This program Lotus Kids Club (LKC) I have been with since last July. I helped set up the space, supplied and suggested materials and equipment for the program. I help maintain the space and continue to teach the teachers about Early Childhood Education. Now I feel my role should change. The point is to work my way out of a job as they say, for the project to be able to continue without me. Sustainability is the mantra here. It makes sense for the Khmers to sustain a project without Western input, as most Westerners in NGO's leave eventually. The Early Childhood training at LKC should continue I believe however I do not think my being there during the program is necessary. The teachers are doing a good job setting up and working with the children. They have some basic knowledge of how young children learn and child development. There are a few weak spots but generally we have developed a good PS program.
|the director and the primary teachers and kids!|
Please understand the teachers have little if any formal training in teaching young children. They are caring and willing to learn and as I said do well with the children. Teaching about early childhood and issues related to that should continue I believe. If I spoke the Khmer language I could see working directly with the teachers and children. But as their English is limited also I can't be modeling or be helpful in a 'teaching moment'. So I believe my time and energies should be with more in depth teaching. Also I believe I could be helpful if I was able to do supervision with the teachers. This has not happened at all and I think it's needed.
|with a couple of parents before the parents' meeting|
One of the teachers, Ratha, is also the designated Social Worker, though with very little training. So just a couple of weeks ago I started teaching the basics of Social Work. And this feels a more productive use of my time. Fortunately Ratha seems to have a natural affinity for Social Work. What I mean by that is that his sensibilities and demeanor seem to be in line with Social Work principles. He seems to gain rapport easily with parents and appears non-judgemental in his manner. He is great with the kids, caring, calm and gentle but firm. So you may wonder how do I know this considering I do not understand Khmer. Well communication is about 90% non-verbal. Also I see him interact with parents and kids, the kids especially just appear to trust him. At the monthly parent meeting/rice giveaway he always seems to get the parents laughing at the start of his talk. You can learn some of those basic Social Work skills but it's good to have some naturally. Again the most efficient use of my time would be some in depth training in Social Work practice. This is the direction I hope to move in with LKC.
|kids helping Ratha with snack|
|Ratha playing guitar, he's good and sings|
Thursday mornings are dedicated to the LKC PS program. This includes a teacher training session also. Thursday afternoons are a staff meeting and additional training/planning sessions. Once a month on Thursday after the meetings we have a parents' meeting and rice/food giveaway to the parents. It is usually an hour to one and a half hours long. The director and teachers speak about the programs and the progress the kids are making. I do a short talk with a translator of course. My talk usually consists of the following: Apologies for not speaking Khmer or Vietnamese (you may remember 1/2 the kids are Vietnamese), thanks for the opportunity of working with their children, lately I've talked about Heart Start, and an invite to come play or watch their children play during programming (no one has accepted yet). These are interesting meetings even though I don't know exactly what's being said. But there is laughter and questions and comments. We've passed out playdough (they made all kinds of things) and talked about the benefits of play, and there was a time we took puzzles out and the parents were so engaged they delayed getting their rice. We have been talking about other ways to get the parents/community engaged/involved. At some point we may do a Family/Community open house/dinner similar to the Family Room shindigs. In some ways LKC parallels my former work at the Family Room. And being the non native speaker here I think I get a good sense of what it must have been like for those New Americans at the FR.
|Parent meeting though now we sit on mats|
I miss my FR fellow workers as I am the only Westerner in the LKC program and I always think what would they think or do with this situation, or am I making the appropriate decision. No one to give me feedback or good supervision, miss you Toki also. It's so very clear to me more than ever before that the FR staff and supervision improved my professional skills over the many years working with them. Thank you.
|at a great new Tex-Mex place with fellow Vermonter Dr. Bob on the right|
|Warehouse bar (Superbowl at 5am)|