Studies confirm that caregivers play host to
a high level of compassion fatigue. Day in, day out, workers struggle to
function in care giving environments that constantly present heart wrenching,
emotional challenges. Affecting positive change in society, a mission so vital
to those passionate about caring for others, is perceived as elusive, if not
impossible. This painful reality, coupled with first-hand knowledge of
society's flagrant disregard for the safety and well being of the feeble and frail,
takes its toll on everyone from full time employees to part time volunteers.
Eventually, negative attitudes prevail.
Compassion Fatigue symptoms are normal
displays of chronic stress resulting from the care giving work we choose to do.
Leading traumatologist Eric Gentry suggests that people who are attracted to
care giving often enter the field already compassion fatigued. A strong
identification with helpless, suffering, or traumatized people or animals is
possibly the motive. It is common for such people to hail from a tradition of
what Gentry labels: other-directed care giving. Simply put, these are people
who were taught at an early age to care for the needs of others before caring
for their own needs. Authentic, ongoing self-care practices are absent from
their lives. (more on Compassion Fatigue)
recognizable in others and perhaps ourselves, Compassion Fatigue surfaces
repeatedly in conservation. By experiencing compassion, that is, deep awareness of the
suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it, conservation team
members may find themselves unable to contribute and communicate as efficiently
and with as much satisfaction as they would like. By combining compassion and
communication as an intentional practice tool in conservation medicine, and
drawing heavy on social and emotional intelligence, our medical
kit becomes like Mary Poppin's magical bag, a seemingly endless reservoir of
methods to attend to the multiple beings in our circles of care, including
I will be leaving
soon for Honduras and Guatemala on a Compassionate Conservation trip. My back bedroom is strewn with gear of all
kinds to comprise my field kit for studying and supporting conservation
projects in Central America. The projects
in which I will be partaking are:
University in Tegucigalpa
consulting at Tegucigalpa Metropolitan Zoo
Consulting, pilot study
and survey of wild psittacine chicks in
La Moskitia, Honduras
psittacine conservation, El Petén Guatemala
University of San Carlos, Guatemala
regarding the lives of people and parrots in Central America
I go as an independent
consultant, Director of Lafeber Conservation (thank you very much for the
grants Lafeber Company!), and as myself.
Having experienced the burn out and overwhelming challenges of front
line conservation in Guatemala, I know how important it is to have
support. I have worked hard over the
last decade acquiring the social and emotional intelligence skills necessary
for conservation, lightening my load by letting go of some unnecessary baggage.
So though my current toolkit is packed full of medicines, cameras, and outdoor equipment,
probably the most important tools I can bring are those that deal with the
human dimensions of conservation and wildlife management. These I carry in my heart and mind (thank
goodness as the airlines won't charge me for extra baggage!).
I will do my best
to text/twitter from the field, so come here for updates (either as an update
or as a twitter entry on the sidebar).