastern Visayas & Central Office

“We won’t stop until we get all medical teams on the ground” – DOH

Shelter

Funding and Foreign Aid

Interagency One-Stop-Shop for donated relief goods fully operational

Infrastructure

Relief effort reaches typhoon-ravaged areas via supply routes

Power

AFP opens communication cells in Tacloban, Mactan, and Roxas City

Communications

Restoring communications after Yolanda: Updates as of November 12, 2013

DSWD provides Taclobanons with satellite Internet service

Security

Peace and security efforts in Yolanda-struck areas

Resources:

Maps

Google Crisis and Relief Map

DSWD Disaster Mitigation and Response Situation Map

DENR GDIS Map

A Compiled List of Yolanda / Haiyan Informational Maps: Space-based information

Weather

PAGASA 

Project NOAH

Reports

NDRMMC Situation Report

Status of Municipalities, Towns and Cities, in Leyte, Eastern Samar, Western Samar (The matrix is up to date as of November 15, 2013, 5:00 p.m.)

International Assistance Matrix

People Finder

Google Person Finder

A mobile version of this tool is available. You can also search with SMS by texting 2662999 (Globe), 4664999 (SMART), 22020999 (Sun), or +1.650.800.3977 with the message Search [name]. For example, to search for Joshua, text Search Joshua.

Person Finder is a searchable missing person database written in Python and hosted on App Engine. Person Finder implements the PFIF data model and provides PFIF import and export as well as PFIF Atom feeds. It was initially created by Google volunteers in response to the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, and today contains contributions from many volunteers inside and outside of Google. It was used again for the earthquakes in Chile, Yushu, and Japan, and now runs at http://google.org/personfinder/.

Red Cross RFL and Tracing Form

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has deployed assessment and rescue teams to the areas affected by recent typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), locally known as Yolanda, to evaluate the damage and to support rescue efforts. Welfare Desks including RFL and tracing services are established in the affected areas. National Societies abroad that are approached by families without news of their loved ones can contact the PRC Social Services Department Email: sos@redcross.org.ph, zenaida.beltejar@redcross.org.ph Mobile: 09175328500 Landline: 5270000 loc. 126, 5270867 Twitter: @philredcross @justcallmelloyd @ilovemishang @lynvgarcia or use the #TracingPH Email: lyn.garcia@redcross.org.ph, kenneth.dimalibot@redcross.org.ph, opcen@redcross.org.ph

Other Resources

StatusPH: Real-time location based information aimed at both users and systems

Creating a map and database that shows ongoing actions such as rescue missions, hospitals, meeting points, points of internet, points of phone reception.

Super lightweight, fast and mobile optimised. Focus is on the INPUT side as well as allowing individuals with mobile access to see what’s available near them.

StatusPH (http://www.statusph.net/) has an API and now needs developers to assist in writing more scripts to help StatusPH get additional actionable data from other sources.  They have a complete guide and documentation for how any developer can contribute and work, in any language.  Simply visit https://github.com/PimDeWitte/spowerscripts.

Effects of the storm

Visit www.piacaraga.com’s Yolanda page.

Online information for natural calamities

What does it mean if an area is under a state of calamity?

Make sense of PAGASA’s color-coding signals.

Learn more about the Philippine Area of Responsibility.

Learn more about PAGASA’s public storm warning signals

Infographic: Mga paalala ukol sa storm surge

Infographic: Mga paalala ukol sa baha

Other Local Government Units (links to Local Government Academy website)

 

If you have something you see missing in this list of resources, or have a suggestion of a resource, or a compiled list of resources to add, a map, or a volunteer opportunity, please comment below, and once verified, they information will be added. Thank you!

 

Africa Health and Disease Reporting

Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Health and Diseases real-time reports from Africa is Citizens Initiative developed in 2013, based on Ushahidi-Crowdmap to monitor  the health situation in Africa: outbreaks, health system improvements, positive events. It leverages on Technology to coordinate incidences and Actions.

Through its reporting platform, Health&Diseases enables unprecedented collaboration between the African citizenry, doctors, health workers, the civil society, community based organizations, digital humanitarians and tourists to monitor the health situation in near real-time. Health&Diseases went live on March 15,2013.

Our workflow you can see here: http://hdcommunity.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/workflow/
If you want join to our team – please contact us via email.
If you want to become a volunteer – please fill out this form. [ http://hdcommunity.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/become-a-volunteer/ ]

http://africamed.crowdmap.com – community crowdsource map being done globally and virtually or by:
e-mail: africacrowdmap@gmail.com
by sending a tweet with the hashtag: #africamed

info4 US State Disaster Agencies Quick Links

Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

[notice]State Disaster Agencies[/notice]

 

Special Features

N

Homeland Security: State Emergency Services
Homeland Security: State Contact Map

Emergency Management: State Map

FDA: State Health Agencies

State by State

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

California: Emergency Digital Information

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York State

New York City

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon
Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina
South Dakota

Tennessee
Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington, D.C.

Washington State

Wyoming

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Volunteer Opportunities Listing – Ongoing & Event-Specific

Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Please note any current or ongoing volunteer efforts in the comments below for inclusion in our volunteers sign-up page.  These will be listed as on-going with additional posts for event-specific volunteer opportunities.

Thanks so much for the work you do!