Tag Archives: altruism

Community Resilience: Aid versus Preparedness

Building community resilience means building group solidarity and the connection between this, faith organisations and charities is well known.

Elsewhere I’ve written about Resilience – drawing on Faith for Strength and how faith organisations including places of worship could play an increasingly active role in preparedness. How effective responses from faith organisations are, especially in times of crisis, emergency or disaster is clear: often they are the first on the ground lending assistance and giving aid. In some instances, this is not unproblematic, however, as my counter terrorism colleagues will appreciate for the provision of aid and welfare can also lead to creating a so called ‘enabling environment’ for extremist groups. Maybe this is part of the reason why some of those who really are doing good unconditionally and purely from a humanitarian point-of-view have such a hard time. Maybe it’s simply because some of them look a little different.

Meet Ravi Singh:

Khalsa Aid has a long and outstanding track record of providing aid not only internationally, but also  – yes you are hearing correctly – here in the UK.

“This is our community, these are our countrymen who are in dire need. I never knew the amount of devastation until we drove around to get to this place, we had to go several different routes and it’s amazing. The floods … the fields are like lakes. It’s unbelievable, how will they recover from this disaster? I think we all need to pull together; it’s very very important. ”

Ravi Singh, 2014  Disaster Charity Khalsa Aid Helps (UK) Flood Victims

 

 

“The impact of the floods in the north of England and Scotland has been enormous. Yet the disaster has brought together people who might never normally mix – from the armies of Sikh and Muslim volunteers to the individuals sending care parcels.”

 

The image in The Guardian article How the floods united the north from which the above quote is taken, shows volunteers from Khalsa Aid, giving out food to villagers in the flood-hit Lancashire village of Croston.

…. and in July 2016 they were handing out water to stranded motorists during a heatwave

So, why am I telling you all this? While absolutely brilliant, it simply should not come to this in the first place. Not today, in the 21st century and not in the UK, a first world country.

What is to be done?

Places of worship as centres for community resilience

Previously I’ve talked about Community Resilience Building Blocks – it all starts with prepared individuals which puts the onus on individuals and why that is tricky in Resilience and Preparedness Roadblocks: what stops us? While fundamentally ‘preparedness must begin individually, we also all know that real strength lies in social groups and solidarity; see Altruism and why it pays to be kind.  As I mentioned earlier, one way of building community resilience is by drawing on Faith for Strength but it goes further, for places of worship can do a lot more than prayer and can become the nexus for community preparedness, responding to spiritual as well as bodily needs during times of real crisis.

This approach is already happening in North Yorkshire. Last year the North Yorkshire Resilience Forum created a successful evidence-based model approach which you can read more about in UK Community Resilience, a brilliant example of what works.  It is my and other people’s sincere hope that in the future this kind of forward thinking, pro-active model will be supported and made available much more widely across many parts of the UK. It is also my hope that eventually such models will tackle and include food security issues.

Places of worship are important for another reason: security

The UK Government Home Office reacted swiftly in the aftermath of the horrific attacks in France on Jacques Hamel, the 85 year old priest at St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray.

While certainly a step in the right direction, the funding scheme is sadly limited to securing property, rather than people.  Being rooted in (hate) crime prevention thinking, this is not surprising.  What a brilliant opportunity this could be to broaden capacities and capabilities!

Places of worship, similar to schools, feature as areas of refuge and shelter-in-place on many an emergency planner’s community emergency plan. Why not also provide the wider resources needed to to communities so that they can respond in a major incident, emergency or disaster? I leave you with this question on this hottest September days since 1911 and also with a link to our newest information hub for places of worship evaq8.co.uk/PlacesOfWorship

Wishing you a safe and prepared rest of the week.

