The symposium ‘Supporting volunteers after acute crisis events’ brings together practitioners and researchers in the area of caring for volunteers with a special focus on acute crisis events. The symposium is for all humanitarian organizations working with volunteers with the aim to exchange knowledge and experiences in how to care for volunteers – locally and globally. The day will be a combination of key note speakers, lessons learned from the group of participants and a tour of some of the new tools to support volunteers after acute crisis events.
Millions of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers respond to acute crisis events such as floods, fires, violent attacks or epidemic outbreaks every year. Many of these volunteers are active in fragile or complex humanitarian environments such as armed conflict. Volunteering can be extremely stressful: volunteers may find themselves comforting survivors in the initial phases of shock and grief, they are directly exposed to trauma, loss and devastation, and they often work long hours in challenging emergency environments, having been affected by the same crisis they are responding to.
Red Cross Red Crescent reports and other initiatives have paved the way for an increasing recognition of the stressors that acute crisis events lead to as well as of the importance of setting up systems to support the psychosocial well-being of volunteers. However, there is still limited research on the effectiveness of supportive interventions and it is often challenging to put supportive systems in place in practice. With better support in place, volunteers can fulfill their humanitarian role as well as play a role in promoting peace, and creating a culture of tolerance and non-violence.
Several initiatives have been launched in the Red Cross Red Crescent in the past couple of years and several reports and studies have been made. The IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support (PS Centre), which is hosted by Danish Red Cross, has been running Caring for Volunteer workshops, trainings and programmes since the launch of the Caring for Volunteers – a psychosocial toolkit in 2013. Since 2014, the Volunteering in Complex Emergencies (ViCE) initiative has been looking into volunteering in conflicts and emergencies, trying to understand and support volunteering that takes place in these environments.
Volunteers face unique challenges, and have motivations and experiences that need to be brought into debates around the meanings of volunteering, about who volunteers and how, and in what ways they can be better supported. There is an urgent need to better understand and support the activities of local volunteers in conflict and crisis settings.
Sign up for the symposium by sending an email to PS Centre coordinator Mette Munk [email protected] with your name, position and organization.
8.30-9.00 Registration, tea and coffee
9.00-9.15 Opening speech: Anders Ladekarl, general secretary, Danish Red Cross
The obligation to support volunteers after crisis events
9.15 – 9.45 Ongoing movement initiatives to support volunteers: Nana Wiedemann, director, IFRC PS Centre
Nana Wiedemann is a clinical psychologist specialized in psychotraumatology. She has been working with volunteers in different professional capacities. Since being appointed director of the PS Centre in 2006, the Centre has gained international recognition.
9.45-11.00 Key note speaker: Sigridur B. Thormar, Reykjavik University and director of the Icelandic Center for Trauma Research and Practice
Psychosocial support to volunteers in complex emergencies: Risks, resiliency and prevalence of PTSD. What does research show?
Sigridur Thormar holds a Ph.D in Psychotraumatology from the University of Amsterdam with a background as an emergency nurse and a psychologist with a MSc in health and clinical Psychology and. Since 2011 she is the Director of the Icelandic Center for Trauma Research and Practice and teaches at the psychology department at Reykjavík University.
11.00-11.30 Coffee and tea break
11.30-11.45 Implementing a peer support and self-care programme for volunteers in a National Red Cross Society. Challenges, successes and next steps.
11.45-13.00 World Café
Tour of initiatives and experiences with implementing and researching volunteer support systems
14.00-15.30 Methods and tools for supporting volunteers after acute crisis events: introduction to Psychological First Aid for Groups
Louise Vinther-Larsen and Ea Suzanne Akasha, technical advisors, IFRC PS Centre
The PS Centre will introduce new international training materials on Psychological Fist Aid, PFA, to be launched this spring. As a new addition, there will also be materials on how to offer PFA in groups after crisis events.
15.30-15.45 Closing remarks