While staff in other pre-school programs and schools were taking a well -deserved end-of-year break, the women of Shingirirai were working hard at acquiring new skills and deepening their understanding of the challenges that face the children in their care.
In this context, the Trust’s workshop on Reaching the Inner Child allows Early Child Development (ECD) staff and volunteers to explore their ‘inner child’ in depth and understand the effect of death and grief on young children and on their development. As a result, they come to understand both themselves and the children in their charge more fully. The empathy this creates is one of the signatures of the Shingirirai approach.
This workshop was first developed by Shingirirai in 2004/2005 in partnership with Diane Smart, a professional counselor specializing in child abuse. It has grown and developed over the years; this year Programs Manager Cecilia Masekereya prepared forty flip charts detailing the process, to create a highly professional presentation.
Mel O’Gorman, director of the Shingirirai Trust, was profoundly moved by the participants’ wholehearted involvement. “The first day was the hardest with many women revealing past hurts and suffering,” she said. “There were many tears and a release of hidden grief.”
More practical exercises were woven through the program to lighten the mood and underline the teaching points. One exercise was about each person drawing themselves as a bottle full of emotions, with each emotion represented by a different color.
Two of the ECD staff put their advanced training in this area to good use, helping to facilitate the workshop. “This is a great example of how the peer education training approach works within Shingirirai,” says Mel. “We’re hoping that other Shingirirai women can also access further education opportunities, then share what they’ve learned with their colleagues and the wider community.” Outside training opportunities costs around $200 per woman per year.
In-service training workshops like Reaching the Inner Child are offered three times a year. The learning is put to immediate practical use – and not just within the Trust’s ECD programs. Staff often make home visits to families facing the greatest challenges, women doing their best under severe limitations to raise the many orphans left in their care.
“In this community, skills training is vital,” says Mel. “It’s all about creating new and vibrant resources in the community through introducing women to their limitless possibilities.”