Volunteers wanting to address Violence and Trauma in the Community

The phenomenon of violence amongst individuals and groups is prevalent throughout human existence; even in South Africa we are aware of a history of oppression and abuse of persons. Violence also manifests itself in ideological, material and historical components of history, social scientist should therefore carefully consider intervention strategies when addressing the emergence of violence in society. With whom will the responsibility lie to address the effects of trauma and violence in communities?

 

Intervention on Micro, Meso and Macro levels of society would aim to address the phenomenon of violence leaving persons traumatised. Personalised, community, educational intervention as well as the construction of facilitative policy and legislation should all be incorporated in all levels when considering change and growth within society. Literature suggests revolutionary input from disciplines such as Anthropology, Sociology, History, Archaeology, Medicine, Social Work, Criminology, Law, Community Development, Education, Spirituality and Psychiatry to mention but only a few. Internationally the tendency is to reconsider the asset strengths based approaches of the Human Potential movement in an effort to construct a more Person-Centred view of current situations affecting the lives of our fellow beings. Comprehensive and wide-angle research needs to be conducted at grass roots level to construct a picture that would construct a picture of the human condition in its totality. To not hear the voices at grassroots level will contribute to the oppression and abuse of already violated persons in groups and communities. Manifestations of violence within South Africa and the intervention strategies should be aimed to address the unsymbolised needs of violated persons, the survivors of traumatic events.

 

Volunteers at ground level would most likely be the persons with first hand contact with the persons at grassroots level in our communities. They are there to render emotional support where persons are traumatised, mostly by acts of violence. The question posed in this article would be to focus on the motivation of persons to assist others after violent experiences. It is almost a contradiction in itself to demonstrate compassion and care within circumstances of violence and sometimes chaotic situations. Why do persons volunteer in the face of trauma and violence?

 

Violence could be described as a cyclical phenomenon that together with its residual effects that affect all spheres of communities. Violence is implicated in some form of personal injury, loss, death, disability and trauma as the major cause. The World Health Organisation reported that more than two million people annually die as a result of injuries emerging from violent behaviour (WHO, 2001). It is further argued that injuries will be the second largest to the global burden of disease in 2020. Wars are presented as one of the major contributors to human injury (WHO, 2001). According to the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System (NIMSS) homicide (46%) is considered as the foremost cause of death where persons were injured in South Africa. Interpersonal acts of violence by means of physical abuse, firearms and sharp objects seem to be the cause of trauma and suffering (even physical disability) of violated persons in our communities. Violence is often also associated with mental health implications, chemical substance abuse and dependence, eating disorders, sleeping disorders and unwanted pregnancies, STI’s and HIV/Aids.

 

The World Health Organisation’s Task Force defined three types of violence: Interpersonal violence, Self-directed violence and organised violence that would include political violence (WHO, 1996). Data drawn from the annual reports (2011/2012 and 2012/2013) a locally structured group of trauma support volunteers, Mon Ami – Trauma Troops, indicates that most (95%) of the incidents where they were called to render emotional support was related to violent behaviour.

 

The Mon Ami – Trauma Troops could serve as one example where persons in communities structure themselves to address the effects and residual outcomes of violence in our communities. The phenomenon of groups structuring and organise themselves to address prominent issues in society could be viewed in relation to Carl Rogers Sixteenth Proposition where it is proposed that any organism will organise its structure as an attempt to protect the organism. Rogers’ theory further suggests that the organism will react as a whole in effort to preserve and enhance the organism (community). Who are these volunteers who aim to provide compassion and support in a society where violence constructs human suffering and why do they volunteer?

 

Background on Mon Ami – Trauma Troops

 

Mon Ami, French for my friend Trauma Troops (MATT) is a community based support group that renders emotional support to people living in Pretoria and Centurion who have been affected by a traumatic experience. The action group was established in 2007 after Jacques Botes (Social Worker in Private Practice) in collaboration with the Villieria SAPS started a support group in the Pretoria Moot area. After identifying the need for support to traumatised persons it was followed by comprehensive research resulting in various networks with key groups in the community and the establishment of MATT.

 

All services are based on the organisation’s Mission, Vision and Values.           

Vision: To restore good neighbourliness within the community by means of supportive networking.

