Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Volunteer Training

This month, I had the privilege of training the newest Back2Back Monterrey volunteer recruits. About 45 volunteers from local area churches came together to attend a training on providing trauma competent care to the orphans we serve.

We tailored the training to the various roles these volunteers will fill - tutoring, mentoring, discipling, reading programs, music lessons, etc.  Our desire was for the volunteers to better understand the profile of child they'd be working with in the orphanages - to understand better how past trauma often impacts a child's ability to focus, learn, and behave appropriately.

As we prepared to provide this training, I just kept asking myself, "If these people were about to sit down with my 10 boys, what would I tell them?  What would help them be successful with my kids?" What we came up with turned into a list of practical tips for ways that these volunteers can empower our kids to be successful each time that they have the opportunity to interact with them.

I'll give you some examples:
* Did you know that chronic dehydration is very common in orphanage settings and often leads to an increase in violent behavior in children?  Studies show that by hydrating children with water, 80% of violent behavior can be decreased.

* Did you know that chewing gum or sucking on a lollypop is scientifically proven to be calming to a child and to lower cortisol levels in the brain which allows a child to focus better and momentarily increases their IQ?  Well it's true.  Full sugar bubble gum (sugarless gum doesn't have the same effect) actually can be very beneficial to our kids.

Something that really impacted me during this training time was the realization that God is answering my prayers from years and years ago to see the local church active and responding to the orphans in their own backyard.  Friends - if you've been praying for this for years - know that God is moving heavily in the local churches here in Monterrey.  Back2Back has tons of local churches partnering with us to be a positive presence in the orphanages where we serve.

At the end of the training, there was a time for the participants to work through examples of bad behavior they've seen the kids display.  Afterwards they acted out in groups ways to appropriately respond to the child by connecting to the child and ways that adults often respond or try to discipline inappropriately with disconnecting responses.

As the volunteers acted out their skits, which displayed how much they had grasped from our training day, they kept referring to "Back2Back" with statements like "here comes Back2Back, we have to get ready for their visit."  I was blown away with the realization that not only is Back2Back here in Monterrey:
1. our full time staff
2. our visiting american mission teams

but now it's also
3. our impressive, unpaid, consistent local volunteers

When they referred to "Back2Back," they weren't referring to our staff or our mission teams - which honestly is how I view "Back2Back."  They were referring to themselves - the volunteers who represent our ministry.  It was a third part of B2B that I hadn't quite registered in my mind.

acting out their skits of dealing appropriately with misbehavior

These volunteers are making the difference for many of the kids we work with.  They are providing weekly reading and math skills classes.  They are mentoring kids and teens in the Hope Program.  They are discipling the kids we work with through weekly Bible classes.

It's incredible.  And it was a privilege to try to equip them for their work with the kids.

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