This month we feature four new resources for sender care. We begin with two new books on developing comprehensive member care programs (Mind the Gaps and Healthy, Resilient, & Effective in Cross-Cultural Ministry) followed by a personal account on the dangers of unprepared mission service, misguided idealism, and abusive organizations/leaders (Runaway Radical). We also highlight The Core Humanitarian Standard, a crucial resource to inform our mission/aid and member care work. We finish with several thought-provoking excerpts on staff wellbeing and effectiveness from Stress and Trauma Handbook: Strategies for Flourishing in Demanding Environments.
Warm greetings from Geneva,
Kelly and Michèle O’Donnell
Mind the Gaps: Engaging the Church in Missionary Care (2015), general editor David Wilson. “Gaps in giving care are not just a result of understaffing, but these gaps are also apparent in the practices from one agency to another. Some agencies have a developed member care departments while others have not. There may be a deficit in adequate supervision, oversight, accountability, contingency plans and strategic focus planning that can aid missionaries in achieving kingdom objectives. The church should step forward with determination and respond to the call of caring proactively for missionaries, not just reactively when a need arises. Mind the Gaps is intended to empower churches, to complement and enhance the efforts of the member care department of agencies, and to reduce the attrition rate of missionaries who are sent out to the field.” (excerpt from the Introduction)
Chapters include: People for your Team, Philosophy of Effective Ministry (POEM), Confidentiality Policy, Predictors of Missionary Success, Strategic Focus of the Church, Connecting through Prayer, Connecting the Missionary to the Care Team, Connecting the Missionary Family to the Congregation, Connecting with the Sending Agency, Spiritual Needs, Emotional Needs, Practical Needs, Professional or Effectiveness Needs, Changes within Ministry, Re-Entry, Retirement and other Transitions.
Healthy, Resilient, & Effective in Cross-Cultural Ministry: A Comprehensive Member Care Plan (2015), by Laura Mae Gardner. “This book has been designed to help leaders of sending agencies and churches in creating a comprehensive care plan for their members in mission. The first nine chapters give a comprehensive overview about the why and how to of setting up a member care plan for cross cultural workers. The following nine chapters discuss in depth the challenges cross-cultural workers are dealing with and what member carers (church, friends, agency) can do to assist them and even more importantly how to avoid unnecessary crises and suffering on the part of these choice people of God.”
Runaway Radical: A Young Man’s Reckless Journey to Save the World (2014), by Amy Hollingsworth and Jonathan Hollingsworth (available in paperback, kindle, and audio versions). “A young idealist heeds the call to radical obedience, gives away all of his belongings and shaking off the fetters of a complacent life, travels halfway around the world. There he discovers, among the poor and the fatherless of West Africa, that he has only surrendered to a new kind of captivity….this is the first book to highlight the painful personal consequences of the new radicalism, documenting in heartbreaking detail what happens when a young person becomes entrapped instead of liberated by its call. His radical resolve now shaken, he returns home to rebuild his life and his faith….Runaway Radical serves as an important and cautionary tale for all who lead and participate in compassion activism, in the art of doing good— both overseas and at home— amidst this new culture of radical Christian service.”
--Interview with the authors
--Soul Survivor: How 13 Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church (2001), by Philip Yancey
--Helping Without Hurting: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…or Yourself (2009), by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
--Brigada Today: use the search engine to review the many entries on “short term missions” with a view towards good practice (e.g., STM Toolbox; Helping Without Hurting in Short term Mission)
Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (2015), Sphere Project, Humanitarian Accountability Partnership, and People In Aid. “The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) sets out Nine Commitments that organisations and individuals involved in humanitarian response can use to improve the quality and effectiveness of the assistance they provide. This single core standard has been devised to clarify the responsibilities of aid workers, make the implementation of humanitarian standards simpler and easier, and contribute to better humanitarian responses. A coherent and easy-to-use standard is more likely to be put into practice and make a difference in the lives of crisis-affected communities.”
Note: People In Aid (Code of Good Practice in the Management and Support of Aid Personnel) and Humanitarian Accountability Partnership have now merged into a new organization: Core Humanitarian Standard Alliance (CHS Alliance). Commitment Eight of the new CHS summarizes many aspects of the People in Aid Code of Good Practice.
“Commitment 8. Communities and people affected by crisis receive the assistance they require from competent and well-managed staff and volunteers. Quality Criterion: Staff are supported to do their job effectively, and are treated fairly and equitably. [Staff include any designated representative of the organisation, including national, international, permanent or short-term employees, as well as volunteers and consultants.]
8.1 Staff work according to the mandate and values of the organisation and to agreed objectives and performance standards.
8.2 Staff adhere to the policies that are relevant to them and understand the consequences of not adhering to them.
8.3 Staff develop and use the necessary personal, technical and management competencies to fulfil their role and understand how the organisation can support them to do this.
8.4 The organisation has the management and staff capacity and capability to deliver its programmes.
8.5 Staff policies and procedures are fair, transparent, non-discriminatory and compliant with local employment law.
8.6 Job descriptions, work objectives and feedback processes are in place so that staff have a clear understanding of what is required of them.
