Think Creative - Issue 1

A textbook’s journey through Afghanistan

A quest for inclusion in Nicaragua

Family counseling in Honduras

Think Creative ISSUE 1 By Creative Associates International

How to Heal

In Boko Haram’s wake, Social Emotional Learning helps displaced children


shot Turn the page to learn the story behind this photo

snap shot


updates from around our world

El Salvador By Erick Gibson, Photographer/Videographer

I enjoy playing my role as photographer. I never know quite what to expect, but I go in with a blank frame to fill with portraits of people’s lives. In April, I photographed the opening of a playground and basketball court, part of larger infrastructure project in Usulután, El Salvador. In the days before the event, I watched the community work together to apply the finishing touches and bring this colorful fixture to life with the common goal of giving joy to their children and improving the quality of life for neighborhood residents. The real magic happened the day of the ceremony, after the national anthem was played and just before the speeches of city officials. Five young boys, children who attended a nearby Outreach Center, charged in front of the crowd with drawn-on beards and homemade sombreros, lip-syncing a lively performance of “Ay Chabela.” The boys’ comedic mariachi performance delighted family, friends and neighbors and surprised me, snapping away behind the lens. In this moment, the photography was easy, with smiles and laughter at every turn and children sprinting off to use the freshly painted playground, even before it was officially unveiled. Thinking back on the experience, I realize the importance of cultivating a sense of community and positivity and the resulting hope that instills in people. My role as photographer was to capture that sentiment on the faces of the children and families present that day. I am happy to say that in this instance, that is exactly what the pictures reveal.

In this Issue 07 Dispatches Updates from around our world 08 // Coding in the Caribbean

How to Heal 14 p.

09 // • Mimi’s Place: Zambian preschoolers prepped for school • Unlocking the potential of Afghan women • Field Notes 10 // Journey tthrough Afghanistan: Inside Creative’s digital book tracking system, “Track and Trace” 11 // Alianza Joven: Honduras violence prevention project comes to a close, but legacy lives on 12 // In Focus: Developing Afghanistan’s workforce



14 Cover Package

Track & Trace

How to Heal: In Boko Haram’s wake, Social Emotional Learning helps displaced children

11 p. Alianza Joven comes to a close

ON THE COVER: Photograph by Erick Gibson for Think Creative . Aisha is a beneficiary of USAID’s Education Crisis Response project in Nigeria.

Photos by Erick Gibson (top & center); David Snyder (bottom)

4 | Think Creative | Issue 1

Think Creative by Creative Associates International


Letter from Leland Kruvant President & CEO Creative Associates International

Founder & Board Chairperson Charito Kruvant President & CEO Leland Kruvant Chief Operating Officer Pablo Maldonado Chief Financial Officer Oswaldo Holguin Senior Vice President Thomas Wheelock Senior Vice President Earl Gast VP, External Relations Jessica Kruvant VP, Global Operations Mario Vilela VP, Business Development Sharon Cooley Senior Director, Communications Michael J. Zamba Communications Manager Marta S. Maldonado Strategic Content Manager Jillian Slutzker Art Direction Amanda Smallwood Writers Natalie Lovenburg Evelyn Rupert Copy Editor Jennifer Brookland Front End Developer Luis Aguilar Contributing Photographers EDITORIAL STAFF

Welcome to Think Creative , our newmagazine that connects you to our people and projects around the world. Youmay ask yourself: When every- thing is digital, why start amaga- zine?We love print because we read it differently; we see images and illustrations vividly, andwhenwe share themwe do sowith a greater sense of connectedness. We have these tactile products with us even when our technology turns off. Through Think Creative —inaugu- rated as part of our 40th anni- versary celebration—youwill be transported to fascinating projects around the globe, learn about devel- opment innovations andmeet our talented staff.

onUSAID’s behalf. Think Creative is organized into distinct sections ranging fromnews updates called “Dispatches” to “Creative Life.” In this last section, youwill meet Jackie Ogega, who was raised in a small village among the Kisii people in Southwestern Kenya. Jackie poured her energy into education, earned a Ph.D., be- came a gender champion and today is a keymember of Creative’s staff. Thank you for setting down your digital device and reading Think Creative . Please share it! I look forward to doing the same. Sincerely,

In this first issue, our cover story called “How toHeal” takes you to Nigeria’s northeastern state of Bor- no, the epicenter of BokoHaram’s destruction. This terrorist group has raided communities, targeted schools and forcedmore than 2.5 million people to flee their homes. Those displaced by the violence find themselves in far-off locations with few resources and little hope. School-aged children are partic- ularly traumatized. Fortunately, USAID’s EducationCrisis Response project is engaging officials and communities to enroll school-aged displaced children into non-formal learning programs, which include Social Emotional Learning to help themovercome trauma. We are honored to implement the project

20 Feature Stories

20 p. Success in family strength

20 // Success in family strength: Program steers minority youth away from violence 22 // A place in the classroom: Deaf and hard of hearing youth pave the way to accessible education

