Positive Behavior Facilitation (PBF) is a comprehensive approach to understanding and intervening in the behavior of youth. This article describes the components of PBF.
My name is Jennifer Scott and I am a graduate student in the field of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria, B.C. I have recently returned from a four month internship/practicum in Bangalore. I just thought I would share my recent international practicum experience and some of my unedited email letters.
Imagine traveling over 50 long and anxious hours to reach a place in which you will be working as a Child and Youth Care NGO worker for the next four months. Unexpectedly you have accepted an internship with the International Institute of Canadian Research and Development (IICRD) located at the University of Victoria, B.C. The internship is through the Canada Corp and funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). You are a graduate student in the Child and Youth Care program at UVIC and as you have just finished your 12 months of classes your plan was to jump right into your thesis. Now that is on hold for the next four months.
Due to the circumstances you found out only four weeks before leaving that your life was about to take a new turn. There was much to do. One week was tied up for intern training and one week was tied up with previous plans to visit family in Ontario. Thus leaving you with only two weeks to prepare for your adventure–finding a home for your puppy for four months, making sure bills are paid, figuring out your car and apartment, making sure everything is completed with formalities at school, shop, pack, get a visa, do some research” Barely anytime to really comprehend the decision you have made and the adventure you are about to embark on.
Fifty hours later after leaving from Toronto, stopping in Hong Kong and Mumbai, you have arrived at your final destination! Here, in this place, your senses are overrun and stimulated by newness. Bombarded by controversial smells of divine foods, fresh flowers, pollution, urine, and dust. The sounds of constant construction, people hollering, dog’s howling, cat’s meowing, and cow’s mooing. Rickshaws, cars, bikes, motorcycles, and people weave un-poetically amongst the streets yet this method somehow works. You now have to learn to look right first instead of left as you cross the street. The tastes of vibrant chili’s, chutneys, and dahl along with rice, chipotee, or parotta. Chai (tea) is a part of everyone’s daily routines. You creatively find ways to communicate with people as you no longer speak the dominant language around you. The constant being stared at “You are in Bangalore, India! You are going to be spending up to four months in this new environment that will change your life forever...
Now imagine you have not even had time to get your bearings before being whisked away within 34 hours of your arrival to India for another 12 hour over night bus ride on windy-turny roads that make you feel rather nauseous. As you concentrate on keeping your stomach together and are starting to feel the repercussions of jetlag setting in, you realize you have no idea where you are headed and that you have not even called your family to let them know you are safe. You could be going to Timbuktu for all you know (except that is in Africa). Yet, when the journey is over and you finally arrive at the place you will be spending the next ten days, you are amazed. The place is lavishing in green nature. The sounds of birds, frogs, gecko–s, cats, dogs, chickens, and children. There is only the occasional bus, rickshaw or motorcycle. In the fields are many people working the land. And amongst all this is a campus called Namma Bhoomi in Kundapur India that houses up to 100 children and provides residential training and education”.
Your world over the next four months will entail living between both Kundapur and Bangalore–
Overall Internship/Practicum Focus
I worked with an organization called The Concerned for Working Children (CWC) which has been working towards strengthening participatory democracy since the 1970–s. CWC is a non-government organization with the guiding vision being the “realization of children's rights in all aspects and at all levels”. Recently they have broadened their focus from working children in the streets of Bangalore to working with school-going children and youth in the city and rural areas. They center their work on issues of child rights and participation, protagonism, governance and democracy. Part of this process involves talking to children about matters that are not so openly talked about like personality, gender, reproduction and menstruation, sexually transmitted diseases, nutrition and health, children's rights, child exploitation, participation, the need for child organizations, strength in the collective and information management.
The focus of my research stemmed from the organizations goal of empowering children and youth in rural villages to advocate on their own behalf with certain issues they face. Some of these issues include flooding rice fields, lack of electricity, poor water conditions, traitorous road conditions and family alcoholism. The long term implications of such children's organizations are to reduce the number of children who migrate to larger cities to work and to build stronger rural government structures.
