Preparing for homecoming
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Life After the Field: Preparing for Homecoming

Humanitarian work takes plenty of dedication and commitment. Being away from home can be a daunting decision, but the impact of helping others is worth it! After all, aid workers make the world a better place. Humanitarian aid workers face safety and security risks each day, that can be very stressful. However challenging humanitarian travel might be, returning can be even harder. That’s why it is essential to prepare for homecoming after a mission. This is particularly true for longer missions or deployments to conflict zones. If you are scheduled to come home soon from the field, here are some tips on preparing for your return.

Preparing for homecoming

First and foremost, it is important to actively prepare for coming home. Of course, you are probably extremely busy during the tail-end of your mission, but you should schedule some time to prepare mentally and emotionally for coming home.

Give yourself enough time to say goodbye to your friends and colleagues in the field. Visit your favorite places and try the things you meant to do but didn’t get around to doing. Reach out to your friends and family back home to start re-establishing connections. And, find out what resources your organization has available for coping with returning from the field.

Use existing resources

While most organizations have preparation resources, not all have strategies in place to help aid workers when returning home. That said, there are resources out there – potentially with your organization and also externally.

For example, the United Nations has a number of guides, self-assessment tools, and tips for homecoming. Additionally, there are various humanitarian networks online that can help you to cope. Plus, you can follow news sources such as The Secret Aid Worker to learn about other humanitarians’ experiences.

Learn about reverse culture shock

Almost everyone who returns home after a long-term mission experiences reverse culture shock. Remember how strange it was to learn a new culture and customs? But now you have adapted, so you have to learn your own culture all over again.

The good thing is that more often than not, reverse culture shock is pretty easy to cope with. You’ll need support from your family and a little self-awareness. However, it is important to remember that reverse culture shock can lead to more serious issues such as depression. It important to know the symptoms and how to address them.

Take time off

Sometimes it’s hard to jump right back in. You need time to adapt and adjust. You’ll also want to catch up with your friends and family. Possibly, you might even have to look for a home, a job, etc., so why not take some time off to decompress?

Taking time off can be a great way to give yourself space and time to re-adjust to your new reality!

Seek help

If you are feeling down, unhappy, or have signs of issues such as depression, then it might be time to seek professional help. Many aid workers don’t feel comfortable getting help upon their return, but it’s extremely important. Not only does it help your health, but it is also best for future projects that you will work on.

As an alternative to professional help, you may also choose to speak to a colleague who has had similar experiences. This may help to hash out any emotional or psychological challenges that you are facing upon return.

Be patient

Finally, remember that it might take time to re-adjust to “real” life. This is completely normal. Give yourself the time and space to come home. Humanitarians are often used to working in extremely high-pace and stressful environments. As such, the slow-down might be challenging. But, give it a chance!

Dealing with trauma and addressing mental health

Statistics show that nearly 30% of humanitarians returning home may experience depression. In addition, aid workers are often exposed to trauma and extreme human suffering. This can lead to PTSD and other mental health issues.

Additionally, humanitarians often do not seek help, as they feel guilty, comparing their situation to their beneficiaries. Yet, it is absolutely mandatory to address any trauma that you experience. Be aware of the symptoms and get professional help as soon as possible. And remember, you are not suffering alone.

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We believe our world is a better place when compassion can travel where it is needed most. As a global humanitarian travel organization, we devote ourselves to serving those who serve the world. Our experienced staff can be reached at any given time. Please use our quick address locator to contact your nearest Raptim office should you have any questions. You can also follow our blog for more stories and travel information.

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