25 Creative Life A mission-driven community

Sara Barger Skip Brown Erick Gibson Jim Huylebroek David Snyder

26 // Staff Spotlight: Jackie Ogega: A champion for gender equality 27 // • Culture Corner: Tunisian Arabic • Staff Photo Submissions • Did you know? Nicaragua’s boat commuters 28 // On Board! Six distinguished experts join Creative’s Global Advisory Board 29 // • Q&A: What makes you the most proud? • Staff nationalities represented at HQ • Creative Events 30 // Walk this Way: A day in the life of Rene Urrutia

Think Creative is published three times a year by Creative Associates International, a global development organization dedicated to supporting people around the world to realize the positive change they seek. The content is produced by Creative and does not represent the policies or positions of its clients, partners or host governments. Reproduction of any or all of Think Creative is prohibited without prior written permission. Copyright ©2017.

Meet Jackie! 26 p.

For more information about Think Creative , please email us at

5301 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20015 + 202.966.5804 Creative Associates International

of the El Salvador Crime & Violence Prevention Project

Photos by Skip Brown (top & bottom); Gustavo Ochoa (center) | 5

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6 | Think Creative | Issue 1

Di spa t che s

Updates from around our world

Children learn through exploration and play at Mimi’s Place, Creative’s early childhood education center in Lusaka, Zambia. See page 9 for more information.

Photo by Nephas Hindamu | 7


updates from around our world

St. Lucia teachers Celina Fessal (left) and Claudius Athil (far right) , go over a coding and robotics exercise with Jason Wilks, Knowledge Management and Learning Specialist for the Community, Family, and Youth Resilience project, during a teacher training workshop.

Coding in the Caribbean

St. Lucia // Community, Family and Youth Resilience

“Students will only be fit for the workplace if they have skills that they can apply in the emerging digital world. Coding is one of the most critical skills that will ensure that stu- dents can participate as producers and creators in the 21 st century economy,” says Germain An- thony, Curriculum Specialist for the St. Lucia Department of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development. Simmons Jules, a teacher at Grande Riv- iere Secondary School, says learning to code will not only allow the students to gain techni- cal know-how, but life skills that they can apply elsewhere. “Generally coding is a skill which increases the thinking process and helps with cognition. A

course of this nature will help students at the lower spectrum, especially in areas of critical thinking and problem solving,” Jules says. And coding is a new concept for many teachers, who had their own lessons over the summer. “The coding and robotics course is very hands- on. At the core of the course is problem solving, and it challenges us as teachers and trainers to focus on logical thinking, following instruc- tions, and forces one to be innovative,” says Claudius Athil, a teacher at Beanfield Second- ary School. Students will have the chance to show off their newfound skills at the end of the year, when the course culminates in a nationwide “hackathon” competition. n

Students in the Caribbean country of St. Lucia are trying their hand at coding and robotics through a pilot program in four secondary schools. The Community, Family and Youth Resilience project, funded by the U.S. Agency for Inter- national Development, is providing schools with computers and kits to build Lego robots students can program. The project is training seven teachers and two volunteers, who will incorporate coding into regular classes like physics and comput- er science as well as start after-school clubs, reaching up to 240 students. The goal? Get them prepped for success in a tech-driven world.

Photo by Kelli Coombs

8 | Think Creative | Issue 1

Zambian preschoolers prepped for school

Field Notes

Zambia // Mimi’s Place

m Economic Growth

cultivating their innate predisposition for learning using a method known as the Creative Way. Chil- dren learn through play centered on hands-on experimentation, an age-appropriate reading and math skills curriculum and organic exploration. By providing this on-site early learning opportunity to the children of its staff, Creative aims to keep more parents, especially mothers, in the workforce, and equip the next generation of leaders and workers with the best possible start to education. Parents of Mimi’s Place students and graduates have reported positive changes in their children’s confidence, behavior and academic skills. All par- ents surveyed said their kids are now more ready for primary school. They also reported engaging in more learning activities with their children at home, with guidance from the Creative Way methodology. To reach more young learners and support local staff in nurturing healthy families and school-ready children, Creative hopes to expand the Mimi’s Place model to some of its other programs. n

A year ago, Chawanzi Nkonde didn’t know her letters or numbers. Though she had gone to pre- school before, her new teachers at Mimi’s Place felt like they were starting from the beginning with Chawanzi. Her classmate, Loveness Phiri, was also struggling in an English language environ- ment; she had never had to use anything but her native Chinyanja before now. Today, after a year of school readiness prepa- ration, Chawanzi is now a proud primary school student who can spell three-letter words, count to 50 and do simple addition and subtraction. Still at Mimi’s Place, Loveness is telling stories in English and writing her name. Launched in February 2016 to serve the pre- school-aged children of Creative’s Zambian staff members, Mimi’s Place is a first-of-its-kind early childhood education center in Lusaka. Named for Creative’s late co-founder Mimi Tse, a relentless advocate for access to quality education for all children, the innovative center seeks to pre- pare three to six year-olds for success in school by

