Headington Institute Spring 2014 eNewsletter
Helping Humanitarian Staff in Syria
Fara Choi Ashimoto & Alicia Jones

Photo: EU Echo

As the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to escalate, the number of people who need humanitarian assistance continues to grow with each passing month. Here are the latest numbers from US AID:
  • 9.3 million People in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria
  • 5.5 million Children Affected by the Crisis in Syria
  • 6.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Syria
  • 2.4 million Syrians Displaced to Neighboring Countries
Aid workers involved in Syrian refugee response face these overwhelming needs every day, as they continue to provide help with basic physical needs, and psychosocial support for affected families and communities. But with the number of refugees and IDPs increasing every day, humanitarian workers are likely to experience stress, vicarious trauma, and burnout throughout this extended conflict.

We’re doing what we can to support the humanitarian staff involved in the Syria response. We continue to provide counseling and consultation to individuals and teams addressing the refugee crisis, and will participate in a Syria response debrief in April. We also hope to travel to the region later this spring to provide resilience training and in-person consultations to front-line workers.

We’ve recently updated our Trauma a Critical Incident Care training module – one of our most highly accessed resources for those working in high risk zones. Finally, we’ve translated additional resources into Arabic, with the hopes of providing free and accessible support to any, regardless of ability to pay

Healthy Leaders Leading Healthy Organizations

Photo: Kep, Cambodia

We recently returned from Kep, Cambodia for a leadership retreat by this title. The retreat came at the request of our Cambodian partner organization, eager to undergird the strength of Cambodian humanitarian organizations by supporting the longevity, wellbeing and resilience of their leaders. It was a strategic move, and part of a larger initiative of the Institute among all our client organizations.

So often we see that leaders set the tone for their organizations with regard to staff care and resilience. When leaders model, utilize, and encourage staff to access healthy, preventative support options, staff within the organizations are much more likely to address critical concerns before they become major management or staff welfare concerns. Likewise, when the leaders themselves are burned out, overburdened or under duress, the decision making atmosphere influences the broader culture of the organization. For this reason, we’re intentionally increasing the resources, coaching and training options available to senior management, chiefs of party and field response managers. These critical individuals are so often at the juncture of every major decision. The health of their response and readiness to model resilience in the midst of decision-making gives others permission to do so as well- Alicia
From the President
Yesterday, as I traveled across country, by chance I sat next to a woman who worked for a humanitarian organization providing medical care from a ship currently anchored off the coast of Central Africa. She explained that the doctors, nurses, and technicians are volunteers who even pay their own travel expenses. These remarkable people live on board, providing a full range of medical services for victims of humanitarian emergencies for months or even years. It is humbling to be with people so committed to helping others. As we spoke of the trauma and stress they experience, I explained the work of the Institute and our desire to support their team. We exchanged cards and marveled at the coincidence of being seated together. Even after nearly 15 years of serving thousands of aid workers, there are still aid organizations and first-responders who have not discovered our free online resources or received our counseling or training services. We must find new and better ways to reach them all. We need their courageous efforts to help the world cope with today's emergencies and face tomorrow's disasters. Thanks for helping us help them.  - Jim

Why I Serve on the Headington Board

I believe in the mission. Intuitively, we all understand that people who pour themselves into helping others will eventually have to pay attention to their own emotional health. Relief and development workers, first responders, and other helpers will be affected by traumatized people they are attempting to help. As a young would-be psychologist, I left my 5-year training program in Chicago numbed by my work in the inner city. Because of that experience, I recognized many who were experiencing similar burnout when I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya and Phnom Penh, Cambodia for Headington seminars.

I see the need for fundraising. I am dismayed that money for staff care is often among the first to be cut by Humanitarian Aid budgets. Non-profit budgets are becoming leaner, however, and private donations must pick up the slack if this critical work is to continue.

I admire the Headington Institute staff and board. The more time I spend on the board, the more I continue to be amazed at the commitment of the staff to excellence. They are at the cutting edge of research and teaching methods in the areas of resilience, vicarious trauma, and emotional health. The board, too, is made up of bright, compassionate, earnest, and competent professionals who work together well. I am honored to be a part of an organization with so much integrity, so much braintrust, and so much future. - Luann Warren-Sohlberg, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Headington Board Vice Chair
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