Mission: A community based project that offers emotional support to persons affected by trauma.

Values: Members of MATT are committed to the values of the person centred approach (PCA) as introduced by Dr Carl R. Rogers, namely:

Respect – This is central to the approach and implies accepting the client’s values and the differences between your own values and those of the client. Allowing the client to decide what he/she wants to do.

Individualisation – Each client is approached as a unique person, completely accepting their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Self-determination – The client moves into the direction of growth, determines what is best for him/her and what his/her goals should be. The client determines what is discussed and how and when it will be discussed.

Confidentiality – Creating a climate within which the client feels unthreatened and willing to acknowledge and explore painful experiences. Trust is the basis of confidentiality and must be ethically respected.

 

The group applied for Non-Profit Organisation status in 2012 and NPO registration at the Department Social Development was successful. As an organisation entirely consisting of volunteers, obtaining donations and sponsorship are of utmost importance.

 

Part of the activities of MATT is aimed at the people from previously disadvantaged groups, people without medical aid and those left vulnerable after acts of violence. Counselling skills and experience is gained on various procedures to be followed when clients with no medical aid from all walks of life need support in accessing Public Health facilities, including hospitalisation and psychiatric support. MATT is able to render support to all members in their communities coming from all social and economic background through networking with various institutions and emergency services.

 

Volunteers are subjected to supervision at monthly supervisory meetings held throughout the year and provide the opportunity for debriefing and discussing obstacles encountered. Supervision fulfils a vital role in the service delivery environment; it should be interactive and aid in learning process of the student or volunteer. Supervision is an educational process, focussing more on the integration of theory into practise than obtaining more theoretical knowledge (Van Dyk & Harrison 2008:23-24). The dedication with which the active troops reach out towards the community providing the necessary emotional support in accordance with their mission is clearly reflected in the increasing number of cases attended. In line with the vision statement of supportive networking, interactions with other community role players have also improved substantially.

 

Mon Ami ground their training and the support offered to those affected by trauma, on the work of the American Psychologist DR Carl Rogers. Rogers’ theory emphasises human’s self-determination, ability to change and grow and importance of the human potential to engage in processes of self-directed behaviour this process does not just happen. It is facilitated [constructed] by the special conditions of the therapeutic relationship – the complete freedom to explore every portion of the perceptual field, and the complete freedom from [any] threat to the self which the client-centred therapist in particular provides (Rogers, 1951:144).

 

After successfully completing an intensive course in the Person Centred Approach (PCA) based on the theory of Rogers, MATT is proud to have 24 new volunteers that are able and willing to serve the community. The Mon Ami course in itself demands perseverance from the students as the course lasts almost a year, after which students have to successfully prove their capability under mentorship and hand in a portfolio as evidence of learning. They are evaluated by a panel to ascertain their suitability after which the signing of an Ethical Code of Conduct is required.

 

The Mon Ami Trauma Troops is a group of volunteers who donates their time and services free of charge to assists in various trauma cases:   

Attempted murder

Armed robbery

Death of valued friends and family

Attempted suicide

Murder

Suicide

Robbery (non-armed)

Vehicle high-jacking

Child molestation

Sexual trauma

Trauma relating to substance abuse or substance dependence

Rape

Assault

Family violence

The statistics clearly reflect constant networking as their case load has increased tremendously. In 2009/2010 the volunteers supported 178 people, 2010/2011 MATT saw 640 people which increased to 1680 people in 2011/2012 in the Moot, Brooklyn and Centurion communities. The SAPS and Metro Police in the mentioned areas are particularly involved with these services.

 

MATT‘s vision of restoring good neighbourliness within the community by means of supportive networking could not be maintained without having good relations with the South African Police Services(SAPS) specifically the stations of Villieria, Moot, Hercules, Lyttelton and Brooklyn as well as Tshwane Metro Police. MATT also works closely with Kilnerpark Security.          

 

Involvement within the community was furthered by taking hands with the Emergency Services of Tshwane, LifeMed Ambulance Services, Moot Help, Diplomatic Policing and various other security companies. Time spent on networking has gone a long way in making MATT a well-known name and raising awareness of the importance of seeking help after a traumatic incident.

