The Oak Life Journal
Sep | Oct 2022
From the Editor
By Cameron Talbot • 4 min read
I burnt out, and it was ugly.
I will never forget the day it happened. Everything I had been holding in for the past year was sitting on me like a double load of half-baked bricks. Stepping into full-time orphan care as a 23-year-old with no prior experience meant long hours, dysregulated kids everywhere, highly emotional situations, all taking place in a culture that was foreign to me.
Walking onto the orphanage campus that day in 2016, I took one look at the dozens of children, and uncontrollably burst into tears. It was a complete and utter mental breakdown. (One of the more embarrassing days of my life, to be honest.) Quite literally unable to pull it together, I left the orphanage that day to take a short sabbatical.
Never had I been mentally and emotionally bulldozed by chronic stress in that way, nor have I since.
From that unfortunate event, we began to raise the question of ‘sustainability.’
“The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.”
This edition of The Oak Life Journal is dedicated to burn-out and sustainability practices. We believe sustainability should be a regular and major conversation in the orphan care community.
Because I know it isn’t just me. All of us are wrestling with our limits, our methods, our stress levels. We push these to the brink because we love the children we serve. They are worth the sacrifices we make. But when my effectiveness is diminished because I didn’t plan, fundraise, take a break, etc., I disrespect and possibly damage the very mission (and children) that brought me here.
For this very reason, Oak Life has developed an entire class on Sustainable Missions for international orphan care workers. You can see the trailer for that class here—
We have to talk about burn-out and sustainability.
And it starts by honestly answering the question, “Can I keep this going forever?” When the answer is ‘no,’ it’s time to make some adjustments.
Here are several things I can, in hindsight, recognize as diminishing my sustainability in that season—
• Lack of financial stability • Lack of experience in child care • Difficulty understanding the language • Poor diet • Unreasonable expectations on myself • Impatience to see change
Are any of these relatable?
What about you or your organization? What problems or practices are stretching you, your fellow staff or your ability to care for children too thin? Could it be time to take a break or pause, and address some underlying weaknesses? That isn’t selfish or wrong…it’s one of the wisest choices you can make on behalf of the children you love.