8.7 A code of conduct is in place that establishes, at a minimum, the obligation of staff not to exploit, abuse or otherwise discriminate against people.
8.8 Policies are in place to support staff to improve their skills and competencies.
8.9 Policies are in place for the security and the wellbeing of staff.”
Humanitarian Effectiveness and Staff Wellness, free live online consultation, 30 July 2015 at 9:00am Eastern Time, organized by Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) and World Humanitarian Summit (the Summit is to be held in Istanbul in May 2016). “Humanitarian effectiveness and accountability in humanitarian response has received a great deal of attention in recent years. However, despite considerable research underlining its importance, what is often missing or underplayed in discussions and initiatives relating to both these topics is that of the safety, security, and wellness of humanitarian staff and volunteers. The number of aid workers who are victims of attacks have almost tripled over the past ten years and research has repeatedly demonstrated a strong relationship between deployment to humanitarian crises and conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Apart from being of grave concern in itself, this also seriously affects the effectiveness of humanitarian response. In this consultation event, we will focus on the following questions:
--What is the relationship between staff and volunteer wellness and humanitarian effectiveness
--What current good practice exists for improving staff and volunteer wellness?
--What gaps currently exist relating to ensuring staff and volunteer wellness? What concrete improvements could be made?”
Perspectives on Staff Wellbeing and Effectiveness (WE)
One of our favorite member care books is by John Fawcett, Stress and Trauma Handbook: Strategies for Flourishing in Demanding Environments (2003, World Vision International). Here are a few of the opening perspectives from the book, broadly addressing staff wellbeing and effectiveness (we call this WE, another way of saying member care). We think they are particularly relevant for sending groups/organizations, mission/aid workers, and all of us committed to providing and developing quality member care resources.
“In the context of complex humanitarian emergencies and the rigors of life in developing nations, aid workers arrive on the scene expecting to enhance life, not just to neutralise pain. Humanitarian work is, after all, a celebration of life, not homage to death and despair. …International aid is a challenge to the power not only of hunger, war, and poverty, but to cynicism. Faith-driven or secular, the workers who bring aid…are the living embodiment of a human conviction that wrongs not only must be righted, but that they can be righted (p.1).
Humanitarian personnel work in increasingly dangerous environments… aid workers often find themselves targets and suffer accordingly…(p. 1). But protection against the major impacts of traumatic stress is not only possible—it is critical for all humanitarian and welfare agencies…A significant method of protecting staff against serious stress injury is to work on improving organisational factors such as management capacity and team functioning (p.2).
…the objective of stress and trauma management is not merely to protect local and expatriate staff but to encourage them to grow, flourish, and sow the seeds of well-being among colleagues and communities in which they work and live…One of the most effective ways both to protect and to flourish is to maintain excellent social relationships within and outside the work environment (p.5). Our findings suggest that strong relationships afford the best protection in traumatic and stressful environments (p.6).
…the most stressful events in humanitarian work have to do with the organisational culture, management style and operational objectives of an NGO or agency rather than external security risks or poor environmental factors. Aid workers, basically, have a pretty shrewd idea what they are getting into when they enter this career, and dirty clothes, gunshots at night and lack of electricity do not surprise them. Intra-and inter-agency politics, inconsistent management styles, lack of team work and unclear or conflicting organizational objectives, however, combine to create a background of chronic stress and pressure that over time wears people down and can lead to burnout and even physical collapse (p. 6).
…the full organisational benefit of attention to stress and trauma management will be gained when learnings and techniques are applied to groups or teams. Programme objectives and organisational plans will be more achievable where aid workers have strong social relationships, are members of cohesive teams, are blessed with consultative leadership, and are adequately skilled to do the job for which they have been employed (p.6).
Effective stress management is a holistic practice, requiring more than piecemeal attempts at prevention and protection (p.7)…protection and prevention are always more cost effective than treatment, especially considering that a person who experiences severe burnout may never be able to return to front-line field work. But organisations and management who view stress management merely as a way to protect existing assets by erecting containment measures miss the point. Containment is not what humanitarian life is about. Life, which international aid work affirms every day, is about growth, learning and transformation. A comprehensive organisational stress management strategy will identify outcome objectives relating to flourishing rather than containment. The vision…is that of humanitarian workers enabled to experience their own growth and development as they care for themselves and the great needs of those to whom they are responding (p. 10).”
Actively integrating our lives (connecting and contributing) with global realities
(skillfully addressing the major issues facing humanity and promoting well being)
in light of our core values (e.g., ethical imperatives, commitment to humanity, faith-based).
More MCA Resources
Global Portal for Good Practice (website)
Reflections, Research, and Resources for Good Practice (weblog)
Global Mental Health: A Global Map for a Global Movement (website)
Global Integration: Connecting and Contributing (updates, materials, webinars)
Global Member Care: (volume one): The Pearls and Perils of Good Practice (2011)
Global Member Care (volume two): Crossing Sectors for Serving Humanity (2013)
(the e-book version is available on Amazon)