Thursday, August 17, 2006

Great Souls

Sometimes I don’t think Liberians have any idea how strong they are. For over twenty five years, they have watched their homeland fall apart around them. Almost every Liberian over ten years old has lived through and remembers displacement, fear, violent and terrible things happening, horror, disruption, poverty, sickness, and hopelessness. Liberians are used to adapting, surviving, and making the most out of a bad situation. Yet so many—like the 25 in this workshop I’m leading--are actively working to build communities of compassion and justice.

The workshop participants are men and women of various ages from a variety of organizations. They want to improve their social work and counseling skills. Every work day for eight weeks they have been meeting in a classroom from 8:00am to 3:30pm. After the eight weeks, they will work on site with humanitarian organizations putting their learning into practice. The workshop I am leading is a two week section called “basic counseling skills." It’s the equivalent of a semester long upper level undergraduate course crammed into sixty hours over ten days. I’m having a great time with these truly world class heroes. There is much we are learning together—they about Western people-helping, me about West African people-helping. There is much laughter seasoned with a bit of hard brain work and a lot of practical activities. You ought to have been there when we discussed gender roles in Liberia. They could hear us in the next building with the air conditioning on.

Everyday I am awed by their resilience and strength. Everyday I feel humbled to serve them, and I never drift far from the awareness of the price so many have paid on their journey to our classroom.

In this course, we do a lot of group work. You cannot teach counseling skills by lecture.

Here participants sit back to back and focus on listening for feelings without non-verbal cues.

Yers Trooly in psychosocial action.