Honduras Dry Corridor Thousands of families in the

impoverished, climate-fragile Dry Corridor region of Honduras will generate higher incomes, gain greater food security and improve their nutrition and hygiene with help from a World Bank-funded project for the Honduran government agency Invest-H. Education Mozambique Vamos Ler! Let’s Read! (Vamos Ler! in Portuguese) is working with the Mozambican government to support bilingual education in three local languages for over 800,000 children in first, second and third grades in the provinces of Nampula and Zambézia. Pakistan Reading Project The Pakistan Reading Project recently completed a National Gender Study, which identifies and provides recommendations for addressing gender gaps within the primary education system in Pakistan. Morocco Read to Succeed The newly launched Reading for Success – National Program for Reading project aims to improve early grade reading in 8,500 schools in the regions of Fez-Meknes, Rabat- Kenitra, Souss-Massa and Oriental. It seeks to equip the Moroccan government to replicate the project in all 12 regions of the country. BringingUnity, Integrity and Legitimacy toDemocracy Thanks to efforts by the Somaliland National Election Commission and Creative, more than 870,000 people will receive biometric voter cards, supporting transparent and efficient voter registration for elections to come.​


The Afghanistan Workforce Development Program is addressing the country’s high rate of unemployment by improving access to demand-driven technical training and careers. The program provides aspiring women entrepreneurs and job seekers the opportunity to gain skills that lead to thriving careers and positive change for their families and communities. Afghanistan // Workforce Development Unlocking the potential of Afghan women

36% of program trainees are women

8,880 women have been placed in jobs

14,082 women have gained in-demand workforce skills

12 provinces have benefited from the program

9 AWDP training sectors*

4 major export categories**

m Elections

*Training sectors include: business communication, financial management, marketing, project management, women in private sector, youth training for employment, construction, employment-related services, ICT, sales and marketing, career counseling centers, master trainers training. **Export categories include: agriculture, spices, perfumes and precious gems, and handicrafts.

Infographic by Amanda Smallwood | 9


updates from around our world

Looking Good!


Boxes are inspected for damage


On the Way!

Books are printed, labeled and shipped

Journey through Afghanistan: Inside Creative’s digital book tracking system

Afghanistan // Afghan Children Read

In a remote primary school inHerat province in western Afghanistan, teachers eagerly awaited 12 large cardboard boxes filled with newly print- ed textbooks and learningmaterials. For weeks, the school had anticipated the delivery but they were uncertain whether it would arrive. Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict has many negative effects, and its education system is not immune to the disruption. In a fragile state like Afghanistan, security risks complicate coordination of delivery logistics; the most efficient routes may also be the most dangerous for drivers. These security risks, in addition to insufficient storage facilities, lack of organization, and corrupted supply chains where textbooks are sold on the black market, sometimes keep school materials out of the hands of students eager to learn.

But a new system is changing the game and ensuring that textbooks find their way to the students and teachers who need themmost. Implemented by Creative Associates Interna- tional’s Development Lab, an innovative “Track and Trace” technology system is identifying and resolving distribution systemgaps for Afghan Children Read, a USAID-supported primary education project working in the four provinces of Herat, Kabul, Nangarhar and Laghman. InMarch, the Afghan Children Read Track and Trace systemwas launched in 358 schools and Community-Based Education Centers, and 139,284 student textbooks, activity books, teacher guides and continuous assessment books were delivered in two provinces: Herat and Kabul. The rollout applied a blend of mo- bile application-based and Short Message Ser-

vice (SMS or text message) data collection to confirm the location and delivery of materials. Better oversight of book delivery through Track and Trace technology is helping to reduce the effects of corrupt practices plaguing education in Afghanistan. From the printer to the primary school in Her- at that has received its books, the streamlined monitoring process has four key elements: • Label Design , which is customized according to final school destination, helps printers label shipments accurately; • Book Tracker Mobile App , which enables Afghan Children Read staff to confirm the shipment and location of boxes as they move through delivery routes;

Infographic by Amanda Smallwood

10 | Think Creative | Issue 1

Honduras violence prevention project comes to a close, but legacy lives on

Honduras // Alianza Joven


In some of the most dangerous communities in Honduras, thou- sands of youth have discovered a “second home.” More than 60 Outreach Centers have served as the bedrock for the five-year Alianza Joven (“Youth Alliance”) Honduras project, funded by USAID. Not only a safe place for youth to play and learn, the Out- reach Centers have been a rallying point around which families, busi- nesses, the national government and municipal governments have come together to prevent violence. Youth earn certifications through Microsoft Academies, learn life skills and goal planning through the “Challenge of Dreaming My Life” curriculum, take a hard look at gender stereotypes to break the cycle of “machismo” and exercise at a “For My Neighborhood Gym.” Communities have come together to spearhead violence prevention campaigns that have raised aware- ness about ways to stem violence

and spread a culture of peace. Alianza Joven Honduras also pilot- ed an innovative, evidence-based secondary violence prevention initiative that identified the most at-risk youth and provided intensive family counseling. The pilot’s success at reducing risk levels for violence and building resilience led to its expansion under a project called Proponte Más. Alianza Joven Honduras officially ended in April 2017, and now its Outreach Centers and other initiatives rest in the hands of com- munity partners and an NGO that worked alongside the project and will continue to provide technical assistance. The Honduran govern- ment, municipalities and the private sector will also continue to support these programs. The violence prevention network it built, from engaged citizens all the way up to the national govern- ment, will benefit youth for years to come. n

In their own words: Reflections and looking ahead

Delivery is confirmed and books are delivered to students

“We have been able to accompany these youth for a short time… and they have grown to be a part of our hearts.”

