Oliver in the Middle East, part 2 – Communities in Crisis

This is part two of  a detailed two-part account of Oliver’s latest Reach trip. If you’d rather read an overview, click here. You can find part one here.

Crossing borders into other nations in the area, we see Oliver venture into more rural locations. Here he travelled extensively, working with professionals in social care, health and government and with refugee officials. He trained and worked with them on location, demonstrating to the team in the various areas how Footnotes can be deployed quickly and effectively. There are many stories of the impact made, too many to write down, but we can tell a few.

Seven social workers took Oliver to meet one of the more challenging cases they were dealing with at the time. On top of the other pressures they face daily, this family had eight children, five of whom were classed as deaf and dumb, and they had no form of visual language in place whatsoever, including signing. Footnotes was seen to very quickly impact those children, just in the brief demonstration workshop that took place, and the excitement from the social workers was highly evident. However they also realised they need much more training in the broader portfolio of Footnotes, that they might apply it not just to the children but the parents and wider community as well.

They met another non-speaking child, this one with complex behavioural needs. His mother had learned to control him with a purpose made plastic whip, two foot long. When they arrived at the house he was nowhere to be found, until she went and fetched him. In the dark you could just make out the boy, maybe thirteen years old, peering through barred windows. But as she went to get him he managed to escape and ran away screaming out the door,into the garden and out the gate he laughed his way down the dusty road because he had avoided the whip. Oliver followed, calling him back in the hope that he would be seen as safe, and interesting enough to persuade the child back. Torn between freedom and intrigue he returned slowly but was accosted by his mother and the whip. With the social workers restraining the mother they could do nothing to control the child and Oliver was warned that the boy was dangerous. Yet he wanted to connect and so, ignoring the advice to not get close they sat together and trusted each other. Oliver started to do his own grid and the boy copied him. Sitting quietly and calmly side-by-side, drawing and eating fruit.  The parents and social workers watched in awe as the child settled and focused, because he finally found something that made sense to him. Oliver maintained quiet confidence, as he witnessed again the story that he had  seen so many times before.

As a result of these dramatic outcomes, word spread quickly and Oliver’s driver was inundated by phone calls from school principals, asking for him to visit with them. Wherever possible he went.  At one he found a dark classroom full of special needs kids sat in front of a TV screen. The teachers were amazed by what the children achieved in the space of just twenty minutes. Having seen this result, the principal was adamant that he must return and train all the staff. They saw something new; something transformational and they know they need it.

It is one thing to see the terrible and unavoidable suffering of people, and look to alleviate it in some way, but many of these stories are of unnecessary trauma inflicted by family members, loved ones and very local communities. A lack of information and basic training makes hard scenarios much worse than they need be. Footnotes goes to the heart of so many challenging situations and breakthrough was seen by these individuals, but we realise there is much more needed, and in order to see real changes take affect it is necessary to build systematic and sustainable support within these communities.

There are so many more stories, and so much need. Oliver travelled extensively through the area and met community officials in numerous places. In each and every one of them, the response was overwhelming. The success of the trip more than exceeded initial expectation and the invitation and desire for Oliver to return is very real and also urgently needed. The thrust of this is that we need help to deliver Footnotes facilitator training to a wide spread of locations as soon as possible. The plan is to transfer the knowledge to these professionals and leaders so that they are able to teach the strategy for themselves, no longer relying upon Oliver’s demonstration and input. Longer term, Footnotes Reach would also train new trainers, so that they can be completely self-sufficient in learning and propagating the technique.

We have once again seen how effective Footnotes can be in a crisis situation and know that the impact is significant, with potential for much greater increase. A return visit would begin the process of creating sustainable, long term, support in countries that sorely need the input.

The hope is to go back in the early stages of this coming spring, planning at least two visits in these countries, with the possibility of introducing one more location. However, this project is entirely funding dependent. We are looking not just for now but into the future, to raise a level of ongoing support that will make planning ahead far more strategically viable. The invitation to partner with us in this exciting opportunity is there and we hope that you can join us on a journey that will impact many lives and communities.

If you have any questions at all about this work, do send Oliver an email to [email protected].

For those considering becoming a financial partner in this project, thank you. We can”t do it without the support of people like yourself. You can find out more about giving to Footnotes Reach here.

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