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Life Lessons in Seven Days


“Oh, wow, ToT! Good luck! You’re going to come back crying!”

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

These were just some of the reactions PRIA colleagues, nominated to attend a Training of Trainers (ToT) programme at Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra (SSK) in Lucknow, heard as they were heading off to catch the train.

“I was trembling with trepidation as we embarked on what was notoriously an intensive hotbed for humiliation,” recalls Ruchika Tara Mathur, programme officer.

“Every new recruit at PRIA wants to be nominated to attend this ToT. All year I had heard many of my colleagues share stories, pictures, experiences about the ToT they had attended,” said Swathi Subramaniam, programme officer.

It was an intensive week alright! Seven days and seven nights in a remote campus 20 km outside Lucknow city will teach you much and more. All of those who attended have come away from the experience with a multitude of new learnings. The continuous assessment of ongoing training, challenging experiences, deepening understanding of the ideas and principles of participatory training, developing skills to pass the message gained effectively to future target groups -- these were a few goals of the ToT. The keen observations, in the form of constructive feedback, from the trainers and fellow participants were extremely helpful.

The group learnt their  basic  responsibilities as  trainers – understanding the  training  needs of  the  target  groups  to be  trained,  designing  the  training  programme,  conducting  the  training,  making arrangements  for organising  the  same  and  evaluating   the  effect  of  the  training.  In  addition  to  these  responsibilities  as  trainers,  it is  also  important to play the role of  facilitator  and  ‘friend,  philosopher  and guide’  to  the  target group. However, the most important role among all of the above was to become effective change agents in society.

There was freedom and space for personal growth. While working in various small groups for activities, discussions, role plays and exercises, Swathi realised that “the biggest and the most complicated being are Human Beings. People are not easy to deal with. Some groups I could easily gel with; in other groups there was such difference of opinion that we could not complete the assigned task. The idea of perfectionism is something which broke within me in the whole process. I did not hesitate to make mistakes, ask questions, put my opinion across and give feedback.”

Ruchika learnt the value of humility. The diverse knowledge in the room full of people (someone calculated the total number of ‘work’ years amongst the participants as exceeding a whole hundred!) showed her the importance of intelligence without arrogance.

The most trying part of an intensive exposure such as the ToT is the group work. After being subject to two days of learnings about several processes involved in group forming and strengthening, the participants were asked to take the reins of the training room and conduct sessions in groups of 4.

“It is not only important to be the main facilitator in explaining the session but it is equally important to be a support for the whole team,” advises Swathi. “Being part of a team means a sense of unity within the team, a sense of belongingness, a sense of ownership. It is not only about authority and leadership. Providing support means words of appreciation and encouragement, support in taking photographs, sticking charts, writing on the blackboard, distributing copies, etc.”

At the end of seven days of rigorous work, presentations, exercises and feedback, the last evening saw a ‘cultural night’, bringing forth hitherto hidden singing and dancing talents of some of our colleagues!

The group returned filled with a new energy, feeling a vast change in perspective and a special need for courage to confront imperfections.

Viva la ToT!

With inputs from Swathi Subramaniam, PRIA New Delhi and Ruchika Tara Mathur, PRIA Jaipur

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