 

As NPO Mon AMI Trauma Troops are proud do comply with the minimum norms and standards of the Department Social Development. According to the Department of Social Development Victim Empowerment Programme Procedure and Guidelines, attention is drawn to the following with regards to Victim Empowerment:

 

Victim Empowerment Services should strive towards restoring and building a healthy, peaceful and economically viable society. It is the process of promoting the resourcefulness of all victims of crime and violence (including perpetrators) by providing opportunities to access services available to them, as well as to use and build their own capacity and support networks and to act on their own choices and sense of responsibilities.

 

Ethical considerations would apply to the conduct of registered professionals, but would also apply to volunteers from the community. Primum non nocere is the Latin phrase that means “First, do no harm”. The facilitation process should pose no danger, distress or harm to persons (Monette et al., 2008:61).

 

The PCA values of Respect, Individualisation, Self-determination and Confidentiality resonates with the underlying philosophy of policy and procedures as set out by Government. Being aware that psychotherapeutic counselling services could only be provide by registered professionals with the HPCSA and SACSSP, the MON AMI – Trauma Troops therefore do not consider themselves as “counsellors”, but rather volunteer trauma workers. The Trauma Troop’s conduct is also further guided by an ethical code.

 

The group understand and value that Liberatory Community Psychology is further based on committing to the values of (PYC2604: Unisa):

·        Caring and Compassion

·        Self-Determination

·        Health

·        Social and Cultural Diversity

·        Participation and Collaboration

·        Support for Community Structures

·        Social Justice and Accountability

Crisis Support is rendered according to the Person-Centred philosophy and integration of international models. Working from the values of the Rogerian and Humanistic Person-Centred Approach, the Trauma Troops prefer not to refer to “victims”, but rather persons affected by crime or survivors of crime and violence. However, members of the NPO do acknowledge that the term “victim empowerment” is used as terminology in policy, bills and legislation.

 

Facilitating climate for change:

Under certain conditions, involving primarily complete absence of any threat to the self-structure, experiences that are inconsistent with it may be perceived, and examined, and the structure of self revised to assimilate and include such experiences (Rogers, 1987).

 

Why do the members of MATT Volunteer?

 

Volunteer responses were qualitatively collected during a supervision session (05/08/2014) of the Mon Ami – Trauma Troops. Volunteers were asked to write down their motivation as to why they would want to work with others when violated and traumatised. Why would a person get out of bed at 03:00am to render emotional support to total strangers? Spend money and time on continuous training, supervision meetings and fuel?

 

Context was created to ask these questions, a sample was drawn from the larger population of Mon Ami – Trauma Troops. The sample consisted of 13 participants drawn from the population of approximately 39 Mon Ami – Trauma Troops. The written narratives was anonymously presented and then discussed by the sample group as whole, general emerging themes were discussed and agreed on. Participants gave consent to the discussion and data analysis of the narratives, they further participated in reflecting on the emerging themes during a verbal group discussion.

 

The following extracts were drawn from written narratives. The aim was to explore the emergence of a theme that would assist in the search for volunteer’s motivation for membership to a community project rendering trauma support to persons in need of emotional care. The following extracts formed an overall theme in the written narratives:

 

P1: I want to assist others to make their burden lighter…fellow human beings needs to realise that we still care for each other…that life still has meaning…

P2: I view myself as the hands and feet of Jesus, when I help others [I believe] that I also touch the heart of Jesus…

P3: …Just to be with others…on the journey from brokenness to wholeness…to be one with my fellow volunteers that sometimes assists me in return…

P4: I want to assist those who cannot afford professional services…it is a privilege to support vulnerable others…I also grow through the process of assisting other people

P5: Because I can be part of a community that can make a huge positive impact in the lives of people…

P6: I experience an invisible force motivating me in an emergency situation, I then need to reach out to others…to help others creates a lot of meaning

P7: …one hand washes the other…helping others gives me the motivation whatever the situation…helping other people helps [me] appreciate humanity and life itself

P8: It is the human thing to do; I believe it is human to assist persons when they experience traumatic situations in life…to be with them in any stressful situation

P9: I experience it as a privilege to be there for others, to render assistance to them