They’re Here!

Salvador Stadthagen, Alianza Joven Honduras Chief of Party

“This program has had a great impact. Outreach Centers have been established in communities and neighborhoods, changing the lives of many youth. It’s a seed that has borne fruit.”

- First Lady of Honduras Ana García de Hernandez

“We want to do the best that we can to continue with what has already been given to us … I am committed to this program and committed to continue making it work.” - Margarita Blandin, Coordinator of Las Ayestas Outreach Center in Tegucigalpa “Many people have asked me why I do so much work for free. For me, it’s very satisfying to give so much without expecting anything in return; to serve, and to have people in your own community appreciate you. It’s a really big achievement for me.”

• SMS-Enabled Interaction , which facilitates confirmation of delivery by school principals and motamids (stock keepers) through text messaging; • Automatic Reporting and Noti- fications , which provides real-time status reports and feedback to the Afghan Children Read staff. Accurate data collection and effec- tive textbook-demand forecasting with Creative’s Track and Trace is improving the book value chain and the likelihood of schools receiving the correct number and type of books so that students can get a quality education. Based on the rollout’s success, Afghan Children Read is expand- ing Track and Trace for textbook deliveries in Nangarhar and Lagh- man provinces in 2017. Along with Afghanistan, the new technology will be used for education projects in sub-Saharan Africa. n

Alianza Joven by the numbers:



youth benefited

youth participated in “Challenge of Dreaming My Life” curriculum million invested by project partners, including the Honduran government and private sector

from violence prevention initiatives and services



Outreach Centers established in high-risk neighborhoods


volunteers joined violence prevention efforts

– Seidy Medina, Outreach Center volunteer

Photo by Sara Barger | 11


updates from around our world

12 | Think Creative | Issue 1

Program in focus A closer look at Creative’s work in action

Afghanistan Workforce Development Program

“AWDP’s training programs are golden opportunities for women in Afghanistan”

-Diana Hashimizada Director of Label Step

In Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar e-Sharif, rug weaving is a traditional way for families—particularly women—to generate much-needed income. Thanks to a Swiss nonprofit called Label Step, scores of women rug weavers are working in four centers that allow them to work outside of their homes, as well as collaborate on designs and techniques. Through the USAID-supported Afghan Work- force Development Program (AWDP), nine members of the NGO’s staff took intensive seminars on marketing, finance and project management that are helping to grow sales and improve productivity. “We don’t have a university or a training institute where we could go to learn these skills,” says Diana Hashimizada, the Director of Label Step. “Fortunately, the training and skills that we added [through AWDP] has had a very positive impact on our life.” The program addresses high unemployment, scarcity of technically skilled Afghan labor and a lack of trained business managers by providing demand-driven quality technical and business education, training, job placement and support services. The program has benefitted more than 39,000 Afghans. n

Photo by JimHuylebroek | 13

How to Heal

In Boko Haram’s wake, Social Emotional Learning helps displaced children

Natalie Lovenburg / Photos by Erick Gibson

Boko Haram stopped their offensive and re- treated as the Air Force had mobilized a count- er attack. Amassive explosion about 50 feet from Shettima’s home killed the insurgents. It was then that the educator and his family could leave their home. Educators and students in Borno state have been hit the hardest by Boko Haram’s ongoing offensive against the government and citizens. “As a result of the insurgency, the education sector—especially the basic education sector— has lost about 530 teachers and over 4,000 to 5,000 classrooms were destroyed,” says Ali Bukar Dogo, Director of School Services on the Borno State Basic Education Board. With vivid flashbacks of Boko Haram insur- gents dragging teachers and students out of a classroom to brutally kill them playing on

lhaji Bukar Shettima remembers clearly when in 2015 Boko Haram came into his neighborhood in the Borno state capital of Maiduguri. The violent insurgents first attacked a nearby Air Force base before turning their unwanted attention to his home and neighborhood located in front of the mili- tary installation. As a respected teacher and director of a school, he knew that Boko Haram—which roughly translates to “Western education is evil”— would kill him and his family. Standing outside of Shettima’s home, two young insurgents used their AK-47s to spray his house with bullets that tore through the walls and roof. He and his terrified family kept their heads down and prayed for a miracle. Suddenly, the two attackers and the rest of

