How do we know our trainings really work? How do we know they really change lives? Of course there are different methods to find out, but one way is to run focus groups with children.
Recently the GCF community workers, who are also the ones facilitating the organisation’s trainings in the local communities, met with groups of children to do exactly this. Their parents, possible grandparents, have all completed “Parenting Skills”, “Coping with Death and Trauma” and “Healthy Living” training in the past. These trainings aim to enlighten, empower and strengthen people, not only as parents, but as individuals and members of the communities/environments they find themselves in.
Slowly, but surely, more and more young girls and boys arrive to the rural community hall up on the hill, close to the clinic. Some walk there, while others are fetched by one of our cars. The sun shines bright through the open door. The hall is filled with voices and giggles, just as it should where young people meet on a day in the school holidays.
And like most gatherings, this one also starts with a prayer and a song. The children participate well and appear ready to start. On the previous two days, the same group has met with two of GCF’s community workers to talk about life, or particularly how life has changed at home since their parents have been through the trainings. Or, has it really changed? Perhaps it is still the same as it has always been? Some are brave and easily share their experiences with the others, while some are shy and prefer to talk softly with only a community worker listening.
We all know that families are not perfect, but many encouraging things are spoken about in the group meeting. Long before South African law forbid corporal punishment at home, GCF trained parents in why it is harmful and suggested methods of dealing with discipline positively. These parents took it to heart, and the children openly share how they are no longer getting hidings. Being hit to obedience. There are other ways. And, it works!
The boys and girls are aware of the feelings that can follow the death of a loved one, and know that they are allowed to cry when missing them, because tears can heal a broken heart. The girls and boys know and understand the importance of budgeting, that saving money instead of unnecessary spending, can lead to a better life. All of this may be obvious for some, but certainly not for all.
When these bright and optimistic children leave later in the day, they might not be aware of the fact that they have just shown us that GCF’s trainings for parents really make an impact on family life.