P10: To listen to a cry for help…to be able to listen to that cry not going unheard, that creates meaning in this world

P11: I can handle my own hardships better through the training I received here [Mon Ami], the group contributed to my own healing

P12: From my own experiences I know how it feels to be fragile and scared…to fear, therefore I want to be there for people who also feel lonely and fearful at times

P13: …what can one say? That’s the way it is…we need each other…I can but just try to understand what people might be experiencing

P14: Firstly, I do this because I realise how terrible it must be for people if their voice is not heard

P15: I have always had the core belief to give back to the community. Knowing that you can make a difference, even for a few minutes is a wonderful feeling…I was also brought up with the values to help others in my home…It is a deep compassionate love as well, helping others and touching them in their lives gives me a feeling of fulfilment and love.

The above data was provided to three final year social work students. The students that assisted with the data analysis were Danica de la Porte, Enita Pedro and Barbara Ross-Marais. The data was analysed and interpreted by the students and their Unisa supervisor. All parties that assisted in data analysis stem from the Humanistic Potential and Person-Centred school of thought. The approach was to identify possible themes that would answer the question: Why do I volunteer?

 

As introduction to data analyses Student 3 (Barbara Ross-Marais) reported that she experienced the participant’s responses as extremely powerful and honest, and touched her personally: These people who has experienced and been exposed to the hurtful/painful process (journey) of change and growth, which relates to Rogers’ Proposition on Reconstruction of the self, used the following powerful words:

 

“we still care for each other”

“on the journey from brokenness to wholeness

“I also grow through the process”

“huge positive impact

“creates a lot of meaning”

“appreciate humanity and life itself”

“I want to be there for people”

“my own healing”

“human to assist persons”

“I know how it feels”

“reach out to others”

“a privilege”

“listen to a cry for help”

“to be with them”

“we need each other”

“I want to be there for people”

“my own healing

“I realise”

“I help others”

“helping others and touching them”

 

The following data was produced from the student’s perceptions from the participant’s responses:

Student 1 – Danica de la Porte:

·        A need to mean something to other people

·        Make a difference in someone’s life  

·        A perception that the action of helping others will make a difference in their own lives which in turn could lead to personal growth

·        Self-determination towards personal change and constructing of meaning 

·        The participants feel that their presence in a traumatic situation aids in the relief of traumatic experiences

·        Their presence in return subsequently re-establishes a belief in humanity 

·        The motivational force to help others is driven by a personal hurt or experience

 

Themes that emerge from the participant responses indicate that volunteers are motivated to help others, this motivation might be rooted in personal past time experiences and the need is therefore not always symbolised. Volunteers aim to bring an element of humanity to traumatised person’s world of experience. The process of volunteering could be viewed as an interactional relationship of contributing in the construction of meaning and growth.

 

Student 2 – Enita Pedro:

·        Wanting to help/assist others

·        Being helped in return/assisted in return (Needs and behaviour)

·        Being part of n bigger picture or community (Wholeness)

·        A sense of compulsion to reach out to others (the need presents with the behaviour to help)

·        Facilitate conditions for others to be heard

·        Giving back, either from values that are held or as paying it forward because they were able to live through own negative experience (Values adopted)

·        Viewing volunteerism as a privileged to help others (Perception and frame of reference)

·        Experiencing the helping process as part of the human experience to help others (Perception)

·        Helping others is a mutualistic relationship, where one helps or needs the other (Boucher, 1985:128)

 

Volunteers demonstrates the need to construct meaningful relations with others, these relationships are viewed as valuable contributions to the humanness of others. The value to be of assistance to others could be adopted from others such as significant others or developed through symbolisation of own experiences. Through the helping process persons view themselves as part of the larger community and thus contributing to the wholeness of society. Entering in a mutualistic relationship with traumatised persons is experienced as a privilege and the process is viewed as being a co-constructor in meaningful experiences (Boucher, D H. 1985. The Biology of Mutualism: Ecology and Evolution. New York: Oxford University Press).

