How “RAIN” can help you help others

Confronting the “Helper Syndrome”

Connie E. North

Education Leadership, Higher Education & International Education, UMCP[1]

Often our efforts, even for a good cause, are made in the service of our desires for comfort, security, and appreciation. … Failure to work with our inner turmoil—our need for power, our self-centered desire to possess, our fear-based greed and need to control—results in hatred, aggression, and intolerance. … Without inner understanding, individuals as well as societies will continue to flounder.

–Ezra Bayda, “The Helper Syndrome”

Last year, I returned from an alternative spring break wherein I accompanied 16 university students to the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2000), 49% of families inhabiting Pine Ridge live below the federal poverty level. Even more dire statistics cite the median annual income on this American Indian reservation, which is roughly the size of Connecticut, at 2600 to 3500 U.S. dollars; and the unemployment rate is approximately 85% (Schwartz, 2006). Despite conflicting “facts” about Pine Ridge, a drive through it reveals unmistakably extreme poverty and severe living conditions. Continue reading