Protecting Yourself and Others
Cover from Refugees magazine, 2000, UNHCR
I’ve managed my stress levels pretty well in the past. But we saw some really horrible things in the places where I worked. I’ve seen rotting bodies. I’ve seen people who died of dysentery and cholera in the camps. How do you process that?…That’s not the norm. We’re not prepared for that…it pushed me to my limit in terms of trying to manage those experiences while in the middle of it. As a result of those experiences I attended stress management and stress debriefing courses which helped me a lot…Heather MCLeod, Development, (World Vision International, July-Sept. 1998), p. 16
What do mission/aid workers and others who live is dangerous places need to do to survive? What types of member care resources help? This entry describes two additional resources to consider.
Keep in mind that “dangerous places” is being defined broadly. It primarily refers to physical environments marked by life-threatening hazards including war, human rights violations, poverty, and disease. It also refers to organizational environments, in which poor management/governance can wreak havoc on both staff and operational objectives. Interlaced with much of the above can be human corruption, which exploits and injures others, defined by Transparency International as the ‘abuse of entrusted power for personal gain.’ Covering up or ignoring corruption can be as lethal as the corruption itself.
Too High a Price? This landmark issue of Refugees magazine (Number 121, 2000) addresses the hard and shifting realities of life for aid workers, especially those in the United Nations. It is filled with personal stories, photos, and brief articles from around the world. Ten years after its publication, this special issue is still so relevant for workers/senders!
‘Staff safety is not a luxury but a necessary part of saving lives. Vulnerable people like refugees are most in need of assistance at the very same moment when refugee/aid workers are most exposed to personal danger.’ Paraphrase from: Refugees Magazine, Number 121, 2000 (p. 2).
Surviving War as a Caregiver is a personal account of the challenges of living in a country embroiled in war (Chechneya). The author, Paula O’Keefe, explores not only the external dangers to herself and others but also her internal world of struggles, growth, and faith. Here is an excerpt summarizing her spiritual growth, from chapter 25 of Doing Member Care Well (2002).
“There are many things that the Lord has taught me in the past few years in working in a war zone. He has taught me the importance of spending quality time with Him, of worshipping, of taking adequate rest and looking after myself, of taking breaks and having some fun. He has shown me that I can’t do everything alone and that I need other people with whom I can be vulnerable and share my heart. I also need to have adequate support from my home church, along with a good covering…He has done much healing and refining and is teaching me to enjoy just being His [child]. I am learning to get my self-worth from who I am in Him, not from what I do” (p. 226).
Reflection and Discussion--And Leave a Comment Below
1. What is the most “dangerous place” in which you have lived? Why is/was it dangerous?
2. What did you do (or do you do) to survive in this dangerous place?
3. Briefly describe any places where corruption has seriously affected you and others.
4. List a few ways that you have spiritually grown through your experiences in dangerous places.
5. Consider how you can use the above two resources in your current setting. What parts of these resources will help you and others to stay safe and/or help protect others?