The following is part three of a short series written by Seacoast Family Promise’s on-staff Case Manager, Melissa Cardin. This series comprises Melissa’s reflections after attending the 2010 Family Promise ‘Dare to Dream’ Conference in Florida. Her workshops included trauma among guests, knowing the correct role for staff and volunteers, self-care for staff and time to restore balance, setting boundaries and knowing limits, and the importance of being an advocate for our guests. Melissa and several other representatives from Seacoast Family Promise attended the event and returned to New Hampshire inspired with fresh ideas, and an even stronger passion for the families we serve at Seacoast Family Promise.
“The Mission of Seacoast Family Promise is to empower families experiencing homelessness to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.”
PART THREE: Boundaries.
We have to keep an environment of self care for the staff. We need to demonstrate how to care for ourselves so our guests can learn to care for themselves. “It’s not healthy or a badge of honor that you don’t take a vacation or turn off your phone,” as a presenter said. We have to remember that we, as caregivers, can experience vicarious trauma by working with the guests we work with. As the Dali Lama put it, “In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering… if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have long-term perspective.”
This is a great lead in to describing a session I attended called Self Care – Knowing Your Boundaries. Hospitality is all about breaking boundaries, but some boundaries are good. They help preserve identity, prevent people from being used, and create respect. Some boundaries are about saying yes or no, but some are about setting limits. They allow us to connect without absorbing, or being absorbed by, others. It isn’t wrong to recognize our limits, but acknowledging them is the most difficult. The best quote I took from there is that “the end of boundaries is not freedom; the end of boundaries is the end of life.”
Knowing our limits can prevent us as staff, board and volunteers from becoming arrogant about our helping. We are not here to feed our own egos. We may try to remake our guests into our own image, instead of helping them become the person they are but we need to remember that this is the family’s journey, and we need to let them take it with our assistance. It isn’t our journey to take for the guests. They need to be allowed to do for themselves.
In part four of this series Melissa explores the issue of ADVOCACY and how one can lend their voice and change lives.
*If you believe someone is in crisis, is an immediate threat to themselves or someone else, or is in imminent danger, please call 9-1-1, or visit the local emergency room. If you would like to learn more about the services offered by Seacoast Family Promise, we can be contacted at 603-658-8447.
For other information on SFP including ways to volunteer or donate, please visit our website at: www.SFPNH.org