14 | Think Creative | Issue 1

“After my studies, I want to help women like myself who were helped. That is my only ambition.” - Aisha Mohammed, a student enrolled in a non- formal learning center supported by the Education Crisis Response project. | 15

how to heal

formal school teachers have been empowered to support students through Social Emotional Learning. 10,735

pillars of the curriculum in the non-formal learning centers, which are community-based classrooms that allow internally displaced chil- dren to receive state-accredited education. Developed by the Nigeria Education Crisis Re- sponse in collaboration with leading academics, Social Emotional Learning helps traumatized children develop social competencies needed tomanage their feelings, establish healthy social relationships and increase their senses of

repeat in a young and impressionable mind, erasing the traumatic and stressful memory seems unattainable. Susanna Hussein with the Nigeria Education Crisis Response works closely with crisis-affect- ed and traumatized children and adults with mental, physical and social-emotional effects. “Some people have lost their beloved ones. Some lost their properties. Some lost their homes; they are displaced,” says Hussein, who is based inMaiduguri. Throughout northeastern Nigeria, more than 2.5 million people have fled their homes—leav- ing an entire generation of Nigerian children stripped of their rights to an education. Expanding access to education opportunities for vulnerable, displaced students ages 6 to 17, the Nigeria Education Crisis Response project is re- sponding to the devastation with hope. Through education, the project helps to provide a sense of stability to traumatized communities. The three-year project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates Interna- tional, the International Rescue Committee, the Nigerian government and local non-gov- ernmental organizations. In close and ongoing collaboration with gov- ernment, civil society and local communities, the project has reached more than 88,000 children in 1,483 non-formal learning centers with wraparound services like Social Emotion- al Learning support for internally displaced out-of-school children in five Nigerian states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe and Yobe. In Borno—the birthplace of the violent extrem- ists—the emotional and physical devastation is overwhelming. Like in all states where the Education Crisis Response project works, in Borno a baseline as- sessment was done to test the mental stability of internally displaced teachers and children who were once in formal schools. “The results found adult teachers—over 93 percent—werementally destabilized, and the children weremore than 50 percent destabi- lizedmentally,” Hussein says of the Borno study. “That informed the reason why Social Emo- tional Learning is very important in learning through the Education Crisis Response project.” Social Emotional Learning is one of three

Learning facilitator Salamatu Ibrahaim incorporates Social Emotional Learning activities into her teaching, which plays a crucial role in supporting the psychosocial well-being of students.

Susanna Hussein (above) , Wraparound Service Specialist with Education Crisis Response, and Alhaji Bukar Shettima (below) , Director of School Services on the Borno State Basic Education Board, have both witnessed the effects Boko Haram has had on their community’s youth and are focused on helping them heal.

self-esteem, efficacy, motivation and purpose. “Learning facilitators, using the ‘Healing Class- rooms’ model, are trained how to infuse Social Emotional Learning into every aspect of educa- tion,” says Julia Finder, Technical Manager for Education in Conflict at Creative. “In addition to social emotional-specific les- sons and activities, the facilitators incorporate the same ideas into the broader curriculums to foster a positive and structured learning environment,” says Finder.

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What you have to do is you have to be part of them, and show them that what they went through is not the end of life.” -Salamatu Ibrahim, Facilitator for Education Crisis Response

Hussein says she feels confident about the future of the teachers and students affected by the attacks. “It is not the end of life,” she says. “As long as one is living, there is hope.” How Aisha found her future Fleeing northernNigeria’s rugged city of Gwoza, along the Lake Chad Basinwhere BokoHaram is notorious for its attacks, 17-year-old Aisha Mohammed and her family escapedwhen the terrorists attacked their community. Throughout the conflict—now in its eighth year— hundreds of thousands of Nigerians havemigrat- ed to Borno state’s capital city ofMaiduguri. For Aisha Mohammed and her family, building a new life in a new city was uncertain. They

have had to overcome significant obstacles before finding stability again. After settling into a small, crowded space shared by her immediate family and rela- tives, Aisha enrolled in one of the Education Crisis Response project’s non-formal learning centers for displaced children and has been learning and healing in a safe environment for nearly three months. “When we are out playing, l forget about every- thing,” she says. Emotionally scarred by Boko Haram attacks in her home city, she just wants to escape the recent past in her new community. Education is playing a vital role in helping to rebuild her self-confidence and hope for the future. “My determination is to study,” she says.

Learners participate in Social Emotional Learning exercises in a safe environment, which helps them to resolve complex emotions and become more resilient.