Monika  

This post is also accessed by bit.ly/AidVSPreparedness

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Resilience – drawing on Faith for Strength

June marks the beginning of increased emergency preparedness in many parts of the world. Here in the UK and Europe we move to level 1 summer preparedness for heat waves while in the US the Atlantic Hurricane season starts. In addition this year there seems to be a very high chance of another El Nino which will have wide-reaching effects across the globe. See today’s article in The Guardian: How El Nino will change the weather in 2014. It is no wonder then that the web is full of campaigns that aim to raise public awareness for Disaster Preparedness and Resilience. What struck me particularly, however, is a report by Dana Bartholomew from the Los Angeles Daily News.

Faith-based Community Organization to host Disaster Preparedness Events

Source http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Religion_in_SF.pngThis week, she reports that the LA County Office of Emergency Management launches a campaign asking faith-based community organizations to host disaster-preparedness events. US Churches, synagogues and mosques may soon help residents to prepare for what they call ‘the big one’ – an earthquake, tsunami or other major incidents.

I was impressed for it seems that now things are developing in new and promising ways. The relationship between religious or spiritual faith and resilience is supported by scientific research as well as by countless personal stories of amazing perseverance that attest how such practises can provide strength. Now, before I go any further let me state that I’m not religious. Rather, my point of view is humanistic and as such this new and much more open, preventative approach to community resilience by faith based organizations is a brilliant step in the right direction. Rather than being confined to provide support in the aftermath of a disaster there now is the possibility of a real shift in…

  • moving from Faith and Recovery to Faith and Preparedness

This constitutes a tangible power shift that can benefit millions. It has the potential to open the disaster preparedness conversation to a much wider audience, broadening and bridging social understandings. Done sensitively it can inform, support and enable individuals to acquire the understandings, tools and skills necessary to be better prepared for disasters at all levels: as individuals, as families, in their neighbourhoods and wider communities.

Generosity; source http://www.pastormike.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/generosity.jpg

The word ‘religion’ comes from Latin ‘religare’ meaning to bind. One aspect of the relationship between resilience and religion lies in exactly that quality – the particular strength-giving cohesion of a special social group with a particular outlook. The nature and quality of that outlook, however, is crucial. Religious coping is not automatically associated with well-being or resilience and researchers distinguish between positive and negative patterns1. People who see God as punitive and judgemental may feel they ‘deserve’ their troubles, that their fate is controlled by an unsympathetic all-powerful being. This can leave some people with a limited sense of control – a form of learnt helplessness that is difficult to overcome. On the other hand, the associations of faith with positive physical and mental health as well as resilience are well documented 2, particularly in patients suffering from medical conditions. Yet, interestingly, the reasons why this should be so are much less clear. There are a number of factors to consider:

  • regular attendance may foster resilience factors, i.e. optimism, altruism and a search for meaning and purpose
  • interaction with positive and resilient role models that encourage adopting meaningful social roles
  • experience of generosity and tolerance which may trigger reciprocity
  • protection against destructive habits

But of course it’s much more complex than that. The support that practitioners receive may come from their beliefs as well as from their fellow human companions. Most formal religions focus on the practitioner’s personal relationship with a supreme being who, on the positive side, provides guidance, strength and protection. For some people, this relationship boosts their own feelings of inner strength and self-efficacy and helps them to realize what Dante Allighieri described as “Be bold and the mighty shall protect you”– believing that God is at your side may give you the confidence to tackle challenges that otherwise may seem too daunting.

What if you are not religious?

Non-believers like me can and should reclaim the most useful bits of religion that, according to Alain de Botton, have been annexed by the godly. I really recommend his book ‘Religion for Atheists’ (not that I would categorize myself as one) that takes as a starting point the assumption that God is a human creation. See Philosophy now for a book review. The 26th March 2014 issue of New Scientist also has a number of very interesting articles on the topic. On the more practical side, any kind of regular practice that is positively empowering is beneficial. Examples include yoga, t’ai chi ch’uan, qigong, aikido, tantric rituals, sufi mysticism, sadhana, native healing traditions etc. Research testing the effectiveness of these approaches for trauma and survivors is expanding rapidly.

