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October 2, 2019—October 6, 2019

Contemplative-Based Resilience Training for Humanitarian Aid Workers

For humanitarian aid workers, human rights workers, and journalists in the field and at headquarters.

You chose this all-important line of work for a reason, and you’ve grown accustomed to both the sacrifices and the rewards. But have you taken steps to ensure your mental and emotional wellbeing and counteract the stresses of your work?

Humanitarian aid work often takes place in challenging contexts. Chronic stress, burnout, and the constant exposure to others’ suffering can negatively impact your mental and physical health and make it harder for you to do your job. Whether you’re in the field or behind a computer, you regularly bear witness to traumas that you can neither predict nor control. What you can control is your reaction to these stressors, and the toll they take on your wellbeing. Knowing the causes and symptoms of stress is helpful but seldom sufficient: Resiliency requires specific skills, and these skills can be learned. 

Learn the ABCs of Resilience: Awareness, Balance and Connection
Contemplative-Based Resilience (CBR) Training is an experiential skill-building program that will help you develop practices that enhance and sustain physiological and psychological resilience. Our innovative curriculum incorporates secular, non-religious meditation practices; education about the effects of acute and chronic stress on the body and mind; yoga-based and other movement practices (no experience required, all body types welcome); and facilitated discussions and exercises to help you understand your experiences and connect with peers. An outstanding faculty, including former and current humanitarian aid workers, will lead the workshop. The techniques covered are all grounded in cutting-edge research on human resilience. 

Is this training for me?

The CBR Project was developed for humanitarian aid and human rights workers both in the field and in the office. The training provides an integrative approach to managing  stress and trauma, offering skills and tools that help aid workers maintain mental health and wellbeing amid the considerable challenges of humanitarian work. It’s also an invaluable chance to rest, recharge, and recommit to your calling.

What can I expect during this training?

The four-day workshop in a retreat-like setting provides you an opportunity to rest, reflect and restore while you’re learning. In addition to the movement, meditation and other training activities, the curriculum incorporates periods of free time that allow you to walk, socialize or enjoy some time to yourself. The Garrison Institute is situated in quiet, beautiful grounds overlooking the Hudson River with scenic and safe walking trails. An optional guided short hike is included in the program, and an abundance of delicious food will be served.

What happens afterward? Will I have ongoing support to make use of the tools?

At the end of the program, you will have learned effective resilience skills you can immediately implement, which will continue to benefit you for the rest of your life.  To support you in integrating the practices into your daily routine, we are creating supporting resources that will be available on all standard platforms and devices. Participants are invited to join a web-based community through which you can maintain contact and share experiences with other CBR graduates.
Why should I attend a CBR training instead of going on vacation?

A vacation can be very relaxing – while you’re on it. But how quickly do you forget that you even had a holiday once you’re back at work? After a CBR training, you can practice the ABCs of resilience (Awareness, Balance, and Connection) in your daily routine and increase your wellbeing and effectiveness even in the most stressful circumstances. This unique professional development opportunity will benefit you in every aspect of your life and work for years to come. You will come away with a suite of essential tools to maintain resilience no matter where you are or what you’re doing. 

This training is open to professionals serving on the frontlines of humanitarian aid. If you would like to attend this retreat, please click here.

Scholarship assistance is available upon application. For more information, please contact Valerie Belanger; valerie@garrisoninstitute.org or call +1 (845) 424-4800 ext. 133.


Hugh Byrne, PhD, a guiding teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW), trained with Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein and other senior teachers and has been teaching meditation since 2000. Hugh has worked in the field of human rights and social justice and is committed to engaging the wisdom of contemplative practices to help alleviate suffering in the world. 

Chia-Ti Chiu is a yoga instructor, Thai bodyworker, and meditator.  As a lead teacher with the Lineage Project, she brings mindfulness practices to youth in detention centers.  She also leads their trainings, which focus on the intersection of mindfulness, social justice, trauma and resiliency.  She developed and runs a community arts program at Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti in Port-au-Prince, after her initial trip doing earthquake relief work in 2010.  Chia-Ti believes strongly in the power of healing and growth through self-care and co-care practices.

Aleksandra Witkowska has been a Gestalt therapist and aid worker since 2002. She has led variety of community and mental health interventions in the crisis settings worldwide. For the past 3 years, Ola has been providing direct psychosocial support for the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) humanitarian staff in the missions in Cameroon, Syria, Iraq, Tanzania, Yemen, and South Sudan among others. Her focus is particularly on the well-being of the MSF national staff working on the front lines.