 

Student 3 – Barbara Ross-Marais:

 

·        A need to take part and be part of the change and future in our current, eventful and [sometimes] chaotic, South Africa

·        All share their own unique and personal experiences that constitute their world, which could be conscious and/or unconscious (Experiences)

·        They seem to know that the world is continually changing (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:16)

·        They are on a road on which they are walking with the people (their clients) – accompanying their clients on their journey of self-discovery

·        They are asking the questions: “What are the thoughts, perceptions, feelings, needs, behaviour and values that make me who I am or them who they are?” (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:1)

·        The Trauma Troops seem to demonstrate their understanding and acceptance of themselves to their clients (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:11).

·        Able to show understanding that their sense of self is important to their clients and that they cannot tell them what to be or what do or believe in (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:16).

·        All these people perceive their world (including themselves and their interaction with others) in a uniquely individual way (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:23). Their behaviour is made of deliberate efforts by individuals to satisfy their needs that they personally experience, which relates to Proposition 5 (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:24).

·        Volunteer’s needs may not be obvious to the outsider, but the individual’s behaviour mostly makes sense to him/her in its context (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:24). Therefore, behaviour is associated with their needs, and their individual needs motivate their behaviour, and all behaviour has some motive, reason or gaol (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:24).

 

The responses from the individual participants showed that people (complete with all their ideas, feelings, behaviour, needs, values, and physical attributes) may regarded as contained in a circle, which is a circle of wholeness (Grobler, Schenck & du Toit, 2003:54). The participants showed that they wanted to be part of the circle:

·        wanted to interact with others around them

·        make a difference in other people’s lives

·        interlink with each other

·        responses indicated that change in one aspect would bring about change in others (Grobler et al., 2003:56)

·        the process of change was viewed as holistic (Grobler et al., 2003:57).

 

Student 3 further noted the following:

·        The views that the participants revealed, shows that their interactions with others become part of their lives (Grobler et al., 2003:65).

·        Values, which are attached to experiences and forming part of the self may therefore be shaped by the individual’s own experience, that they may also be taken from others and assimilated into the self, as if they had been experienced personally (Grobler et al., 2003:66).

·        Change and growth, from a person-centred perspective, is not about providing new information or about learning a new skill, but rather the purpose of facilitation is for each member of the group to learn more about his/her self (Grobler et al., 2013:160).

·        The participants presented acceptance of self and others, as members are now aware of most of their experiences as they fit with the (reconstructed) self, and others will probably not threaten them, even if they differ (Grobler et al., 2013:170).

·        The participants are now ready to decide on their own values, which relates to (Grobler et al., 2013:171).

·        As with the reconstruction of the self, the values that members develop have to be their own, and these values have to fit with the reconstructed self, otherwise the members will be perceived as threatening to the people that they go out and meet (Grobler et al., 2013:171). An added benefit of the symbolisation of most unconscious experiences of group members, is that they will no longer experience stress or feel the need to defend themselves against these experiences, and their behaviour will no longer be motivated by unconscious experiences, and will now fit with the newly constructed self (Grobler et al., 2013:171).

 

Student 3 concludes that there were many emotional statements in responses and further states that emotion accompanies and facilitates purposeful behaviour. The intensity of the emotion or feeling correlates with the importance that the person attaches to the behaviour in terms of his/her self-preservation and self-enhancement, which relates to self-determination of the person (Grobler & Schenck, 2009:25).

 

Themes that emerged from data analysis

 

In an attempt to explore the reasons why persons would volunteer in an organisation assisting others affected by trauma and violence it can be concluded that persons wanted to interact with others around them and in the process make a difference in other people’s lives. Interaction with each other groups and individuals creates the perception that change in one aspect of the community would bring about change in the larger community as a whole. Volunteers view their participation as being part of a holistic approach to the larger picture of the community’s wellbeing and preservation. In the process of contributing to a sense of community the following themes emerges for volunteers:

 

·        The helping process constructs meaning: A need to mean something to other people was evident, volunteers experienced that they could make a difference in someone’s life. A perception that the action of helping others will make a difference in their own lives which in turn could lead to personal growth could contribute to the wellbeing of the larger community.

·        Community constructed by sharing experiences and understanding: Volunteers want to make a difference and actively partake in community events to contribute in the construction of a sense of community. Participants share their own unique and personal experiences that constitute their world, which could be conscious and/or unconscious, they seem to know that the world is continually changing and are on a path on which they are walking with the people accompanying their others on their journey of self-discovery. Volunteers seem to demonstrate their understanding and acceptance of themselves to their clients and are able to show understanding that their sense of self is important to their clients and that they cannot tell them what to be or what do or believe in.

