The News & Observer “How do you combat compassion fatigue?”
“ Jeanne Tedrow understands natural disaster firsthand.
Decades ago, her family was displaced by a tornado. Yet out of this disaster came a sense of wonder at human generosity. Help coalesced from a number of sources – her neighborhood, a homebuilders association, schools and churches – to help her family get back on its feet. Tedrow was touched, and she credits that experience with leading her to her 30 years with the Wake County poverty alleviation nonprofit Passage Home, where she was co-founder and director. Today, Tedrow is president and CEO of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, which provides resources and advocates for nonprofits statewide. Indeed, Tedrow has made a career out of giving back.
“I would say that to me the very best way to handle misfortune or crisis or feeling vulnerable is go find someone that you can help and help them,” she says. “It is definitely in the giving that you will receive.”
Virginia-based nonprofit Islamic Relief, for instance, has been part of a coalition of nonprofits rebuilding homes in Princeville ever since the Eastern North Carolina town was flooded by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. It’s physically hard work, team leader Hani Hamwi admits, but Islamic Relief sees some volunteers return to Princeville again and again. Yet they don’t burn out. More often, in fact, the opposite is true.
“We are essentially working there to rebuild the homes of families and individuals who did not get the support that was necessary for them to rebuild on their own,” Hamwi says. “We’re essentially using our volunteers from really all around the country, volunteers that are willing and able to come out to North Carolina, and we are rebuilding homes.”
When Islamic Relief’s volunteers work on a house, Hamwi says, they’re at it from 8 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m. Yet during this strenuous work, the volunteers are getting to know each other. Many come from cities, and they get a taste for small-town life. Since volunteers come from all over the country and have different backgrounds, they learn about each other as well. On Wednesdays, Islamic Relief has a standing invitation to a Tarboro Methodist church’s weekly potluck, which has become part of the volunteers’ routine.
“We have dinner there and we meet people and have great conversations and have a great time,” says Hamwi. “Then [we] go back to our base and wake up and go to work the next morning.”
It takes a long-term commitment to help people recover from a disaster, Hamwi says, yet months of strenuous, sometimes repetitive work hasn’t affected his staff and volunteers’ commitment. On a broader scope, the organization as a whole has not experienced any downward trends in financial gifts this year, says Islamic Relief USA spokesperson Minhaj Hassan, and has been able to help victims of the hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires of 2017, to name a few.”
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