During the six weeks “out in the field” I went out daily with a translator and field worker to interview groups of school children who were forming or had formed their own organizations. Overall, I was able to meet with 46 diverse groups of children. Their goals for their organizations varied from getting time to sing and play together to taking up concerns with local government officials. The goal of my research was to find out from the children how they viewed the initial processes of forming their own organizations or unions. The experience of speaking with these children and youth was very enriching and powerful. Once I had completed my interviews I returned to Bangalore where I spent one month bringing all of the children's and youth’s information together in a process or research document. (Although I only conducted this particular part of the research the process will be on-going long after this initial documentation.)
Unedited Letters: In the moment
Email Letter #1
Well it has been a challenge to get to a computer where I was staying the last two weeks. I was staying at Namma Bhoomi (which means Our Land/Earth), and is located just outside of the city Kundapur (Which is on the west coast and is very luscious, hot and humid). In order to get to Kundapur to use the internet or phone, it took about a half hour crazy bus ride. This was not really the problem, the problem was that by the time we are finished work at night it is dark and thus not safe to be traveling around. So, anyway I am writing now.
Namma Bhoomi (NB) is a wonderful place that is set up as a self-sustained residential vocational training and education center for approximately 100 children of various ages. They arrive in NB for a variety of reasons such as just being interested in the training programs, poverty within the family, or through the police/kids help-line. (Sound similar to back home anyone!). So this is where the children live, work and play. They get up early in the morning to get ready for the day and have breakfast. Sometimes from my room I can hear them singing while they are getting ready. Then they have diverse classes throughout the day such as computers, sewing/stitching, sculpting, English etc. Their stitching and sculpting is sold at two stores, one in Bangalore and one in Kudapur. CWC owns these stores and they are called Namma Gadi which means Our Shop. At night they have free time for awhile and then they watch the 7PM news. At 8:30 they have dinner together and then are off to bed. The children are the ones that cultivate their self-sustaining garden, they milk the cows that live on campus, and they do grounds work to keep the place looking nice. They all seem to want to be in NB.
There are several different sections to NB. One area is offices where I work when I am not in the field. There is another area for guests to stay and have their meals. A third area is where the director stays. Most of the staff that work at NB live close by and go home at night. Thus, at night it is rather quiet and potentially lonely. The past week has been ok because at night there is myself and Nadia who is the other intern here from Italy. She will be leaving soon though. I have decided that I will try to spend as much time as I can with the children on campus. This is what I have been doing with my few hours of spare time. On Sept 7th was the festival for the God Ganeshe. The children took me through a Temple for the God Ganeshe making sure to walk me step by step through the certain rituals. The children seemed to enjoy showing me what to do and making sure I got to see and do everything. It was very interesting and spiritual. I have also spent time with the children playing games, doing mendi (drawing with Henna on their hands), etc. They will be my life-line here in India.
Before going to bed I check the sheets for bugs. I also look around the room for my new best friends the gecko’s who eat the bugs and mosquitoes for me! At night in NB I fall asleep to the sorrowful howling of hungry dogs or the growing and snarling of dogs keeping their territory. There is one dog in particular who seems a little older but probably he is just warn, and he howls this 7-10 second howl or pure anguish, so usually I get out of bed to find him and comfort him until he quiets down. Now he sleeps in front of my door and I sneak him left-overs throughout the day. I really miss Nyak–my dog at home. So anyway back to falling asleep, you can also hear the howling of cats especially one little black one whom has become the NB cat. He usually howls for awhile and then I hear pots and pans hitting the ground from him knocking them over looking for food. There are also the sounds of loud crickets and tree frogs. Sometimes in the distance I can hear Indian music being played by a family.
In the morning I wake up to the distant sound of children, as well as the sounds of the people chatting and banging pots and pans from the people who work in the kitchen as they make breakfast. I can also hear the birds, and other calls of nature. It is peaceful though to open the door and have nature right there. The toilet and shower are also outside! The power goes out often which affects the work schedule. There are only two computers to work at when there are twenty staff (so good luck getting one). Yet, this is a place of peace and quiet with the beautiful nature and lack of rickshaws, cars, motor cycles, buses, garbage, etc.
