In November 2015 I (Cathey Brown) received an email from Courtney Heptig, a former employee at Recovery Resource Council and a CBSG® Program facilitator in Quito, Ecuador. As a member of the Peace Corps, working with high risk children and youth at her site, she and a co-worker were seeing significant changes in the children who participated in the support groups. Courtney was interested in other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) being trained so the program could perhaps spread throughout the country.
Fast forward almost one year later to September, 2016! After hours of Skyping and emailing, a three-day training was developed. Volunteers were given the opportunity to apply for the training outlining the needs in their communities, why they were interested in being trained, what their community support would be and how they could implement and evaluate the program.
Despite the devastating earthquake Ecuador experienced last April (just days before the training was originally scheduled to begin) everyone remained committed and on September 7-9, 2016, seventeen PCV from the Youth & Family and Community Health divisions, along with six Peace Corps staff joined me to participate in the first CBSG® Program training event of its kind!
Over the past three decades we have been fortunate to train some incredible individuals in the CBSG® Program-over 19,000 in fact. And this group of young people proved to be some of the most enthusiastic, committed and caring people I have had the honor to work with. We hope this is just the beginning of a relationship with Peace Corps and I can think of no better group to pilot CBSG's throughout diverse populations with seemingly insurmountable needs. Despite potential challenges such as no supplies for conducting group, no means of making copies of activities, approaching schools and community organizations who may be skeptical, etc. they are undaunted in their determination to involve children in their community in the CBSG® Program.
At the close of our last day together I asked each participant to complete a Major Message Rainbow finishing the I AM, I CAN, I HAVE, I WILL, I BELIEVE statements as it related to them being a CBSG® Program facilitator. These represent just a few of their comments and I think they say it best:
- "I AM prepared and ready."
- "I AM more confident working with younger kids."
- "I CAN inspire and motivate."
- "I CAN be a caring and competent facilitator."
- "I HAVE the strength and resources to bring about positive social change in my community."
- "I HAVE improved my skills as a facilitator."
- "I WILL make positive changes where I can, in the lives of my kids and in my own life."
- "I WILL start with what I have, where I am, and try to make Rainbow Days proud!"
- "I BELIEVE we can change the status quo."
- "I BELIEVE in Rainbow Days and in me."
You Soy, You Puedo, Yo Tengo, Yo Hare, Yo Creo
In June and July I (Cathey Brown) had the incredible privilege to travel to England and work with some extraordinary educators. Thanks to our good friend and developer of the R Time program, Greg Sampson, several opportunities were opened to us to take the CBSG® Program to the U.K.
In June I traveled to Wigan, England and worked with teachers, counselors and specialists who are part of the Targeted Education Support Services (TESS). TESS works with schools to support students ages 4-16 when learning progress, social, emotional or mental health are causing concerns. In July I returned and trained 15 educational practitioners in the Marish Trust Academy (including Marish and Willow Primary Schools).
Everyone was so welcoming and gracious and dedicated to focusing on the needs of the whole child, thereby increasing the odds of their academic success. Unfortunately the same adverse experiences children in the U.S. experience are also common in the U.K. The CBSG® Program will be an excellent addition to the many programs already in place and beautifully complements R Time and Better Behaved programs that have been making a difference for several years. We will be in regular communication with both groups next school year and hopefully will have the opportunity to expand the program in the future!