The ordinary has become the enemy of unity. Yet as day two rolled in quickly as the dark clouds bringing rain in the early morning, over the mountains protecting us from winds, we began to see that the standard, compliance and the ordinary was not what those working with trauma were seeking in our sessions. Even though our teams had regrouped and prepared for a new day with challenges to overcome, those taking difficult assignments decided to pray assertively throughout the evening for a break through. Although from various backgrounds with unique expertise, the volunteers began to realize that the need was greater than imagined.
Again, Trinis, sat in the waiting room for over an hour earnestly anticipating the Green Cross training. A corporal waiting outside for the day to commence assured some of our team mates that burn out is high for front line workers, and sheepishly admitted that stress was draining her. Yet she quickly showed us pictures of her flower beds in her front yard, and smiled as she gazed upon her roses. Even in the midst of fatigue, an appreciation for life radiates from the eyes of those living on the Island. It is evident as they begin to share their stories, how deeply they care about one another. We were challenged as a team to work together and model stress free unity. We have been dared to care for one another just as the Trinis do, even though our perceptions, our own resistance to change and fear of the unknown block our path to successful teamwork. The Green Cross class focused on compassion fatigue and identifying signs of burn out within their respected fields. Each attendee, soon to be questioned about self-care, learned that helpers and front line workers often become busy taking care of others before themselves. Like the airlines insist, "put your mask on first before helping others with theirs" seemed to be the running theme in all of the trainings. Bonds were created during the group sessions and formal walls came down as openness to a new norm in stress management ensued.
Go with the flow and learn to be fluid, chimed our leaders as we drove to our assignments. These words of wisdom seemed to anchor us as daily changes awaited our arrivals. Yet, the presenters tailored their courses to meet the current needs of those attending. In the end, it was about them, not us. The team at the prison was relieved to have Dr. Erwin at the helm during one of those changes as she simply redirected effortlessly and connected with her audience. "We are doing something different today," she warned, "Just follow my lead." Members of the team marveled as they saw the fruit of staying consistent with the principles used in trauma training. During lunch she even managed to make us laugh as she told us a story about "Mr. Good".
Little did the group know that waiting in the airport was going to be the easier part of the trip? Working together, learning to process, and quickly adapting were part of the learning curve facing the newer members of the team. Yet, character drove us to engage, and a genuine need to help humbled us to learn. As each presenter became vulnerable and shared their stories, walls of resistance and pain in the hearts of those traumatized began to fall, making room to build a stronger community.
By Paula L. Henderson
BA – Public Administration, MS cert. Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Management