Supporting Volunteer Well-Being Through Disaster: Perspectives and Practices of a Youth-Led Informal Crisis Volunteer Group

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Ahead of Print. Embedded in growing expectations for post-disaster volunteer participation are questions of volunteers’ psychological well-being. Witnessing destruction and suffering, and the intense pressures of the work itself, can place heavy demands on crisis volunteers, particularly in “informal” community groups that may lack the structure, systems, and supports embedded within “formal” disaster response organizations. This article examines how the Student Volunteer Army in Aotearoa New Zealand has negotiated volunteers’ well-being across two disaster responses: an earthquake in 2011 and terrorist attacks in 2019. We identify three interrelated practices adopted by the group to support well-being: “action” (enabling opportunities for people to engage in volunteering); “reflection” (facilitating processes of discussion and debriefing); and “connection” (creating physical space and practices to enhance social interactions). Our discussion considers the implications of multi-layered practices of support that can develop within informal crisis volunteer groups.

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly |  

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