So far with my research I have been learning about certain workshops that were just held at NB for young girls attending school. There were 12, three-day, workshops in which girls came from over 56 Panchayats (communities) and over 600 girls attended. The workshops are to inform them about diverse personalities/acceptance, menstruation and hygiene, relationships, reproduction, and empowerment with the use of unions/organizations. Within empowerment they were taught and partook in activities about unions/organizations (sangha–s) and what can be accomplished with such unions amongst children.
It was also discussed that sangha’s can be a way to address children's needs within their communities.”Later, I went to do field research. This encompassed going to visit children at their schools to find out what information they have been sharing with friends, family, teachers etc. We also interviewed some of their parents and teachers. This experience is like non-other that I have had. First of all this was my first experience actually doing field research which is much more fun than book! As well, I have had a chance to meet people in their school and homes. Here I have seen from “rags to riches”.
It is interesting to see the diverse home environments and to know that in each home the hospitality was wonderful. For instance, with one family we had to hike 30 minutes through rice fields on a small path amongst the fields. If you do not pay attention you slip into the deep muddy water. They were quite poor and could not afford to send their daughter to school. Their daughter often stays time at a neighbor’s house that has more money and helps to pay for the little girl to go to school. Another house had servants and the finest of clothes and articles such as TV–s. Just like at home I suppose but here it seems so “in your face”.
Now I am in Bangalore again for two weeks. I am helping another intern from Italy who is finishing off her internship, write her final report as everyone is away at a workshop. I will then be starting my own outline of my research which will involve me going to different Panchayats to interview the girls who had attended the workshop. I will be asking them about their experiences starting their sangha’s (unions/organizations) and what they need from CWC to help this process. CWC is also interested in finding out what issues the children bring up that are discussed in there sangha’s to see if some of the issues are the same as other sangha–s. If they are then this will be where CWC will help the children advocate politically for their needs.
Life in India is absolutely amazing and crazy at the same time. Sometimes I get tired of being stared at and would like to be invisible. Other times it is an easy way to start talking to people. It can be hard to see starving cows, dogs, cats, and people everyday. It is hard to watch what I eat all of the time hoping I do not get sick. (I have developed an allergic rash which I am in the midst of trying to find out what it is a reaction to) Or gagging when entering public toilets. Or washing in water that you know is fairly dirty so you have to keep your mouth closed and you also acknowledge that this is a luxury that some do not have. Yet, there is this beauty about India and the people here. The crazy music, spicy food, lots of laughter, closeness with friends and family, beautiful fabrics, taking pride in how they look, hospitality, a strongness and determination to survive”..
I have had to learn how to do things all over again like laundry and cooking. There is nothing like doing laundry on the roof of your apartment building. Where as you look out across the city you can see everything. Laundry is done by hand using a small bucket and tap. Then a flat stone to scrub the clothes on, then you have to try to wash the soap out of the clothes using the bucket, then wring the clothes to get most of the water out and then slap the clothing on the stone to get more water out. Then taking at least a day to dry. It is hard work–
Email letter #2
It is nearing the middle of my trip here to India.
Time is passing rather quickly now which usually happens from the middle
to the end of a trip. Strange how this happens. Anyway–
I am now in Namma Bhoomi again after being in Bangalore for one month and have been here for three weeks. (This is the residential skills training campus). Life here is surprisingly busy which contradicts my original worry of being bored... I have figured out how to drown out the morning sounds of dogs howling and fighting, roosters (calling, I am not sure what this is called), cows mooing, crickets, and people. The simple solution is turn on my fan! So, now I sleep to the monotonous rhythm of the squeaky ceiling fan which also aids in keeping me cool. So, unless the power goes out (which happens often) I have a fairly content sleep.
After I get up I bath in the outdoor bathroom. And bathing is no more than using a bucket of cold water or trying to wriggle my body under the waist high tap. Next I eat my spicy Indianized breakfast of rice and have my morning tea. Yes, I used my hands and let me tell you it is actually quite difficult to eat with your hands and look somewhat in control of where the food is going! (I definitely have not picked up the eating with your hands elegance that everyone here has mastered!) After that I grab my books, I am usually already sweaty and thinking about how nice it will be to change my clothes into something cooler and skimpier in the privacy of my bedroom after work, and head off to the office at the other end of the campus. As I walk to the office I pass many of the children living here on campus who are on their way to their training or about to do the group morning prayer. This is usually filled with many “Have you eaten?” and “How are you?”. (–Have you eaten?” seems to have the same use that “how are you?” does for me back home).