In a place like northeastern Nigeria, given the high numbers of children that have been nega- tively affected by Boko Haram, Social Emotion- al Learning is an important part of creating a sense of normalcy. “With this concept [Social Emotional Learning ], I have seen the results of working with people that have been derailed as a result of sudden attacks by insurgencies,” says Hussein, who has a medical and humanitarian assistance back- ground and has witnessed severe trauma. | 17

how to heal

The Education Crisis Response project’s Social Emotional Learning lessons help traumatized students—both boys and girls—better under- stand what they have experienced and provide useful tools to cope with complex and conflict- ing emotions and feelings. “In school, they taught me how to understand my emotions,” shares Aisha. “Now, I feel better.” Through the project’s proven curriculum, she is learning basic education like reading and math, as well as receiving social emotional support which is helping to replace cruel memories of the insurgency’s terror with positive and fulfilling activities. In each of themore than 1,400 learning centers, classroom sizes are small to ensure greater attention for the students, particularly since stu- dents like AishaMohammed have been absent from formal education for a year or two. Despite the hardship, she is looking forward to the future with self-assurance, a newfound excitement and sense of purpose. “After my studies, I want to help women like myself who were helped,” says Aisha. “That is my only ambition.” The teachers who teach students to cope As tens of thousands of internally displaced families poured into Maiduguri, school teacher Salamatu Ibrahim felt she had to do her part to help them. When she heard about the Educa- tion Crisis Response project’s need for facilita- tors, Ibrahim saw the opportunity to support the out-of-school children. Though she had years of experience as a pro- fessional teacher, she nonetheless had to go through the intensive training to prepare for emotionally traumatized students. Compared to her traditional classes, these students require a great deal of support. “You have to be patient with them, and you have to be like a guide to them,” she says. A learning facilitator at Zajiri Primary School with three years of teaching experience with private schools in Maiduguri, Ibrahim explains it requires special care to work with distressed children. The internally displaced students who arrive to the community-run non-formal learning centers are initially distracted, she says. Some may be jumping and running around the class- room, while others are withdrawn and sitting to the side.

(Top left) Wakail Mala Buka, Master Trainer with Education Crisis Response, and (top right) Ali Mustafa Gori, Executive Secretary for the Agency for Mass Literacy in Borno state, play a lead role in empowering facilitators like Salamatu Ibrahim (pictured here) with the training needed to ensure long-term, ongoing success.

“Social Emotional Learning skills are used to build the mental capabilities, emotional response and interpersonal relations of children, so that they can be better in life.”

-Wakail Mala Buka, Master Trainer for Education Crisis Response

“If they are tired, and they want to go home, then they will go home,” she says. “But later on, as we teach them Social Emotional Learn- ing, we can slowly control the class and we impart knowledge into their mind that when you’re in the class, you don’t have to have excuses to leave.” By limiting the size of the classroom to no more than 50 pupils, Ibrahim and other facilitators can more easily help the students to transition into a new routine. Ibrahim is one of 2,176 learning facilitators trained by the Education Crisis Response proj- ect on how to uniquely support traumatized

students with specialized activities and inter- ventions, such as Social Emotional Learning. Learning facilitators, who are trained to be sensitive through the Nigeria Education Crisis Response project, play a crucial role in supporting the mental health and psychosocial well-being of learners. “In different schools they [teachers] do beat students,” she says, referring to a common practice of corporal punishment, which is strictly prohibited in the non-formal learning centers. Ibrahim says engaging in stimulating and valu- able activities like singing, dancing and playing

18 | Think Creative | Issue 1

students in formal schools will also be reached through Social Emotional Learning in the classroom. 438,000

Salamatu Ibrahim’s students in a non-formal learning center look to her for guidance during a Social Emotional Learning activity in the classroom.

memory games with her vulnerable students helps them cope with the unsettling experienc- es that they have endured. She explains, “What you have to do is you have to be part of them, and show them that what they went through is not the end of life.” Along with creating a safe environment for learning, Social Emotional Learning focuses on helping all students peacefully resolve conflicts and challenges, adhere to classroom rules, be socially aware of fellow classmates and be more resilient. Wakail Mala Buka, Master Trainer for the Nigeria Education Crisis Response project and lecturer at Kashim IbrahimCollege of Education, trains the local learning facilitators like Ibrahim. In addition to training the learning facilitators, Buka has also led the charge in providing qual- ity teaching materials in both English and the local language of Kanuri. With the help of other Nigerian education experts from the govern- ment, civil society, academia and elsewhere, he has integrated the core Social Emotional Learning competencies into the curriculum. “The five competencies of Social Emotional Learning are geared toward the restoration of hope to traumatized children,” says Buka. “Apart from giving them the basic education— basic literacy and numeracy—you are now trying to build them, build their life skills.” In preparation for the unique challenges facing the students, the learning facilitators go through a five-day training course to learn how to create a friendly and welcoming learning environment for the displaced children. The project applies a “Do No Harm” principle in the learning centers that requires learning facilitators to not use a stick, whip or harsh words on the students, says Buka. “Social Emotional Learning skills are used to build the mental capabilities, emotional re- sponse and interpersonal relations of children, so that they can be better in life,” he adds. Government charts the path forward Sustainability has been woven into the Educa- tion Crisis Response project implementation since its start, through regular engagement with state officials, civil society and commu- nities so they can take a clear lead when the project ends. Ali Mustapha Gori, Executive Secretary for the Agency forMass Literacy in Borno, is one of the

