Day 4 - Bong County
During the vicious civil war that consumed Liberia for nearly 15 years, Bong County was the Rebels camp because of it's North Central location. It was easy enough for them to get anywhere from here. Today, we drove 3 hours through pot hole filled highways to visit Bong County and facilitate a session on Inclusion.
Kaillie and I are both familiar with the Right To Play model, but neither of us had ever taught a module before. It was a little intimidating to stand in front of an audience of 30 Liberian coaches in training (CIT's) and communicate in our Canadian english, but we were up for the task.
I personally love facilitating. It gives me a total high when I get in front of a group and provide them with tools to elevate. Providing the materials and questions and then letting them come up with the answers is the best! Honestly, it makes my job really easy, but I also believe that experiencing is the best way to learn.
Our job today was to teach about the importance of inclusion, especially for females and for those with physical challenges (in the module it was originally called disabilities, but one of the students suggested we call it physical challenges instead. Here here!). When we arrived today, we came at a time when the group was playing a game called land mines. One of the coaches in training was in a wheel chair contraption so I knew that this group was already going to be open minded to inclusion and modification.
We started off our session with a brief introduction about ourselves. It's been really interesting watching Kaillie trying to explain bobsleigh to the groups…they usually have a blank stare when she mentions "icy track". I, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to do a back flip or handstand and then people usually get it ;)
After the intro, we got right into the material.
Q: Why are we learning this today?
A: Because inclusion is one of the core principles behind Right To Play. Sport and play breaks down barriers and differences and allows us all to be together in a peaceful environment. It is essential as a leader that you encourage every child in your community to be a part of the games - regardless of their religion, gender or physical challenge.
We played a game where we number off participants 1-6. 6's were to be referee's and everyone else was to form a circle and play a short game where they tried to get a ball through the other group members legs. Our friend with the physical challenge (Damn it, I forget his name!) was a #4. Kaillie came to me before the game started and wanted to change the referee's to be #4's. I completely put my foot down and said that the learning in this challenge would be so rich if his group has to try and figure out a way to include him in the game. I realized in that moment that it's very natural to want to avoid controversy and modify the game to make it more comfortable for the person with the physical challenge. But think about it for a second, they probably always become the referee and sit on the outside of the game. That is not what we were trying to teach. Every Right To Play game can be modified so that it is still challenging and everyone can be involved. In the end, the group did an excellent job of changing up the game so that everyone got to play. It was definitely one of those moments when the clouds parted ways and a ray of sunshine glimmered through ;)
Our next exercise was to pin point some of the stigma's that females face in their community when it comes to participation in sport. The group did a giant brainstorm and then we selected the top choices (Changes physicality, not able to get pregnant and lack of confidence being a few). Then the CIT's got into groups and discussed possible solutions. This was my favourite part to facilitate. Kaillie and I walked around the room and listened in on what was being discussed. Many of the CIT's were just scratching the surface with words like 'encourage' and 'awareness'. I kept pushing them to dig deeper and kept asking the questions, "What specific action can YOU take? What can YOU say?".
In the end, they came up with some really awesome and specific examples of what they, as leaders, can do to help facilitate the inclusion of females in the Right To Play play sessions. My favourites were: 1. making females the leaders or team captains and 2. having an information session with parents to give them the tools to support female participation. Good work students!
After the session we had lunch (which, sidebar, I believe made my stomach very upset later on!) and then we made the 3 hour trek back to Monrovia. On the drive back, I was asking Jamie - our RTP HQ rep - a million and one questions about how the coach and leadership participants get selected and trained. She explained to me that each of the 30 CIT's all had to submit an application to be involved. They have to write a short piece about what sport and play means to them and what kind of leader they want to become. They are also required to have a couple of non RTP references vouch for their integrity and leadership skills. Once their application is accepted, they do the intense 5 day training program from 8:30am-5:30pm. Once that's complete, they are responsible for organizing and facilitating play sessions with the children in their communities. They are monitored and evaluated for the next 3 months by RTP National staff and if they have elevated their community and become a competent coach, they receive their official Right To Play coach certification in a special ceremony! It's a big process and one that requires pretty intense commitment, but in the end it's a system that produces great coaches.
I was really honoured to have the opportunity to facilitate the Inclusion module today. It made me believe in the power of the programs even more. These coaches are receiving really comprehensive and experiential training and it is helping them to become the best leader they can possibly be. There was energy, excitement and enthusiasm in the room and it made me really hopeful for this crop of coaches. I love how RTP is sustainable - I could see a few individuals in the room who I just knew would be standing in the facilitator shoes one day. It's about creating a cycle of positive change, providing the tools and letting the really motivated coaches rise to the top and help train the next generation. It was very encouraging to see.
I'm going to end this post with a big "I GOT IT". For those of you who know what I'm talking about, please have pity for me. For those of you who have no clue - please pray I don't have "IT" tomorrow when we are out in the field;)