By early summer, the FAERF Institute will release the Introductory module for the Certificate in International Humanitarian Assistance Response™ (the Certificate). In addition, information will be forthcoming about the Certificate, including how to register for the various courses and what each course will include. This Consciousness@Work article aims to explain the intention behind the Institute and the Certificate.
It is the intention of the Institute to raise awareness of business organizations’ need to provide compassionate care and practical support to survivors of traumatic loss. We do this by helping businesses plan, prepare, and train their employees to deliver as many of these services as their job descriptions will allow when disaster strikes their workplace. We are guided by our Advisory Board, comprised of survivors and thought leaders of businesses who practice the principles of Human Services Response™ when interacting with anyone involved in a traumatic loss at work.
The Evolution of Emergency Response to Traumatic Loss in the Workplace
Resolutions initiated by the core of who we are can yield far-reaching results instead of typically short-term achievements brainstormed in our minds. When guided by the heart, our accomplishments align with the next step in our broader purpose, and those paths continually evolve before us as we simply listen and let ourselves be led from the stillness of our hearts.
In his book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, scientist, researcher, and teacher Dr. Joe Dispenzareminds us of the greatness of holding fast to a dream, independent of the environment. He reminds us that history books are filled with names of people who have brought their inner vision into the world by living as though their dream has already happened. They include Martin Luther King, Jr., Marie Curie, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, and Joan of Arc, to name a few.
At the Institute, we envision a world where business organizations train their employees to care for survivors (one or more fellow employees, customers, families) impacted by traumatic loss in the workplace the same way they care for their own families. While our practices are still in their infancy, our case study files are filled with examples where survivors tell us that their experiences were made more bearable due to the loving-kindness of compassionate employees who supported and shared the suffering.
Before the formal studies of airline accident survivors, which began with my doctoral dissertation published in 1992, there was a general belief that survivors were naturally angry at the employees who worked for the company experiencing the tragedy. Interviews with survivors clearly showed this to be a myth. And in fact, our research continues to show the opposite. Survivors want and need help from company employees who have the resources and the intention to assist them.
For over thirty years, I have personally witnessed the bonding between survivors and employees of a company where traumatic loss has occurred. When employees are trained and empowered to do all possible to support survivors and families of those hardest hit by a tragedy, the company is perceived as an advocate—but when employees appear defensive and adversarial, the company is seen as a perpetrator of harm. Therefore, the courses in the Certificate are based on what survivors teach us that is most helpful to them in restoring balance in their own lives following the trauma.
The intention behind the Certificate offered by the Institute is to raise compassion consciousness for all impacted by trauma in the workplace. The Institute will accomplish this by meeting the following goals:
Educate and inform organizations on the principles of Human Services Response™ and appropriate measures for responding to traumatic events in the workplace;
To make scientific, evidence-based education accessible to employees in business organizations;
To provide an avenue for next-generation responders to learn and gain valuable experience in humanitarian assistance;
To support survivors in sharing their lived experiences, turning them into valuable lessons for future responses;
To fund research efforts for our vision and mission's continued growth and support.
"By choosing to hang on to one's corner of freedom even in the worst situations, we can process our world with the energy of appreciation and beauty and create an opportunity to transcend our circumstances."
― Wayne W. Dyer
Although we recognize that some companies still believe that all support for survivors in the immediate aftermath of a crisis should come from external agencies, we believe that corporate employees as first responders is a concept that is continuing to grow. Being there at the time of the tragedy and having available resources is a major advantage that well-trained and empowered employees have.
The theoretical model underlying the Institute’s training and philosophy is based on the teachings of the late Gerald Caplan, M.D., regarded by many as the father of crisis theory, who taught that the biggest challenge in preventive psychiatry is helping "care taking" people who are on the spot at the moment of crisis "tip the balance over to the side of emotional health." Employees for a company experiencing a crisis who are trained on how to help survivors indeed tip the scales toward emotional health.
In closing, it is also encouraging to know that ground-breaking research from the Heartmath® Institute supports the essential nature of the emotional connection as a factor in healing.
"Living with intention from the heart allows us to be more connected within ourselves and the world around us. When we live from the heart, we have the ability to not just improve our perspectives, but to literally change physical realities."
–Dr. Kathleen Riley
 Coarsey, CV., Psychological Aftermath of Air Disaster: What can be learned for training? The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1992.