Self-esteem building after a flash flood

We shall prevail.



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Ensuring that relief work does not make people feel they are begging is a big responsibility that is integral to the organizing process. After a natural calamity. there is a big shift in a community’s reality. The following feelings shape up: denial, anger, a sense of having been betrayed in whatever form, self-pity and a lot more of negative emotions. The aftermath of a calamity is a rough time. It looks like people are all emotionally wounded that the community organizer’s bearing should be a merging of many emotions - compassion, firmness, discipline and a sharpness like that of a snake and a dove combined. It’s so easy, in fact so tempting, to judge the poor harshly during relief work. There’s the tendency of those who lost homes and the little belongings attached to poverty to grab any opportunities that come one’s way. The roots of the attitude is as complex as the history of oppression in the world itself. So the community organizer will have to view solutions to be more complex than they seem. Necessarily the community organizer’s preparedness in terms of values and attitudes is very important. An iron rule: Analyze societal structures before judging the poor. There should be no one rule for the rich and a different one for the poor.

Tips for volunteers who wish to help re-build people’s self-esteem after a calamity:

a) Empathy is an attitude to cultivate when working with the poor. It is putting one’s feelings in the shoes of the survivors of the calamity.

b) Compassion goes beyond pity. It is a willingness and readiness to journey with the poor in their quest to be viewed with dignity by those who have means in life.

c) Love for the poor is more than a feeling of closeness with the poor. It is respect and faith in the poor’s capacity to change their situation

d) Volunteers who are interested in helping organize a community for self-esteem re-building need to go into a preparatory learning activity to be very clear about a community organizer’s role in the organizing process.

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