Our team's facilitation journey
My journey as a facilitator of healing/learning spaces began as a seed in childhood, by the time I was a teenager I knew I wanted to be a pastor or a teacher. The one seemed to mean working with adults and the other children in my head. I chose children.
I started with Youth With A Mission straight out of school and over the next decade did a number of their University of the Nations courses. The highlight of the journey was the Teachers of the Nations course with Dr. James Kilkenny at Christian Heritage School in Tyler Texas. It was while I was teaching grade 3 and grappling with the new things I was learning at this school that I realised that I needed to get more training in social work, as my interest was broader than the classroom. I was interested in the society that the children lived in.
In 2000 we moved back to South Africa and settled in Cape Town working with Beautiful Gate, burdened by the impact of HIV on children in Southern Africa at the time. Holger stayed working at Beautiful Gate for 4 years, while I stayed home with my toddler and baby at the time. In 2002 I started studying with Philippi Trust, South Africa to get a diploma in counselling. In 2005 Holger and I started an organisation called Mercyaids focusing on children affected and infected by HIV. And later that year we both got involved with Philippi Trust’s OVC camps and soon became directors of the camps. In 2007, I started a 2 year process with the Zakheni Arts Foundation and became a Firemaker facilitator. The idea was to teach the program’s skills to adults who worked directly with children at risk in communities. The focus was on how to use the arts to help children express and address their psychosocial needs. Working cross-culturally with adults in the areas of creativity, emotion and helping people own and tell their stories changed the way I thought adults learned. And I discovered that language does not have to be a barrier to learning. Two things happened during this process, I became a passionate facilitator of experiential learning, and I made a shift towards working with adults who work with children rather than working directly with the children.
At the end of 2008 the the various strands in my life converged and the idea of what my facilitative role should look like became clear. I got involved with the OVC training of Philippi Trust and from that point Barbara and I became the trainers. At the end of 2009 we changed the name of the program to Resilient Kids.
The travelling I have done with Resilient kids has shaped me even more. In places like Uganda, Liberia, Ireland and Germany I have been amazed to see how effectively the tools we use work cross-culturally. I have been touched by the stories of many people overcoming very hard things and continuing to give out and create safe places for children.
I am very grateful for the training and learning opportunities I have had. They have shaped my philosophy of healing spaces where learning can happen, and I continue to grow in the direction of the best possible training for people who directly work with all children at risk in our society.
As far back as I can remember I have loved learning and discovering and I wanted to know why as much as how or what. I also had a desire to teach. Another constant characteristic, if that is what it is, has been the resistance to and intense dislike of being told what to think, coupled with an equally intense dislike of having personal choice taken away from me. These strands shaped my choice of study and career, though I prefer the term vocation – of teaching. They also shaped the way I approached teaching – how I formulated lessons, how I ran my classroom, how I created learning opportunities outside of the formal classroom setting. What we now know as ‘facilitating learning spaces’.
A different strand relevant to my role at Resilient Kids, though this took longer to recognise and own, has to do with emotion and feelings – more specifically my difficulty with feelings. Mostly my own. Not with feeling – I think I have always felt things deeply. But with what to do with feelings, when, where, how and with whom to express what I felt – even to name it was sometimes hard.
In 2003 I attended a course run by Aloe Christian Listeners. Listening was something I did easily so I thought the course would be interesting. It was on this course that I was asked what I felt about something. I may have been asked that question before but it seemed to me that is was a whole new way of seeing the world, though my initial response was to wonder why that (what I felt) was important, even relevant. I could quickly tell you what I thought about pretty much any situation – though, being ultra-introverted I was not necessarily going to do so. I became a trainer with that organisation and over the next few years I learned a lot and began to change the way I listened, taught and interacted. As well as being the start of my own personal journey around my emotions it was the next step – a huge step, I think – in working out my vocation to teach outside the maths class. I was studying theology at the time and had a growing compulsion, if that’s the right word, to create spaces where people – particularly youth and children – could encounter God in a way that led to wholeness, connectedness with themselves, God and others.
In 2005 I did Philippi Trust’s Level 1 Counselling Course and the following year I completed their Psychosocial Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children course. After this I was a group facilitator on camps, then involved in leading the camps, and then, from the end of 2008, the training.
Why and how I facilitate healing spaces continues to be shaped by these strands. Though new ones are added from time to time my point of departure remains that everyone – children and adults - has the ability (and is called by God) to grow in resilience, to become more whole, to experience healing, to spread this wholeness and healing to others. What we do – what I do – is to find ways to create opportunities for that process to either start or continue.
Every time we train we learn something new – about ourselves or how to facilitate. Every time we run a camp or work with children a new pathway presents itself – often as a challenge. The story continues…