20200111 113445The SKD Blvd Community Workshop was a challenging experience. I held the seven-hour session on a Saturday in a suburb of Monrovia in their community center, and required all children to stay for the entire program length. A group of 56 children containing a mix of boys and girls from seven to 17 years old showed up with their parents. I decided to create a main group of 50 of those who could read and write, and a smaller group of six younger children who would participate in a smaller set of games appropriate to that age group.

The task of controlling the children became difficult, as most of the kids knew each other from the neighborhood and kept distracting each other. The kids had difficulty staying focused, especially the younger ones. Even though the major focus was uplifting young girls, it was gratifying that out of the five parent volunteers, four moderators and one photographer helping me, eight were males and two were females. An interesting and unexpected situation, but highlighting the systemic understanding that men see women as their daughters, mothers, sisters, and wives and if approached in the right way, have as much vested interest in their daughters safety and future success as their mothers.

This community being typical of current post-conflict Liberia, many children could afford only one meal a day. Providing both breakfast and lunch during the program ensured that the children would have a greater attention span and be incented to perform their activities to a higher standard. The games were designed to develop self-confidence, teamwork, listening and verbal skills and critical thinking. My moderators and parents demonstrated abuse awareness and how to be safe in a potentially abusive environment. The workshop concluded in the late afternoon with a celebration and meal for the kids. Once again, the children asked for more and strongly requested to continue this workshop regularly in their community.20200111 134116

As in the previous program, their favorite games were Pepper Bird (teamwork, role-playing and problem-solving with Lego blocks), The Human Knot (DAI communications, problem solving, leadership and critical thinking) and the Poro-Bundu Empathy game practicing DAI synergy between child and parent. The overall score for the SDK Community program was 3.94 on a 5-point scale, a small improvement over the first program. Notably, the childrens’ self-assessed skills and emotional progress during the program achieved a 4.41 score out of 5. Considering the general chaos of dealing with 56 hyperactive children and 10 volunteers and having only planned for 16 children (we couldn’t turn them away!), I was very pleased with that score and with the many children who rated the program as a “5”.