Albert Bandura (Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University): “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life”

source: http://offgrid-festival.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/P1150573.jpg

 

Wishing you a great week.

Monika

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!


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References:

  • 1Pargament et al, 1998; Patterns of positive and negative religious coping with major life stressors. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37 (4), 710-724
  • 2McCullough et al, 2000; Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-analytic review. Health Psychlogy; 19 (3), 211-222
  • 3Streeter et al, 2010; Effects of Yoga versus Walking on mood anxiety and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study; Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16 (11), 1145-1152
  • De Botton, Alain, 2012, Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, Pantheon Books
  • Lawton, Graham, 2014, Religion without God – and other related articles in New Scientist Magazine issue 9900
  • Cheema, A.R., Scheyvens, R., Glavovic, B., Imran, M. (2014) Unnoticed but important: revealing the hidden contribution of community-based religious institutions of the mosque in disasters. Natural Hazards, 71(3), 2207-229

 

Altruism and Resilience – a crucial yet complex link and why it pays to be kind

updated 10/06/2017

This week saw yet another round of London tube strikes resulting in transport misery for thousands. More are planned next week and to boot there are Firefighter strikes this weekend.

As I set out mostly on foot these last couple of days I noticed both the short-tempered rudeness and hostility of some but even more so the many acts of random kindness of complete strangers that conveyed a deep sense of unselfish solidarity: we’re all in this together – we might just as well make it more tolerable for one another.
Broken chainIt all got me thinking about the crucial and complex link of altruism and resilience and how this connects up to disaster preparedness – say, when – perhaps because of a major incident – we all may have to grapple with the consequences of transport and supply disruptions on a very different scale for real.

Doing a bit of background reading what struck me immediately is the large amount of evidence that supports my humanistically inclined belief of “help others so that they in turn may help you for you cannot possibly do it all on your own”. To many this may sound rather counter intuitive. After all, simply picture a few survivors stranded on an island with limited resources – the toughest and fittest one survives, right? Well perhaps not but we may soon get some real insight and I for one can hardly wait to see Bear Gryll’s new series “The Island” that starts this Monday, 5th May on Channel 4 at 9pm.

In the meantime, however, let us be a little bit less dramatic and consider that survival is both short – and long-term and take a look at how…

Altruism moderates Life Stresses and predicts your Health Status

Altruism, also called social interest, is associated with better life adjustment, better marital adjustment and satisfaction, less hopelessness and depression overall. Being interested in and committed to wide social networks helps you to moderate stress to such an extent that it becomes a good predictor of your physical health status.

MIT researchers Schwartz and colleagues who made these findings also think that the links between social interest, better mental resilience and reduced stress are in turn related to augmented self-confidence, an increased ability to be able to reframe one’s own experience and perceive greater meaning in life. Yet more evidence comes from the influential Hawaiian longitudinal study I mentioned in my earlier Nature-Nurture post which found that children who helped others in a meaningful way (i.e. assisting a family member, neighbour or some other community member) were the most likely to lead successful lives as adults. In short…

Altruism is intrinsic, reciprocal, fosters Resilience – AND IT PAYS !

A large amount of scientific evidence from infant research, experimental psychology and ethology (study of animal behaviour) suggests that altruism has had an important influence on behaviour throughout history and has real survival value. Altruism represents an interesting and complex interaction of environmental and genetic influences – nature as well as nurture, a healthy dose of both. For example, research amongst some South American native tribes revealed that those individuals who produce and share more food than average are rewarded during times of hardship. This discovery led the well-known psychiatrist Yakov Shapiro to propose that this reciprocal altruism has many benefits and rewards:

  • enhanced reputation and power – leading to
  • greater status, esteem and influence within the community – resulting in
  • privileged access to resources when the community faces catastrophic stress

Another author, Michael Shermer, further supports these evolutionary origins of our moral sense commenting that as a species of social primates we have evolved a deep sense of right and wrong. We reward reciprocity and cooperation and find ways to ‘punish’ selfishness and free riding. This emotional ‘barometer’ may be crucial and a hallmark of how resilient people wrestle with moral dilemmas. Importantly, resilient people are perhaps better able to make difficult moral decisions based on a more balanced approach of both reason and emotion.

