Restarting the volunteer programme after the summer I held a session to help reduce the ‘burn out’ experienced by community volunteers at Maryhill Integration Network (MIN). The workshop aimed to help them to understand the everyday effects of trauma on themselves and clients. Volunteers reported being sometimes caught-up in the difficulties experienced by the asylum seekers and refugees they support, especially as many of them have experienced similar difficulties themselves. While the volunteers’ role is to run activities and provide practical support, this can be complicated by clients who are very emotional or unusually detached. The aim of the presentation was to be able to identify flight/fight/freeze responses in clients and the volunteers themselves and to help defuse anxious clients and help disassociated clients reconnect to themselves.
To respond most helpfully to people experiencing difficulties we discussed recognising trauma responses and how we might be affected by them. Trauma is ‘sticky’ when someone else is triggered we can feel triggered too. Although it can be a difficult topic to talk about we discussed trauma as a normal response to an abnormal situation and how common this response is, which moves the topic from fear and stigma to an everyday event which people had come across.
We discussed how the signs of trauma might be complicated by working with groups who speak many languages and understandably confused, disoriented and frustrated because of situational difficulties.
‘Thank you so much for volunteering at MIN. The sessions have been invaluable to our staff, volunteers and the organisation as a whole. It has been a real pleasure to have you at MIN and you will be missed!’
I shared suggestions with volunteers about how they might help a disassociated client come back to the present by encouraging them to be aware of their body and senses and when they might want to safeguard a client, particularly, giving them numbers of local helplines. Then we shared food and had an opportunity to speak more informally.