Activities in the Yinthway Foundation
Philippines RMT trains the trainers in Myanmar
by Bel Sollorano
Education Program Coordinator
Children International, Quezon City Agency, Philippines
I am Maribel Sollorano. Friends and colleagues call me Bel. I’ve been working with Children International Philippines â€“ Quezon City for 10 years as Education Program Coordinator.
Working with Yinthway Foundation, Aflatoun partner in Myanmar
Yinthway Foundation struck me as a strong organization, highly committed to help empower children in their country. Their strength lies in creating and developing local ECCD (early childhood care and development) instructional materials and toys for young children, as well as building the capacities of teachers and parents through training. I came to know the executive director, Ms Nwe Nwe Aung, as a happy, passionate, and committed leader as evidenced in her words, actions, and her life. She shared that she has been in social development work for more than 12 years (if I have calculated it correctly!). Her positive, contagious spirit flowed down to each man and woman in the organization.
On my first day, I went to visit the Yinthway office to meet the team. The welcome I received made me feel as if I was no different from them, that our countries were without borders.
At this meeting, I introduced myself and shared briefly about Children International and Aflatoun. All of them showed eagerness to know about the Aflatoun program, especially about child savings, a new concept for them.Â There were a lot of smiles and laughter during the meeting, and I ended up with new friends â€“ Thinzar, Khimate, Mya, and the CCA team head (CCA refers to Child-Centered Approach, the program where Yinthway plans to integrate Aflatoun).
3-day training of trainers
The training commenced the next day. I worked closely with Thinzar, who assisted with the logistics, presentations, and translation. Khimate served as co-facilitator and did most of the translation. The IT man (I donâ€™t remember his name) patiently documented the whole training. Together with the rest of the team, their dedication made everything possible. I really appreciate how hard they worked; they even made sure I had vegetarian food to eat.
Some initial comments given by the participants were: â€˜Everybody should learn about Aflatounâ€™, â€˜I learned that savings is not only about saving money but also saving resourcesâ€™, â€˜Iâ€™m slowly getting to know how Aflatoun can be connected to ECCDâ€™.
First time to conduct training outside the Philippines
Conducting the training in another country, on my own, challenged me as a regional master trainer (RMT). Although it wasn’t my first time to facilitate the training (as I also do it in my organization), and it was also not my first time to be in another country, doing it and flying alone were different. I didn’t know what to expect and just left everything to faith and fate. Being in a foreign place, with a different culture and language, and seeing the bright side gave me strength; this got me excited and hopeful.
What I enjoyed most in conducting the training was when Thinzar, Khimate, and I would assess each dayâ€™s proceedings, and prepare and strategize for the next day. They provided worthwhile observations. I also enjoyed the mock lessons and exchange of feedback with the participants; they seemed to have enjoyed it too. All of them brought out their creativity and experience in dealing with children/youth during the training. They maintained a positive attitude and energy levels remained high.
The language barrier was a challenge since the presentations and materials were all in English and only a few were able to understand. On-the-spot translations proved a great help, even though it added up to the time and lengthened the duration of the training. It would have been much easier and faster if some of the materials and visual aids had been translated into the local language. This reminded me of a lesson when conducting training: to plan and think ahead!
With this experience, I learned that it isn’t enough for participants to have fun in the training but that, more importantly, objectives are achieved. One way to ensure this is to maximize participation and involvement. I learned the importance of having adequate time to prepare. Careful planning with the local training team should also be done in advance. This gives us room to check the availability of materials, workbooks, visual aids, etc. These may be adjusted after learning about the participants. Perhaps a Skype meeting or a teleconference with all the concerned individuals could be done aside from the e-mails.
Overall, the experience has reminded me about flexibility, optimism, resourcefulness, promptness, and respect. I learned to work using available materials and to maximize every opportunity. To not look for what isn’t there, but to instead make use of what is there and to act quickly. Every person has a different way of understanding and learning things, this must be respected.
Conducting Aflatoun training in another country has helped me improve as a regional master trainer. First, I became more aware of how Aflatoun’s program and advocacy are globally recognized with more and more countries and organizations coming together to join and support it. The network is continuously growing. I learned to think and act globally!
I also realized that in this situation, I represent Aflatoun and my organization, so I kept thinking that it isn’t about me. This pushed me to work hard and to do my best. I learned to stretch my limits, go beyond my comfort zone, and to be open to learning new things.
The experience has enriched me immensely as a trainer and as a person. It has provided me with a broader cultural perspective, an important aspect in effectively conducting training, whether in another country or in my own. I am reminded of the values of interdependence and respect. In a nutshell, the whole experience helped expand my understanding and recognition of others. Learning comes from every moment and situation. And since everyone’s experience is unique and special, I learned much from my newfound friends in Myanmar and hope that they, too, learned from me.