Like many small to medium INGO’s, STAND International was becoming increasingly aware about their duty of care to staff and volunteers whilst they were abroad, but was unsure whether Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) was something that was relevant. We decided to take action and explore whether it would be applicable to us and contacted Soteria Training.
During our day in the beautiful Lowther Hills, Soterias aim was to introduce us to the concepts of HEAT training and allow us to ask questions and experience some of their unique, learner-centred approaches. We shared the space with a couple of people from other organisations who were also keen to learn.
During the sessions we were informed by Derek, Serena & Mike about the various elements which were included in the HEAT training. Some things previously at the back of minds came up – we spoke about topics such as situational awareness, journey planning, surveillance & terrorism. When realising the level of detail and organisation that we could glean from the training, one of the participants mentioned that “Soterias brains have the sharpness that we require for awareness and planning”.
The trainers had thorough knowledge of each subject and we spoke at length about how and if they would be relevant to our organisations. A wealth of knowledge and previous experience came from each trainer. They all had very different backgrounds, and a wealth of life experience which was incredibly helpful – including journalism, army, paramedic & emergency services work, mountain rescue and teaching. They all had stories to tell – from their own, from colleagues, and stories from across the globe. One of the participants commented that “the trainers could tune into the right way to benefit working with us as an organisation.” Soteria explained that the training would be as bespoke as we needed to fit whichever issues we were likely to face and how to prepare the team best for every scenario.
One of the participants said they were “really impressed how it opened up a Pandoras Box”. We took part in some interactive scenarios – how to handle conflict in a car breakdown scenario as well as a complex first aid problem, as well as how to safely manoeuvre a mine field. We discussed about the ins and outs of how these situations would work with a variety of participants, including vulnerable volunteers.
When we were discussing how we could protect our teams from being isolated, potentially somewhere with hazards and danger, something which had been touched on before was satellite phones. As a small organisation, we rely a lot on Wi-Fi or our partners phones using local SIM cards – but sometimes these cut out and aren’t reliable. We conferred on this issue as well as many others with the Soteria team, and came away able to make the best decisions to protect our organisations wellbeing in as many different ways as we can.
Upon our return, the STAND team had a lot to reflect on. We are also excited about the prospect our trips abroad being better informed and prepared. Ultimately, our aims were about how we can improve our volunteers’ experiences when abroad – and their safety and our preparedness for situations which may arise. Our experience with Soteria and HEAT training was a brilliant glimpse into how we can action that, and we will do this moving forward into 2023 and beyond.
If you would like more information on how to be involved with Soteria and have a no-cost day to introduce the concepts of HEAT, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.