[HOT] Compassion and Self-Care

Heather Leson heatherleson at gmail.com
Thu Dec 19 13:26:32 UTC 2013

HI Folks,

I've been thinking a lot lately about compassion and the volunteer
community. This relates to HOT but also the wider network of Crisismappers.
Last month I wrote on my personal blog[1] that we participate almost by
instinct and we want to do something that 'matters'. One of the qualities
we all share include compassion. We know that each communication and each
edit is making a valuable change. We know that responders may use our work.
This drives us to do more.

For those us involved in multiple responses a year (either in HOT or across
Digital Humanitarian communities), the risk of burnt out and health issues
are high. I know for a fact that I completely burnt out after the Kenyan
Elections in March.  The Typhoon response has been going for well over a
month. The tone of the mailing list has become strong, pointed. I did not
engage in most of it because I was concerned that it was not healthy for me
or potentially others. But, I read all the notes. They have been weighing
on me. This note is not to reopen those discussions, but to ask us all to
get out the wide-angle lens and do a pulse check.  HOT is amazing
passionate and talented community. I am in awe of the gifts you continue to

As far as I know, traditional field responders go in shifts. There are
trained professionals to help guide their journey. They are well versed in
the results of not taking care of oneself. Can anyone speak to this with
some resources?

The StandBy Task Force has an in house 'community/ self-care team'. These
folks work on taking care of the whole team. We watch the clock and remind
everyone to log off, take breaks, go for a walk etc.  Sometimes deep in a
response I often found this advice to be extravagant. But, it forces me to
really think about the pile of dishes and the breeze outside. The SBTF also
time-bounds their responses to take care of the volunteers.

HOT activations are lead by amazing folks and quiet participants doing all
kinds of contributions. Each of you give hours and I dare say,
weeks/months, in a long haul response. I know that we have not coordinated
formally in shifts and more often we simply don't have a lot of visibility
into all the moving parts that make a successful HOT response. This
includes all the conversations around getting and using mapping.  We also
have not sought to have in house self-care mechanisms.

This morning Geeks Without Bounds posted this article[2] about self-care. I
think it is an important read for all of us.

The space of digital humanitarians is new. We are all creating an ecosystem
to make this possible. It really makes me focus on what matters - each of
you. How can we better support each other? What outside help can we get to
support those who are deep in response?

1. http://textontechs.com/2013/11/why-we-volunteer-yolandaph/ and

I am wishing peace and downtime for everyone


Heather Leson
heatherleson at gmail.com
Twitter: HeatherLeson
Blog: textontechs.com
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