Volunteerism, Culture Shock and Trauma: A Programme for Helping Others as We Help Ourselves

In: Culture, Experience, Care: Re-Centring the Patient

Life experiences, culture stress, and unexpected encounters may result in trauma for many who travel outside their homeland to work in the developing world. The empirically validated, multi-phased Fennell Four Phase Treatment (FFPT™) model recognises the influences of cultural and psychosocial factors in assessing and treating those with culture shock or trauma. It is through the phases of FFPT™ that the worker can move through crisis into stabilisation, through resolution and into integration, having successfully addressed their trauma. Upon arrival, culture shock may cause disequilibrium for those not prepared to witness and experience what they may encounter. Upon re-entry, reverse culture shock may occur after many weeks of stressful work and difficult living conditions. Individuals may begin to develop symptoms of chronic depression, grief, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and disappointment in home, culture, and family. Often, families suffer conflict. Reverse culture shock may occur when the home country cannot be tolerated and the ‘other’ culture is longed for desperately. An assessment, preparation, and debriefing programme is being piloted with The Giving Circle (TGC) for the medical workers, educators, and general non-governmental organisation (NGO) volunteers working in Uganda; the programme will be described and results reported. The FFPT™ phase approach is grounded in clinical practice to help participants help themselves and fellow workers integrate their life changing experiences and create positive change.