·        Compassion is constructed by values: Helping others can be explained as a need or want of volunteers, this process of rendering assistance to others constructs meaning and motivation for volunteering the sense is being constructed that being part of a bigger picture or community (Wholeness). Facilitating conditions for others to be heard is also experienced as giving back to others, either from values that are held or as paying it forward because they were able to live through own negative experience. Volunteerism and being of assistance to others is experienced as a privilege and being part of humanistic potential facilitative for change and growth.

·        Personal change constructs meaning and a way of being in the world: Volunteers are self-determined towards personal change, growth, learning and constructing of meaning. The participants felt that their presence in a traumatic situation aids in the relief of traumatic experiences and that their presence in return subsequently re-establishes a belief in humanity. The motivational force to help others could at times be driven by a personal hurt or experience; volunteerism could thus also construct meaning in the life of the volunteer.

·        Interaction with the environment serves as motivation: Volunteers (including themselves and their interaction with others) in a uniquely individual way, their behaviour is made of deliberate efforts by individuals to satisfy their needs that they personally experience. Volunteer’s needs may not be obvious to the outsider, but the individual’s behaviour mostly makes sense to him/her in its context, therefore, behaviour is associated with their needs, and their individual needs motivate their behaviour, and all behaviour has some motive, reason or gaol.

 

Summarising the themes

 

Human beings do want to make a difference and actively partake in community events to contribute in the construction of a sense of community. Volunteerism and being of assistance to others is experienced as a privilege and being part of humanistic potential facilitative for change and growth. Volunteer’s needs may not be obvious to the outsider, but the individual’s behaviour mostly makes sense to him/her in its context, therefore, behaviour is associated with their needs, and their individual needs motivate their behaviour, and all behaviour has some motive, reason or gaol. Volunteers seem to demonstrate their understanding and acceptance of themselves to their clients and are able to show understanding that their sense of self is important to their clients and that they cannot tell them what to be or what do or believe in. from the collected data it could be concluded that volunteers experience the following as motivation for their community involvement:

 

·        The helping process constructs meaning

·        Community constructed by sharing experiences and understanding

·        Compassion is constructed by values

·        Personal change constructs meaning and a way of being in the world

·        Interaction with the environment serves as motivation

 

It could thus be concluded that when the helping process constructs meaning for persons, this meaning could be constructed through compassion for others. Persons are in a constant interaction with the environment; these interactions would also attempt to construct a sense of commonality (community) and belonging. Community could thus be constructed by sharing experiences and understanding with others. Volunteerism demonstrates care and compassion within society, compassion should be valued and it could further be assumed that compassion is constructed by values. One should be careful to rush to the conclusion that persons volunteer in order to find own healing, this would be supported by the Human Potential Movement’s philosophy that persons always change and grow towards actualising of the self and the organism as a whole (community). Personal change constructs meaning and a way of being in the world, a compassionate way of responsible and ethical as well as human care for others. Interaction with the environment serves as motivation; this motivation is further driven by unconditional positive regard for fellow beings and need to construct an environment recognised by warmth, compassion and Ubuntu.

 

Volunteers thus find themselves in a very unique position in community, this position might be contradicting at times: The need to demonstrate empathy and compassion in a world that is not always perfect, a world where human beings also has the ability to violate and hurt each other. A need to restore neighbourly relations, to bring calmness and compassion through their presence and construct a concept and perception of we do belong to each other

 

… the essence of being human, You know when it is there, as you know when it is absent. It speaks about humanness, gentleness, hospitality, putting yourself out on behalf of others, being vulnerable; it embraces compassion and toughness. It recognises that any humanity is bound up with yours. It means not nursing grudges, but willing to accept others as they are and being thankful for them. It excludes grasping competitiveness, harsh aggressiveness, being concerned for oneself, abrasiveness (Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Ubuntu in Prozensky, 1996).

 

The work of Mon Ami – Trauma Troops can be viewed at: www.monamitrauma.co.za

 

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