If your team needs to increase its resilience, providing them with inspiration from unexpected sources can help members think about the roles they play and the important of teamwork and camaraderie.

Ask yourself, which groups in society are have the quietest voices and attract the least attention often suffering in silence behind closed doors? If you said it was the elderly or the disabled you wouldn’t be far off the mark. But what about the elderly who are disabled? Their voice is seldom heard.

Survival of the fittest

Working in the Klong Toey slums of Bangkok over the past 10 years as part of the charity Hands Across the Water I became increasingly aware of the silent suffering of those who are elderly and living with a debilitating disability. Some are dealing with a lifelong condition, for others it might have been an accident, disease or stroke that left them impaired. The impairment and advancing age means they can’t compete for jobs that exist. How then do they survive?

True resilience

This story became very real for me when I met Mr and Mrs Bai in 2015. Mr Bai was a man who had the scars and body of someone who had worked a long hard life. He was in his late 70s and his strength was starting to diminish. His days were spent, as they had been for the past 10 years, caring for his wife who was paralysed from a stroke and needed to be fed through a nose tube 4 times a day. Their only income was from their physically disabled 40-year-old son who worked at night when it was available. He earned just over $10 a night.

Walking into their home for the first time, it was a sight that will stay with me forever, and I’d suggest that is a good thing. It serves as constant reminder of why I do what I do. The entire house was 7 metres by 6 metres. The timber boards that served as the walls had gaps that you could pass your hand through and the house‑as are all those in the slums‑are built on reclaimed land of the port authority of Bangkok. This is fine until it rains, which it does often, causing the water levels to rise and the homes to flood.

Make a change

When I led a team into the slums last year, we changed things for Mr and Mrs Bai. In a ridiculously short period of time we relocated the family into a temporary home, emptied the house of their possessions and demolish the home. All of this took a couple of hours and by lunch time the local builders that we’d contracted were sinking concrete posts into the ground to create the foundations for their new home. Forty-three days after meeting Mr Bai, he moved into a new home, which couldn’t have been more different than where he’d lived for the previous 30 years.

When I walk through the slums I’m reminded of the remarkable strength shown by those who live there and how bringing teams to help in the slum help to build team resilience. The stories I hear, the sights I see and the people I meet … they stay with me long after I leave the slums and long after I return to the comfort and affluence that many of us share living in Australia.

The teams that I take into the slums to support families like Mr Bai are not builders and we’re not confused by our abilities and ambitions. We fund the building of the new home and employ local builders who know the land and benefit from the employment community. What we from our time in the slums are lessons in life around resilience, tolerance, compassion and humility. Lessons that confront you there and then and others that bubble to the surface long after you’ve left.