Resilient people make more Balanced Decisions ~ What would YOU do?
The classic “runaway trolley” dilemma – Come and Have a Go !

If you can’t see the embedded video – here is the link to YouTube

First Scenario:

cognitivephilosophy.net

Imagine yourself watching a runaway trolley roll down a track towards five strangers who would be killed if the trolley struck them. You have the ability to flip a switch and divert the trolley to another track where just one stranger is standing. If you flip the switch, one person will be killed instead of five. What would you do?

In Joshua Greene’s famous fMRI study most participants said that it was morally right to flip the switch.

 

Second scenario:

cognitivephilosophy.net

Now imagine standing on a footbridge next to a stranger and that five people are trapped below in the path of the same oncoming runaway trolley. Pushing the stranger onto the track is the only way to save the other five people. What would you do? The end result of the two options are identical (one person dies and five survive) yet most of Greene’s participants said they would refuse to push the stranger. In terms of cognitive psychology, the second scenario involves far more emotional processing than the first which is shown in the fMRI scan by greater activation of the limbic brain regions – the same areas that activate during fear, another rather important aspect when considering resilience as discussed in my previous post “Understanding Fear”.

So, what has Moral Reasoning to do with Resilience? Choices are complex !

Choices in a real Emergency or Disaster situation more often than not involve dilemmas much tougher than the above trolley example. Sometimes there simply are no “right” or “better” choices; sometimes there are no good choices at all. Understandably, many a survivor is later haunted by memories and questions of “what else could I have done?” It is important to acknowledge that in some situations there may be no optimal moral choice and that resilience is simply retaining one’s sanity after the extreme hardship has passed. And that requires moral courage.

The Good News: you can learn Moral Reasoning and Moral Courage !

Gus Lee a former corporate whistle-blower and later US Senate ethics investigator writes in his book on Leadership: “…courage is not something with which we are born… courage is a learned quality, an acquirable set of skills, a practiced competence. It is like boxing except it is easier, smells better and causes fewer nosebleeds.”

Where do you begin learning Moral Courage? As easy as 1 – 2 – 3 and right at your doorstep

The Guardian

First, following Rushworth Kidder’s three steps process, you must make an honest self-assessment. We all have core values and beliefs. What are they? Which are the most important? Are you living by these principles and values? Are you falling short and where? Are you motivated to change and can you do so?

Second, take all these points and discuss them with a highly principled person you admire. Such discussions can help you to recognize and analyse situations where your actions have moral implications. It also allows you to honestly and openly explore and evaluate the risks and dangers involved in defending your core values.

Third, practise your moral values and try to uphold them in challenging situations. Stay vigilant because it’s easy to relax your values, make compromises and take short cuts. By doing again and again what you know to be right and evaluating that against the reactions of the people that matter to you in your communities you will build a strong moral compass and moral courage.

This is nothing new really for Aristotle already wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics:

“We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts”

Practise makes Perfect – Simple! And where and when do we do all this? Where better than right at our doorstep in everyday life through many acts of random kindness aka altruism; hopefully reciprocal but one cannot always be greedy – besides, altruism and reciprocity work much better on a ‘grand’ scale when freed from simplistic one to one constraints. It all goes towards making our shared realities on planet earth just this much more tolerable no matter what modern life – and the forces of nature – throw at us.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato

Wishing you a happy Bank Holiday weekend full of Moral Courage and plenty of Altruism to continue building your ever increasing Resilience !

Monika

You might also be interested in the TED talk on altruism by Matthieu Ricard


Thank you for sharing.

 

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

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References: