It has been over a week now since the last guest from Deer Lake left our community. On very short, notice our community of Smiths Falls and surrounding area were given the task of setting up an evacuation shelter for over 600 members of the Deer Lake community due to threatening forest fires in their area.
I, and many others, spent most of the 14 days providing support and services for this First Nations Community. It was physically and emotionally demanding because these people were displaced from their own community and suffering from health and other effects of this evacuation.
This was an experience of a lifetime, to do such humanitarian work right in our own community. The other side of this is the affects on us personally when we do such demanding work. There can be physical and emotional symptoms of vicarious trauma. The Headington Institute/Care for Caregivers Worldwide, describes vicarious trauma as "...the negative changes that happen to humanitarian workers over time as they witness and engage with other people's suffering and need...".
I have experienced symptoms such as heightened anxiety, sleeplessness, intrusive memories (what if...?), physical and emotional exhaustion and more. I am normally at a desk working with the public and there were many miles travelled at Rideau Regional; many carts pushed loaded with food, drinks and luggage; many stories heard. I witnessed many of their struggles.
I thought it might be helpful for others who assisted with this endeavour to realize some of what they might be feeling is normal and it is good to talk to others about your experiences, both good and bad.
I would love to hear from other people about similar experiences and I encourage you to check out the Headington Institute at www.headington-institute.org.