than threemonths, more than 300 learning centers were up and running in Borno, says Gori. An important aspect of the project is teacher training and partnershipwith government offi- cials. In addition to the non-formal learning cen- ters, the project is workingwith state government to trainmore than 7,000 public school teachers on Social Emotional Learning approaches. Whether in non-formal learning centers or public schools, Gori says projects that integrate capacity building and invest in human develop- ment of local community members are bound to have positive impact. “We feel both the learners and teachers have benefited immensely,” he says. “It enhances their [teachers] education, level of understand- ing, and most importantly, they enjoyed the level of training that the project offered.” The teacher training from the project and eventual complete government ownership, Gori highlights, is critical to the long-term, ongoing success of the project. Despite difficulties and hurdles along the way, life will move on in Nigeria–with the govern- ment taking the lead on several education initiatives, says Gori. “The collaboration between the State Agency for Mass Education and the Education Crisis project came at the right time in Borno,” says Gori. “Now we join hands and move forward.” n With reporting by Michael J. Zamba and Chima Onwe fromMaiduguri, Nigeria.

key players working to ensure long-termsuccess. “The project cannot actually succeed without joining hands with those who aremandated to lead the literacy programof the State,” says Gori. The Education Crisis Response project, which has been working in Borno state since 2016, counts on the active support of more than 40 staff from the Agency for Mass Literacy. The close collaboration among all key stake- holders has served the project well. In fewer

The five major components of Social Emotional Learning


Self-awareness: recognizing one’s emotions and how they influence behavior Self-management: ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors Social Awareness: ability to empathize and understand others’ perspectives establish healthy relationships with diverse individuals/groups Responsible Decision Making: ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interaction.



4. Relationship Skills: ability to

5. | 19

Program steers minority youth away from violence Success in family strength

By Evelyn Rupert & Jillian Slutzker

at a family, peer and individual level, broth- ers Wilson, 11, and Irvin, 13, both fell into this high risk category and are participating in a crime and violence prevention project called Proponte Más. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International, Proponte Más is aimed at preventing the most at-risk youth from joining gangs through a family-based counseling model. The project’s approach centers on strengthen- ing high-risk youths’ family support systems – the best asset for preventing young people from falling into gangs. More than 50 coun- selors have been trained to work closely with families in five of Honduras’ most violent cities, including La Ceiba, over the course of a year. The goal is to alter risky behavior and strength- en relationships that lower risk factors and build resilience to the lure of gangs. The boys’ mother Ronna says that before the program, Wilson and Irvin often skipped school, fought with their siblings and class- mates, and were disrespectful toward her and other adults. “They had the perception that because their dad was abroad, and their mom didn’t spend time at home, it was because they didn’t love them,” counselor Diana Flores says of the boys. “We worked out a strategy – we have to, in some way, see how we can try to create a little

Wilson and Irvin Guity’s father Carlos is returning home to the coastal Honduran town of Corozal for a visit from Panama, where he spends long stretches of time working con- struction jobs. While the boys’ father migrates for work, their mother Ronna Ballesteros picks up housekeep- ing jobs in order to provide for her sons and their younger siblings. “I shouldn’t have left, but I had to,” Carlos says. “Here, there aren’t opportunities.” Despite the distance, the family is now growing closer – and, in the process, reducingWilson and Irvin’s chances of becoming involved in gangs. The Guity family is Garifuna, a minority group of Afro-Caribbean descent. Garifuna com- munities dot the northern coast of Honduras, including in Corozal, just outside the larger city of La Ceiba. The Garifuna and other indigenous groups have long been isolated frommainstreamHonduran society by race, history and culture, and face dis- crimination and inequality in relation to land, justice and basic social services. In addition, they are affected by the same challenges playing out across the country: gang violence, job scarcity and migration. In Corozal and elsewhere, these factors are straining family life and leaving youth at a high risk of joining gangs. Based on an evaluation of nine risk factors

bit of closeness with mom and dad.” Counselors like Flores work to help youth identify themselves first as a member of their family. Strong family unity makes a young person less likely to seek out that sense of belonging from a gang, she explains. To date, the approach has had success. After just six months of intervention, all 445 youth in the program showed a reduction in all nine risk factors for violence. Nearly 75 percent of youth lowered their risk factors enough that they dropped below the threshold for being considered “at risk.” Community on the precipice Honduras has one of the highest murder rates i n the world, recently estimated to be about 60 homicides per 100,000 residents. Against this backdrop, crime and violence rates within the Garifuna community are relatively low. ProponteMás relies on an empirical assessment to identify youth who are at the highest risk of engaging in gang activity, through amethod

