Can Emergency Relief and a Strengths Based Approach Co-Exist?


I have spent some of today planning for a training day tomorrow that I will run for the volunteers in our Emergency Relief Program.

Our Emergency Relief Program is one of the most challenging programs for me to oversee because (more than most other programs) I struggle to see it promoting a strength based approach.  It is so need driven and it has a culture of “how we have always done things” that spans over 30 years (and some volunteers who have been a part of it that long).

So I’ve scrawled over the cupboard door (which is painted with blackboard paint) one of the passages of scripture I find most compelling in this work:


The “Staff Only” sticker here is actually quite painfully ironic.

And tomorrow I want to ask the following questions of my volunteers:

What would it look like for each of the (over 2,000) individuals who walk through our door in crisis each year to be moved towards lives that are thriving, flourishing… abundant?

And what part might we play in walking a little way of that journey with them?

How could we use the strengths a person already has to help them see a way out of difficulty?

I know the responses I am likely to get.  I recognise the challenges that face my volunteers who, despite their best intentions, often struggle to provide much more than food vouchers in the face of aggression, indifference or just silence.  I understand.  People seeking institutional help during times of crisis have only two available protection mechanisms available to them:

  • Shame.
  • Entitlement (whether feigned or believed).

…and I know which my proud self would chose if I found myself in their shoes unable to provide for myself and my family.

But I believe that earnest and humble love can break through those protection mechanisms.
I believe that, given the choice, people would chose freedom from addiction; community over isolation; and abundance over scarcity.
…But I also believe that it takes a lot of loving and a lot of fighting to move from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. Life in slavery often seems easier; especially if it is the only way you have ever known.

I must hope and pray that I can inspire some of these beliefs in these 30 brave volunteers tomorrow.

Wish my luck and send me your prayers.

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