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Co-Active Global Newletter

Children and Mothers in Pune Slums Find Co-Active Inspiration
by Sandra Richardson, Edited by Barton Cutter

Co-Activity – makes its debut in India as 530 residents of Pune receive their first taste of coaching

Front of Room Leaders Sandra Richardson and Karen Makkes van der Deijl, along with assistants Jayesh Parmar and Lucy Reynolds, ventured to Pune, India, recently to deliver six separate workshops, including a three-day Fundamentals course, to youth, women, NGO staff and teachers.

From the start, the team found themselves in new territory as Parmar, a Pune local and leadership graduate, elegantly danced between three languages so everyone could
understand each other, while Reynolds held the space for the student’s learning.

The 25 teachers and social workers attending the Fundamentals course put their learning immediately into practice through their work with Hope for the Children Foundation and other local charities.

In the days following the Fundamentals course, Richardson visited several schools and orphanages. “It was amazing,” she says. “We were able to see the positive impact the coaching skills were already having as the teachers focused on bringing out the brilliance in the children.”

Pune, situated about 100 miles southeast of Mumbai, has an estimated population of around 5.7 million, over 40% of whom live in slums. For those who live and work here the average annual income was 22,817 rupees in 2012, or US$343.22.

The seed for this excursion was planted when Richardson met Caroline Audoir de Valter three years ago.

Founder of Hope for the Children Foundation, Audoir de Valter is passionate about providing educational and vocational training to children and women who live in Pune’s slum communities, where the foundation is based.

Richardson could see how training the social workers and teachers who work with the children and women in coaching skills would make a big difference to the amazing work they already did, and Audoir de Valter enthusiastically agreed.

Richardson then approached Makkes van der Deijl to join her in making this idea a reality, and the seed idea took root. With the assistants Reynolds, in from Tokyo, and Parmar on board, the dream team was formed.

Supported by CTI, who kindly gifted them the 3-day Fundamentals course so they could train Hope for the Children’s team in Co-Active coaching skills, the team thought about the possibility of running a workshop for some of the children as well.

The original plan was a workshop for 25 children, but Audoir de Valter had other ideas and asked them to do three workshops for over 457 children in different schools!

Giddy with excitement about that leap, the team soon added a workshop for some of the women the charity supports. They also discovered the opportunity to take a workshop into a juvenile prison, also supported by Hope for the Children, to top off this grand adventure.

The children’s workshops focused on getting the children in touch with their dreams and with themselves at their best. The team did various exercises with the children where the children drew pictures of “their best self” and the sabotaging mindsets that stopped them.

Through these exercises, the children got to see that they could choose their mindset and how it would support them in moving towards their dreams. The CTI team was ably supported at each of the schools by the teachers and social workers they had trained in the Fundamentals course, who were overheard encouraging the children and saying things like, “Nobody gets to be wrong!”

Reflecting on the children’s workshop, Richardson comments, “When you’re used to coaching professionals in the U.K. around their dreams, talking with 12 year olds from the Indian slums about theirs can be a real eye-opener. However, the thing that struck me most was the universal power of dreams to make us feel happy and hopeful about the future. Equally, whoever we are, and wherever we live, we all have the same sabotaging voices that trip us up. It is just part of being human. Coaching tools are so powerful in helping us to navigate the best way forward in our lives.”

She adds of the women’s workshop she ran with Reynolds: “When the team ran the women’s workshop, it seemed that the women’s only dream was that their children should have a better life than them. While it was tempting for us encourage them to think bigger, the dream was the one that kept them going.”

Of the 40 participants in their women’s workshop, many were single mothers, some with HIV, living in the slum communities of Pune. Hope for the Children supports these women with social enterprise funds to buy sewing machines and other equipment so they can become seamstresses. The NGO also provides assistance with business set-up to foster sustainability. This allows the women some independence and the ability to support their children.

At a poignant moment in the workshop, the women acknowledged each other, and it was beautiful to see the transformation in them as they were recognized as unique and valuable for the first time in their lives.

For the capstone of the excursion, Richardson and Makkes van der Deijl led a workshop for 30 teenage boys at a juvenile prison. Initially, they were daunted — these boys were in prison for everything from petty theft to murder and rape.

With support from Reynolds and the Hope for the Children team, however, the two followed their leadership and coaching instincts and were amazed by the impact.

“In the young male prison, where some already seemed to be hardened to life, we were struck by how the boys opened up,” Richardson says. “Seeing beyond the shell to connect with the whole human being within made such a difference to the work we were able to do.

“We asked the boys what qualities they would be allowing out more if they connected with themselves at their best, getting them to imagine themselves at 65 as if they had lived that way. This helped them to create the visionary path of joining the dots from the future so that they could start to live that life in the present.”

Through working closely with the local NGO, Richardson hopes these workshops will sustainably bear fruit in the lives of everyone who took part and, in turn, the lives of their children and grandchildren.

If you are interested in getting involved in any future projects, please contact with Sandra Richardson at Sandra@chrysaliscoaching.co.uk.

If you are interested in learning more about or supporting Hope for the Children Foundation, their website is http://hopeforthechildrenfdn.org.