Assessment of Resilience and Its Protective Factors in Outreach Volunteers

Michael Brodeur (2009)

Outreach volunteers are being called upon to perform global outreach. Volunteers repeatedly listen to trauma stories and witness large-scale human suffering. A combination of inadequate preparedness and intense exposure to survivors' pain may leave outreach volunteers susceptible to vicarious traumatization (VT). Little is known about the factors required to build resilience in volunteers. Protective factors, such as resilience, environmental factors, and related personal characteristics, which may prevent outreach trauma, need to be identified. The present research study examined several variables conceptualized to be protective factors and these variables' empirical relationships with resilience, the study's dependent variable. The variables were reactions to response work, a sense of personal accomplishment, multicultural awareness, multicultural relationship, positive daily events, and relational worldview. This author analyzed archived data from Disaster Shakti's (Antioch University New England) outreach to South Africa and Botswana in July 2007. Disaster Shakti is a student-run organization of clinical psychology graduate student volunteers and a faculty leader and supervisor. T-tests of difference showed that volunteers had higher levels of personal accomplishment, multicultural awareness, and multicultural relationship. Non-volunteers used solitary pleasant events more frequently than volunteers. Resilience correlated significantly with multicultural awareness, outreach volunteer reactions to outreach work, and Personal Accomplishment. One multiple regression analysis found that personal accomplishment, multicultural relationship, solitary pleasant events, and group (volunteers versus non-volunteers) were all significant predictors ofresilience. By identifying resiliency-based variables, the present study can help with the development of competent, research-informed training materials to enhance the likelihood of preparedness and self-care in outreach volunteers and, consequently, their pre- and post-outreach resiliency.