Friday, 28 December 2012

MC Tools—11

CHOPS Inventory
Supporting A4 Workers
Chennai, India: family en route with sleeping child
April 2012 © MOD
This is our 200th weblog entry.
The first weblog entry was exactly six years ago, on 28 December 2006.
So we are celebrating six years and 200 blog entries of
reflections, research, and resources for good practice.
Deo gratias.
 The final tool in this series of entries is an updated version of our favourite one: the CHOPS Inventory. We developed the first version of this tool in 1990 as a way to review struggles for mission workers. Since then it has been expanded to include: more categories; an emphasis on successes and strategies in addition to struggles; applicability for mission/aid workers (not just faith-based workers); and translations into seven languages.
The latest version of CHOPS (shared below for the first time) now includes examples of additional challenges that are often experienced by mission/aid colleagues from the A4 regions (African, America-Latina, Arabic-Turkic, Asian). These additions can be summarised in terms of family, finances, and freedom, with all three being permeated by the challenges of maintaining faith-focus vs fear-anxiety. See the items below in green font.

CHOPS Inventory

Cross-cultural workers can have experiences that make them feel like "sheep in the midst of wolves." This exercise explores ten "wolves"—which we refer to as stressors—that these workers frequently encounter. We use the acronym "CHOPS" as a way to help identify and deal with these stress-producing "wolves". Note that each stressor can be both a source of stress and/or a symptom of stress. 

1. Using a separate piece of paper, write down some of the stressors that you have experienced over the past several months. Refer to the 10 stressors and some of the examples mentioned below. Put these under a column labelled "Struggles."
2. In a second column, "Successes", list some of the helpful ways you have dealt with stress during the last several months.
3. Next, under a "Strategies" column, list ideas for better managing stress in the future.
4. You may also want to do the same with or for some important people in your life, such as individuals and groups found at the bottom of this page. Discuss your responses with a close friend.

Struggles      Successes ___Strategies

Cultural (getting needs met in unfamiliar ways: language learning, culture shock, reentry) feeling rejected, overlooked, or undervalued by the dominant “international” mis/aid culture; gender bias, prejudice, lack of opportunity/freedom
Crises (potentially traumatic events: natural disasters, wars, accidents, political instability protracted armed conflicts and physical threats, one’s own community and country affected
Historical (unresolved past areas of personal and social struggle: family of origin issues, personal weaknesses) lack of educational, health, economic opportunities (i.e. social determinants of health)
Human (relationships: with family members, colleagues, nationals: raising children, couple conflict, struggles with team members, social opposition) caring for ageing parents, few school options, human rights violations, persecution, discrimination, stigma
Occupational (job-specific challenges and pressures: work load, travel schedule, exposure to people with problems, job satisfaction, more training, government "red tape") job insecurity, short-term contracts, mis/aid work not understood or respected
Organisational (governance and management: incongruence between one's background and the organisational ethos, policies, work style, expectations; incompetence, corruption, abusive leadership, dysfunction, disability practices) legal protection, training
Physical (overall health and factors that affect it: nutrition, climate, illness, ageing, environment) no medical resources/insurance and inadequate nutritional options, injuries/road traffic accidents
Psychological (overall emotional stability and self-esteem: loneliness, frustration, depression, unwanted habits, developmental issues/stage of life issues) cumulative impact of “adverse life events”
Support (resources to sustain one's work: finances, housing, clerical/technical help, donor contact minimum pay and financial support, finances used for survival and not just for one’s mis/aid work
Spiritual (God and/or transcendent values: meaning, evil, inner growth, practices/disciplines) lack of trust/respect for spiritual leaders
Answers apply to (circle):
self, spouse, child, friend, department, team, company, other
©2012 Dr. Kelly O’Donnell and Dr. Michèle Lewis O’Donnell
Want to know more about challenges for those from A4 regions? See the article by John Fawcett, Supporting Local Staff, including the two short case studies at the end by Viola Mukasa.
Want to go even further? See the three articles that overview challenges for workers from Latin America, India, and Africa as well as the short case examples for workers in and/or from China. Available at: (see table of contents in English; this site also includes materials in traditional/simplified Chinese along with Mandarin audio files).
Do you have suggestions for improving CHOPS, including A4-related items? Contact us at:

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