Final preparations are being made by the Contemplative-Based Resilience (CBR) Project team for our biggest operational moment of 2018 so far. From March 20th to March 29th, the CBR Project’s team of psychologists and meditation and mindful movement teachers will be on the ground in the Middle East offering direct support and building the resiliency skills of aid workers in offices and refugee camps.
Participants were drawn from over 100 available places across the region. We’re looking forward to offering assistance with stress management to people working in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Gaza, Turkey, and beyond.
So much needs to be done to successfully respond to the huge needs of today’s extraordinary refugee populations that aid workers are called upon to fill a variety of different roles. As a result, the aid workers who will participate in our training will range from leaders managing hundreds of staff and multi-million dollar budgets, to logisticians, finance officers, HR managers, and other key staff working in hectic, pressurized head offices. We will also welcome their colleagues who work right on the front line of the Syria crisis–those delivering life-saving services every day in refugee camps. No matter what job aid workers have, our programs have shown time and time again that aid workers suffer from the same stresses, worries, and emotional fatigue.
The CBR Project training programs help create a safe space for listening and learning so that colleagues can share openly how they are coping. We offer them access to the latest innovations in staff wellness, taken from the private sector and adapted specifically to their needs and the Middle East context. The managers and staff who attend all share the goal of our program–to create higher standards of care for refugees by ensuring that we look after those who care for them.
After working closely with aid workers over the last few years, we now have a wide range of programs, workshops, and online resources available to CBR participants this month. The content of our training relies on fifteen years of curriculum design and development by the Garrison Institute. Over the last three years, we’ve evolved the curriculum and tailored the program to specifically meet the needs of the aid workers with whom we work. This evolution has been two-fold: a shift in geographical focus and significant diversification of our product offerings.
First, we have shifted our operational focus from the United States to the Middle East–responding to the community of aid workers who told us, “you need to come where the work is.” So we moved our work from New York to Amman, Jordan to meet the needs of those who work with the millions of refugees who have arrived from Syria and elsewhere.
We then adapted our trainings and curriculum based on feedback from aid workers. Using our flagship four-day training program as a starting point, we developed a range of ways for aid workers to receive support, based on their budget and time constraints. So, our CBR Project team will now be running three types of stress management and resilience programs in March:
In all our programs, led by experienced psychologists, we deliberately open up conversations between colleagues and management about stress and the stigma that surrounds issues like stress and burnout. We also offer an introduction to tools like mindfulness and simple two-minute stretching and breathing exercises which have been shown to offer greater calm and clarity of thought in times of heightened stress.
If you’d like to attend any of these programs, please click here:
Our 2018 Programs–which will include more Jordan-based training programs and workshops in October and November–all build on the operational, strategic, and advocacy successes of 2017:
This article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review particularly helped us to explain our work to a wider audience of influencers. But it is feedback from our participants which is particularly satisfying to receive:
“I really think the isolating/lonely aspects of this line of work are the most difficult and draining parts for me. The most significant thing I learned from this training is how much I missed and needed a sense of community and connection”.
“In our office, we agreed that the CBR training was the best week of the whole of 2017.”
“Thank you for letting me get rid of tiredness and stress just in ten minutes. I am glad to have meditation as a habit.”
We are raising funds over the next two weeks for scholarships for our programs. Our goal is to offer between one-third and one-half of all our places to national staff whose personal capacity to pay for our training is limited, and whose agencies do not currently have sufficient funding to offer their staff this kind of opportunity for self-care.
Please consider supporting an aid worker’s health and welfare–you can have a direct affect on improving the lives of thousands of refugees with whom they work.
If you would like to learn more about our programs, join one of our March training programs, or become part of our community by support us, please visit our website.
In 2018, we will focus on our new initiative to train new CBR faculty from the region. This initiative, which also begins with the training this month, will help us reduce costs and offer more programs. It’s an important step to reach one of our goals for 2019–to offer CBR training programs in Arabic. Over the next two years, we will continue to evolve–listening to the needs of aid workers–and responding to the reality of their working lives.
Emmett Fitzgerald is the Director of the Garrison Institute’s Contemplative-Based Resilience Project. He has been an emergency response aid worker since 2005, working for several years in Haiti, DR Congo, and Nepal. He suffered burnout, depression, and other psychological fallout during his time in the field, and came to the CBR Project first as a participant. He took over leadership of the program in late 2015, and now lives in New York, travelling regularly to the Middle East.