A core belief at Carry the Future is everyone can do something. Every small act for refugee and migrant families adds to the sum of the larger mission. Yet, it’s important to remember that while all can do something, one person can’t do everything. Often, being exposed to the trauma and pain of those we serve can cause volunteers and staff to develop compassion fatigue.
Many of our volunteers have experienced the darkness of compassion fatigue, but have found ways to cope. Taking time for self care is vital to a long and sustainable work with organizations like Carry the Future. As volunteer Michele Legge says, “I have realized I can’t change everything and have to choose my battles otherwise it gets too overwhelming and I do nothing.”
Through their stories of personal struggles and solutions, Carry the Future volunteers offer a beacon of light to those feeling overwhelmed by the refugee crisis.
Here are some common methods Carry the Future volunteers use to cope with compassion fatigue:
- Take a time out from social media and news sources
- Binge watch favorite shows
- Clean and organize
- Spend time with children and the elderly
- Eat favorite foods
- Pray or meditate
Ways to help compassion fatigue are unique to everyone and certainly not limited to the list above.
Allison Vail Bravo states: “[I] regulate my own nervous system and work on staying embodied through my work.”
Karen Orth says: “I like to remind myself that we are all created in Love. We are all LOVE embodied. I think of all the joys in my life and give thanks out loud for them. I hold the sensation of gratitude and envision a beacon of light radiating from my heart and pray it fall upon anyone who needs it.”
Michelle Graff comments: “My best form of self care is exercise. It’s good to sweat out all those stress hormones! Also, surrounding yourself with people who love you and are a positive force in your life. Spirituality is a huge one as well.”
“Definitely unplug! I am usually engaged in some kind of project, but feel like it doesn’t do enough; so I have a book of favorite quotes I have collected and they help to center me and remind me that all the drops of love together can make a flood,” writes Susan Workman.
Other volunteers find that working actually helps:
“When I am at my lowest, I try to do something tangible like volunteering to help someone. Right now a group of us are focusing on collecting supplies for the migrants/asylum seekers at the Mexican border. We live less than an hour away, so this is very real to us. Actually doing something that ends with visible results lifts me out of the funk. Otherwise I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Resistance is hard work,” Lezli Polm shares.
Leann Simonsen Hansen shares: “Service is my go to when I feel despair. Making my little corner of the world brighter always brings me out of a funk. And surrounding myself with my family is vital. Lots of deep breathes and hot baths help too.”
Others look at the larger picture to find hope:
“I read Anne Frank and turn to my spirituality,” Tiana Gianci says.
“Writing is my therapy during these times. Finding my voice and speaking out. And then, taking tangible action steps to do something and support those on the ground doing something,” states Angela Kiker Malson.
Compassion fatigue is a real issue among many aid workers. We at Carry the Future value the mental health of all our volunteers. There is sacrifice in caring for others, but the reward is great. It’s encouraging to know that there is hope.
Click here to find ways that you can do something to help refugees.