To better understand burnout among charity workers at The Cradle of Hope

To continue working, despite the difficulties, one more time, one more day, just for today.  At THE CRADLE OF HOPE, we are depleted and disillusioned by our work. Suffering from melancholia, we are depressed, cynical and just finished. But keep trying, just for today, one more day. Hold on, endure. The Lord will provide.

Working at THE CRADLE OF HOPE is not easy.  Every day, we face the harsh realities of poverty, hunger, violence and neglect in our community. We try to BE THE DIFFERENCE, to bring some hope and relief to struggling families. But sometimes, it feels like we are fighting a losing battle.

One of the most heartbreaking things we do every day is to deliver food and toiletry packages to the homes of those who desperately need them. We see the desperation in their eyes, the gratitude in their smiles, the pain in their voices. We try not to ask too many questions, not to embarrass them any further, or to expose their wounds. We offer them some food, kindness and compassion and hope it makes a difference. We can only hand out what we receive from our generous donors, and we always need more to address the constant need.

There are many days when our hearts are torn out several times. The constant misery, the poverty, the neglect, the never-ending violence. It just never stops.

A while ago, a community member told us about a mother with a few children who had a tough time. We packed a food and toiletries package and drove to where they stay to drop it off for them. It would keep them going for a while. We don’t know where the father is and don’t want to ask yet. It’s embarrassing enough that strangers come to drop off a food package at your door. We don’t want to expose them further. The little girl, barely about four years old, gave the food package one look and immediately became very excited, and she said, “Mommy, mommy, look, there is bread”. Then we swallow our tears, return to the car, and continue our compassionate work.

We see the same faces, problems, and suffering and wonder if we make any impact at all. We wonder if our efforts are enough, if we are reaching enough people, if we are changing anything for the better. We wonder if anyone notices or cares about what we do.

Burnout is a psychological syndrome that occurs as a result of chronic stress in the workplace. It is characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. Burnout can have negative consequences for individuals, organizations, and society, such as poor health, lower productivity, higher staff turnover, and lower quality of service.

Charity workers are particularly vulnerable to burnout due to the nature of their work. They often face high demands, low resources, emotional challenges, ethical dilemmas, and conflicting stakeholder and donor expectations.  Moreover, they may experience compassion fatigue, which is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that can be caused by prolonged exposure to the suffering of others.

Different personal and organizational factors can contribute to burnout amongst charity workers, such as:

Personal factors: These include individual characteristics, such as personality traits, coping styles, motivation, expectations, and values. Personal factors also include life situations, such as family responsibilities, financial difficulties, health problems, or other sources of stress outside work. For example, some studies have found that perfectionism, low self-esteem, high emotional involvement, and lack of social support are associated with higher burnout levels.

Organizational factors: These include aspects of the work environment, such as workload, role clarity, autonomy, feedback, recognition, resources, leadership, culture, and relationships. For example, some studies have found that high workload, role conflict, role ambiguity, low autonomy, low feedback, low recognition, insufficient resources, unfairness, lack of purpose, and poor social support are associated with higher burnout levels.

Occasionally, we feel so overwhelmed by the never-ending needs which we can’t seem to meet. We see the endless lines of hungry people, the desperate pleas for help, and the heartbreaking stories of loss and pain. We feel like we are failing our mission, community, and God. We feel like we are drowning in a sea of misery, and we can’t save everyone.

We sometimes feel exhausted by the emotional toll this work takes on us. We feel the sadness, the anger, the frustration, and the guilt of witnessing so much injustice and inequality. We feel the stress, the anxiety, and the pressure of managing our resources and responsibilities. We feel the fatigue, the burnout, the emptiness of giving so much of ourselves and receiving so little in return.

Sometimes, we feel so hopeless that we want to give up. We see no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope for a better future, no resources to keep going. We feel like we are wasting our time, energy, and lives on a hopeless cause. We feel like we are alone, forgotten, abandoned.

As an organization, we are now at a point where we may have to close some of our Programs. If this happens, thousands of hungry adults and children will suffer even more than they do now. Our money is finished!  Many people encourage us and say, “The Lord will provide”. But the Lord cannot provide “through the air”. The Lord delivers through PEOPLE. Obedient people. So many people think “other” people will help!  So few “other” people help!

We remember why we do this. We recognise that God is our only hope. We remember that He has called us to serve His people with love and faithfulness.

Lord help!  We are tired. We are not superheroes. We are not miracle workers. We are just ordinary people who want to make a difference.  We are THE CRADLE OF HOPE.