In 2014, the CBR Project held four resilience trainings on three continents, reaching humanitarian and emergency international aid workers deployed all over the world. After completing the trainings, participants told us the tools and theories they learned were of practical use for them, and would help them survive and thrive in their work.
In Rwanda, we provided CBR training for two teams of aid workers from the major aid agency, Mercy Corps. Mercy Corps is active in 40 countries, and 93% of its workers are nationals of the countries where they work. Working and living permanently in disrupted areas exposes them to unique stresses and risks. The Mercy Corps selected aid workers from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to take the resilience training.
“Some participants arrived rigid and troubled by things they had experienced in the field,” said CBR Faculty Member Carla Uriarte, who taught the psychosocial education component of the training. “The transformation that took place during the training was impressive.”
Most had never practiced meditation or yoga before, but they experienced their value in the training. Almost all left with enthusiasm and energy to bring these practices into their lives and their work.
“This training made sense, deep in my being,” a participant told us. “For a while I lost motivation in my work because of the stress I was exposed to. But I now understand how this training was useful for me. It permits me to breathe anew and take care of myself while doing humanitarian work.”
During a coffee break on the morning of the final day of the training, CBR Project Manager Teri Sivilli sat with a man who had recently had a traumatic experience in the field, and asked him how he was feeling. “I am better,” he said. “And I will continue to feel better and better.”
A CBR Project training at the Garrison Institute in New York attracted international aid workers from ten countries. They had all been deployed in the field at least once and intended to re-deploy in the near future, and they were a highly diverse group representing very different cultures, belief systems and parts of the world. CBR’s integrative approach is designed to be effective for aid workers of all backgrounds and beliefs.
“The tools presented are very practical and will support my ability to respond to my environment,” said one participant. “I think I wanted to know that my experiences weren’t unique,” said another, “and I now definitely understand what happens [to me] during times of extreme stress and [how to take] preventative measures.”
In West Cork, Ireland, we trained European-based aid workers in a program that was organized to be effective for them while they were at home between deployments abroad. The training was held in Denchen Shying on the Beara Peninsula, one of the beauty spots of Ireland, and participants found it restorative in ways that surprised them.
“I feel nurtured on every level,” said one. “I am sure I will take a lot of this with me when I next go into the field.” After the training, another participant emailed us saying, “I started a new job …and I have been drowning in documents, meetings and all the little stresses of a new workplace….I actually credit the course with being one of the significant milestones on my journey back to full time work in the development sector.”
We also held a “train the trainers” program in New York for future CBR faculty who will help us scale up the CBR Project and extend the reach of CBR training to more aid workers. “I see so much potential and need for this type of training/work,” one trainee told us. “The work you do is amazing,” said another. “The love you put into this mission it is evident.”
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