|"Working with two Australian teachers, two counsellors from the UK – Chris Kell and Joan Irvine – found themselves unexpectedly putting on counselling skills workshops for trainee teachers in Southern India in January 2011"|
I’m writing in response to your article about teaching counselling skills in southern India. I have been working with a project in Sri Lanka since 2010
A performance project in Sri Lanka
I’m writing in response to your article about teaching counselling skills in southern India (Therapy Today, October 2011). I have been working with a project in Sri Lanka since 2010 and have visited twice. Although I’m a counsellor, I went to teach Playback Theatre (a form of improvised theatre that re-enacts true personal stories from the life of audience members) which is my other life aka Makeshift Theatre.
As a result, a performance group was formed of young people who live on tea plantations, and on my second visit in May this year, I provided more training input and we did two performances at a hostel for young people and at a teacher training college. I work with translators so I’m always one step removed, which can be a fun dynamic especially during a performance as I perform in a conducting role.
The project concerned is The Centre for Social Concern based in the small town of Hatton in the central highlands of Sri Lanka – the tea-growing area. The project is directed by Father Benny, a vibrant Jesuit priest and mainly serves the local population that lives on tea plantations, who are Tamils and either Hindu or Catholic. Some teenage Muslim girls from the town also attend the centre for some classes, but otherwise the main demographic served by the centre is Tamil as is the Playback group who are mostly young people.
The project employs field workers who operate an outreach service to the plantations, some of which are very isolated, that seeks to support plantation workers who are in difficulty. The stories that emerged from the previous performances and the one that we did at the hostel included accounts of domestic abuse, alcoholism and its effects. The field workers do a good job but lack skills at an enhanced level and would really benefit from some training.
If anyone feels inspired by Chris Kell’s and Joan Irvine’s article and is drawn to set up a skills bank of people who would be willing to offer their time in support of these essential projects – please get in touch. I’d be happy to coordinate a skills bank, either alone or with others.
There’s no fee for this work other than perhaps a modicum of hospitality; it’s an act of service and a rewarding one! I have made many friends in Sri Lanka and will be returning in September 2012 to continue my work with the Playback group. I could also work with one or more counsellors to provide some training in listening skills in addition, while I’m there. I could also arrange a visit if anyone would like to go before then? I can offer plenty of advice on making a successful trip to Sri Lanka.
The Centre for Social Concern is working on a website but you can read about Playback Theatre and my work in Sri Lanka on www.makeshifttheatre.co.uk and I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MBACP (Snr Accred) counsellor