Are we really helping the people we assist?

We could, for example, simply respond to people’s expressions of need by agreeing to their requests, providing them with whatever they ask for, and moving on to the next person. In this way we could get through a greater number of visits than if we took the time to get to know the underlying issues as well as the presenting ones.

The purpose of the visit is to gather information from people we assist to better understand their circumstances, family, income and difficult situations they might be experiencing.


Debriefing refers to the process of sharing an experience with another with a view to eliminating any painful emotions attached to the experience. Debriefing is important as it provides the opportunity to stay in good emotional shape and maintain a healthy spirituality and enthusiasm for the good works of the Conference.

Optimum conditions for effective debriefing are:

The process of debriefing is straightforward. The Conference members agree to share the time in a particular way (say 15 minutes each). It is very wise to have some timeframe on the activity.

The person who is ‘first’ to share an experience and reflect on the emotions associated with it relies on the other member to:

Some behaviour to avoid:


NB. If you hear members or volunteers say the people we assist 'weren't even grateful', remember this, they don't have to be. We are the ones that must show gratitude!  

Only you can really answer the question, “Are we really helping the people we assist?”

In finding your answer, here are some questions you could ask about how we carry out our visits and engage with the poor:

  1. Do we respond to their needs or our preconceived views of their needs?
  2. Do we make people feel better about themselves and more hopeful?
  3. Do we empower people to take greater control of their lives?
  4. Do we build capacity, skills and confidence in people?
  5. Do we build resilience in people to withstand the hard times?
  6. Do we reduce the level of exclusion and isolation?

Source: Reimagining Home Visitation by Robert Fitzgerald, The Record, Winter 2012 PP 11-13