Supporting Humanitarian Aid Workers

CBR Curriculum

The CBR Project helps humanitarian relief workers to combat the physical and psychological effects of the chronic stress they experience in conflict zones and natural disaster situations.  

We provide knowledge, tools and peer support for aid workers isolated in refugee camps and other front-line field positions, as well as those experiencing the stress of technical or management roles in an office environment. 

Designed by world experts from diverse fields

The CBR Project approach was designed by experts in trauma and mindful movement, psychologists from Doctors Without Borders and world-renowned teachers of mindfulness and meditation. The training programs integrate three tools - psychological education, meditation and yoga - to achieve the ABC of increased resilience: awareness, balance and connection.

Our products 

Since December 2015, the CBR Project has been run by a former aid worker. We therefore strive to keep focused on the real and immediate needs of aid workers who will always be our core constituency. With that aim in mind, the first strategic shift implemented in 2016 was to move training programs to Jordan from our base at the Garrison Institute in the United States. Our aim is clear: to bring the work to where it is most needed; as close as we can to the major crises where humanitarians are working. 

The second strategic shift under new leadership was to diversify our 'products', by which we mean the channels and opportunities through which aid workers can get access to knowledge and support on resilience, burnout, self-care and practical stress management tools. To that end, we have three products:

  • 4 Day Residential Training Programs
  • 1 Day Workshops
  • 90 Minute Stress Management Basics

4 DAY TRAINING PROGRAMS - Our original and best: The detailed curriculum for these residential, retreat-based courses was built on fifteen years of retreat and mindfulness expertise from the Garrison Institute in New York. Founded at the Garrison Institute, the CBR Project 4 Day Training Programs have been designed and tested specifically with aid workers over the past 5 years. For details and testimonials, click here.

Ambassadors: Our 4 Day Training Programs help individual aid workers to further develop their own resilience, as well as supporting them to emerge as ambassadors for resilience, self-care, wellness and #bewellservewell principles within their organization.

Continuing Support after the Training: The individual and leadership journey of each of our alumni is supported beyond our first 4 days together in three key ways:

  • The CBR App: 24 access to bespoke CBR Project meditation exercises (audio), mindful movement exercises (videos), and reminders of what we learned about the psychology and physiology of stress (audio).
  • 12 Months of Support: To support this continuous learning journey, the CBR Project training program includes one year of continued support. We achieve this through 12 online peer support and mentoring sessions led once per month by meditation teacher Hugh Byrne and CBR Project Director, Emmett Fitzgerald. 
  • Peer Support: One of the most important roles of the residential training program is to create new friendships and a safe space to address stigma and fear of open discussion. CBR alumni have access to their trusted network of peers through email contact, private Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups and other opt-in methods for staying connected.

1 DAY WORKSHOPS - an adaption to the Syria Response: From conversations with friends and colleagues in Jordan and across the region, we know that not everyone has the time or the financing to attend or send stressed-out colleagues to attend 4 days and 3 nights away from the day to day demands of the job. 

Therefore, since the CBR Project opened up operations in the Middle East in 2016, we have developed a 1 Day Workshop format to help give more people access to the basics of stress management and resilience.

Like learning to drive a car, changing behavior and coping mechanisms for stress takes longer than a day. But with access to the full 4 Day Curriculum via the CBR App, as well as ways to stay connected to their peers from the training, we have developed a workshop which aid workers report enjoying and finding helpful as a first step.

90 MINUTE "IN-OFFICE" STRESS MANAGEMENT BASICS: Again in acknowledgement of the time and finance constraints with which aid workers and organizations necessarily struggle, we created a third product offering which can be delivered in 90 minutes. Clearly, the goals are entirely different from what we aim to provide over one or four days. However, with those realities understood from the outset, the feedback from our first Stress Management Basics programs in May and July 2017 in Jordan, we have had very positive feedback. 

Practical Focus: We are already working with six agencies in Jordan to deliver these introductory sessions which are experiential and practically focused. The focus is on demonstrating practical tools for stress management and resilience. Our key question is practical: what can people do in a few minutes at their desk to gain awareness and respond mindfully to stressful situations? 

In Offices or in Camps: These sessions have been delivered in NGO and UN headquarter offices in Amman, as well as in refugee camps and other field settings where staff are working. For more information, contact Emmett.

Support Before, During and AFter Deployment

Individual humanitarian aid organizations have made good-faith efforts to improve staff well-being, but those in-house programs cannot achieve the economies of scale required to change the industry through significant investment in research, training programs and technology.

Critically, individual relief organizations’ staff well-being programs can only benefit current staff. As a result, new arrivals are insufficiently prepared for deployment and former staff receive no support after their contracts end—a time when relief workers often experience the worst effects of the stress they have endured.

The CBR Project can provide support to relief workers before, during and after deployment, even if staff move between organizations or take a break from full-time relief work.