20 | Think Creative | Issue 1

being affected by situations that lead their young people, their men, their women to carry out acts of vandalism, criminal acts, and that concerns us,” says Quevedo. The work of Proponte Más in the Garifuna community is part of a pilot program, working on violence prevention in communities that do not yet have high homicide rates but nonethe- less exhibit risk factors for violence among their youth. “We do not want to wait to be part of the national statistics, to appear on the front pages of the newspapers, for attention to be given to this problem,” Quevedo says. “So this is the moment to be able to intervene, to be able to work. If we are talking about pre- vention, then we should prevent – because to do it later, to do it when we already have deaths every day, that won’t be prevention.” Focusing on families Proponte Más is the first program of its kind to be established in the Honduran Garifuna community. And Quevedo says the family-focused approach is fitting for the Garifuna. “A component that ProponteMás deals with and which really ties in with the Garifuna population is working with other generations and focusing on traditions, on the recuperation of customs,” she says. “The Garifuna community is a commu- nity very rich in culture, very rich in rituals, in traditions. And all of these traditions center on the family, just like ProponteMás does.” Carolina Guity, a longtime teacher in the area, says she has seen major improvements in the students referred to the program. “The importance of these programs is that if you transform a family, you become a commu- nity. And you can transform a country, which is where we want to go,” she says. “Currently the family is increasingly broken, and if the family changes, wewill be in amuch better country and the young peoplewill become better parents, andwewill obviously transformour community and our country as well.” BothWilson and Irvin say they have an im- proved outlook on school and life at home since working with Proponte Más. And their parents have noticed the difference. “I spent a lot of time fighting with them so they would help me do things. But now, thank God, with the project it changed a lot,” Ballesteros says. “Now they do laundry without me saying anything, they even cook, wash dishes, make the bed for me – even my bed where I sleep, they make it. They have changed a lot.” n With reporting by Gustavo Ochoa from La Ceiba, Honduras.

The Guity family meets with Proponte Más family counselor Diana Flores (right) at their home in Corozal.

“We do not want to wait to be part of the national statistics, to appear on the front pages of the newspapers, for attention to be given to this problem”

known as the Youth Service Eligibility Tool (YSET). The tool evaluates youth across nine risk factors and looks for more than 100 behav- ioral indicators. School staff, coaches and other community leaders can refer youth for YSET evaluation. Despite the relative isolation and calm of the Garifuna community, there are warning signs that Garifuna youth are not immune to the risk of becoming involved in gangs. Ballesteros says a teacher first recommended Irvin for the program; since she was also having trouble withWilson, Ballesteros asked if he could participate as well. Using the YSET assessment, both were deter- mined to be at high risk, along with other young people in the Garifuna community. Tesla Quevedo, Proponte Más Regional Direc- tor for La Ceiba and Tela, says that because the Garifuna have been viewed as a peaceful community, they have not been a priority for violence prevention programs. But the results of the risk assessment called for action. In

-Tesla Quevedo, Proponte Más Regional Director for La Ceiba and Tela

fact, Proponte Más was given special permis- sion to bring a pilot project to these specific Garifuna communities. “We are not alien to the structural and behav- ioral changes that our country is suffering. In this sense, the Garifuna population is also

Photo by Gustavo Ochoa | 21

Cheysi Smith (top left) and her classmates pose at an Aprendo y Emprendo project training where they are helping to prepare university educators to work with deaf and hard of hearing students like themselves. At 17, Shayra Morales (pictured here) is the youngest student to enter URACCAN’s first class of deaf and hard of hearing students in the university’s history.

22 | Think Creative | Issue 1

A place

in the


Deaf and hard of hearing youth pave the way to accessible education

By Jillian Slutzker

Growing up deaf in a remote community in the Caribbean Coast region, Cheysi Smith lived in her own world. Likemany deaf and hard of hearing children here, she was not taught sign language and was deprived of an opportunity for education. When she was finally given the chance to learn and entered first grade at age 12, through an organization supporting deaf and hard of hearing children, she seized it. Today, 27-year-old Smith is a pioneer. With a cohort of six other deaf and hard of hearing students, she is demanding access to higher ed- ucation through a three-year technical degree in Administrative Sciences at the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbe- an Coast (URACCAN), located in Bluefields, the region’s capital. “Coming to the university was very difficult, so we asked for an interpreter to come to the univer- sity,” she says. “It’s important to tell [deaf and hard of hearing] kids that they can come into the universities and [the instructors] can teach us.” While staff at the university were eager to em- brace the students, they lacked skills to com- municate with them. To answer this need and help train higher education instructors to work

with students like Smith, the university reached out to the Technical Vocational Education and Training Strengthening for At-risk Youth proj- ect, known in Spanish as “Aprendo y Emprendo.” The project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implement- ed by Creative Associates International, teamed up with certified Nicaraguan sign language inter- preters to offer a 40-hour course for 13 univer- sity and technical and vocational faculty on how to communicate with and educate students with hearing disabilities. “We learned that there are 60 deaf and hard of hearing people just in Bluefields, and they didn’t have any access to higher education because they need to have someone to guide them through the process,” says Anne Largaespada, Organizational Development Specialist with the project. “So Aprendo y Emprendo took up the challenge to create a bridge for the deaf and hard of hearing community to technical or higher education because that is what they want.” Trainees come fromUniversity of the Auton- omous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast, the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University, and the Foundation for the Autono-

Photos by Gretchen Robleto | 23

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