Overcoming Crisis and War Trauma Through Organization-wide Resilience Training


Chimes Israel has recently launched organization-wide resilience training program to help our employees learn how to cope with stressful situations and intervene better in times of emergency. They will also learn to better care for and impart this knowledge to our service recipients with disabilities at their individual cognitive levels.

Workers have told us that every security escalation causes floods of anxiety. This is because they do not have a plan nor applicable skills and tools for coping with the challenges.

The need for resilience training became a priority after the October 7th Massacre. According to Anat Shachar, director of Chimes Israel’s Shaked early childhood rehabilitative day care center in Ashkelon, When the war started, staff members were put into the challenging position of having to provide emotional care for others as part of their jobs, while they themselves were coping with their own trauma.

“People here lost friends and family,” said Shahar. “My aunt was murdered at the Nova Festival, I lost three friends in Kfar Aza, and the son of a friend was kidnapped from Nir Oz. It is very difficult. The anxiety threshold was high. There were between ten and twenty sirens a day. You are immersed in all the bad news. It’s very scary, and amid all this, our children’s primary needs are what matters. You must work, provide motivation, and support all the families who are also in pain.”

A Chimes social worker survived October 7th in her Gaza area kibbutz safe room and evacuated the area with her husband and two children. In the aftermath, while she in her family moved several times from relatives’ homes to hotels, she helped obtain food, diapers, medicine, and toys for Chimes families. All of this was extremely stressful for her and while she got through it, even telling the story in an interview months later, she broke down and cried.

Another employee who hid in her Gaza Envelope Kibbutz safe room for eight hours on October 7th, recalled the power of her previous resilience training to enable her to focus on survival instead of fear. “The infiltration of the terrorists and the noise of the gunshots caused my body to stop breathing. Then I remembered that in the resilience workshop we learned about breathing and how to lower the pressure as much as possible.”

During the first few months of the war when our centers were closed, we sent our educational staff members from our three Ashkelon centers to each adult and child beneficiary’s home to activate their bodies and minds with their personal therapies. Both the children and adults were frightened due to the noises and reverberations of the sirens, Hamas rockets, and IDF bombs from nearby Gaza. One staff member told us that the skills she learned in her four-hour post-war emergency resilience training session were helpful in dealing with the beneficiaries’ emotions.

For our staff members not directly affected by the war, the training will help with the ongoing daily toll of caring for our dependent population. The work has a high burnout rate due to challenging workplace demands, difficult service recipient behavior, chronic stress, emotional exhaustion, low pay, and a lack of personal accomplishment.

NATAL (National Trauma Victims), a non-profit organization whose goal is to raise awareness regarding trauma on a national basis in Israeli society, is leading the training. NATAL’s team of facilitators includes therapists from a variety of mental health professions who are experts on stress, trauma, crisis intervention and resilience. They have created a curriculum tailored to the individual needs of each Chimes audience including executive management, center managers, and staff who work directly with people with disabilities. In addition, we will designate one representative from each center as the “resilience trustee,” to identify ongoing needs and build additional resilience programs for employees and service recipients. 

From early April to the end of August 2024, our 617 employees at all our centers will undergo training to improve resilience and crisis management to provide better care to our 1200 beneficiaries with disabilities. The Jewish United Fund of Chicago has generously contributed to this important program. However, the project is still underfunded and we would be grateful for any contributions to the Emergency Fund for its support. 

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