At the office I usually have to sit and wait (under the fan) while things get organized. The mission is finding a daily translator (as the one who was supposed to come did not arrive) and also wait to find out which field worker can take me with them. Then we head off to the bus stop where already the blazing heat is almost unbearable so we try to stand in the shade. (I must say that having a handkerchief is a life savor and probably the only time in my life that I have had one).
As we wait for the bus we watch the village people gathering their buckets of water and carrying them along the roads to their homes. They carry the buckets on their hip or balanced on their head. We see the chickens and cows out grazing. Dogs are scrounging for food. Children are walking to school in their blue uniforms and the girls have their hair in braids with bows. People are driving by on motorcycles (sometimes with at least three people on it or even a family) going to work. Then the bus pulls up and we literally have only about 3 seconds to pile on before the bus starts to move again and you are hanging out the door. Which, actually, literally you are doing anyways sometimes when the buses are packed full.
It is amazing to see how many people they can fit on the bus. And personal space, ya right. Elbows to the head, bodies bouncing off each other with each bump in the road. As we pass certain areas the stench of dead fish basking in the heat causes everyone to plug their nose–then the fight to get off at the main bus stop in town. Pushing through the crowd and nearly pushing or being pushed out the doors and onto the street to get off before the 3 seconds are up and the bus continues on its route. Being elderly must be tough as I have even seen an elderly man fall off the bus trying to hurry off. Then at the main stop we wait for a bus to take us to the remote village areas. This ride is usually not as busy and so you may get a seat.
If you are sitting beside the window I am prepared for bruises on my shoulder as I bash the metal window frame with every bump in the road (which is the whole journey). I watch the rice paddy fields filled with people harvesting the crops. Or people carrying stacks of sticks on their head to their destination. Many of these people are elderly and I am amazed at the physical labour they must endure. There is no such thing as a pension or weekend at the cottage. And amazingly by the time you have reached your destination, which is often around one hour, you are so tired and almost sleeping with the other passengers who are lulled by the bumpy movements and open air.
Then we begin our one-hour walk through rice paddy fields or on deserted roads with blaring sun to the remote school in which you can’t believe even exists in such a remote place. And because you rarely see a lot of houses you realize how far some of these children must have to walk back and forth from school everyday.
Then as you near the school little heads start to pop out of the classroom doorways (which open right outside rather than into a hallway) and windows (which are only covered with several metal bars). Eyes are wide in wonder and whispers are being passed back and forth. As I get closer some smaller children seem almost afraid of me as they run into their classrooms. While other children are practicing their English with “Hi how are you?” “what is your name?” “what is your country?” “what is your mother/father name?” “What is your brother/sister name?”.
As I am following the field workers I try to answer as many questions as possible before being led into the office. Where the teachers are usually sitting (and it seems they are more often there than in the classroom) and the Head Master or Mistress starts to ask their curious questions about my schooling, what will I do with my research, where am I from etc. Sometimes tea and cookies are offered. Other times the teachers get the children to perform a dance of song. I find this rather interesting and often tears come to my eyes as I watch and listen to their hard work and the stories being told within the dance or song.
The interviews themselves are quite interesting as you can see many differences between groups. Some groups are more shy and others very bold. Some children's sanghas are very school based and thus have teacher influences and others are area based and are much more children organized. Some schools are more supportive with the children's sanghas and others believe children are too young to have a sangha. So my observations are very interesting.
Then we head off to an area that is as quiet as possible to speak with from 8-30 children who have formed these sanghas/unions. (most have bare feet and are wearing school uniforms. The girls have their hair braided and with bows)And we begin an hour interview in which they share their experiences in forming their own children's union. Often I get distracted as I worry about other children who are trying to watch and lingering to see what is going on in our group.
Many times I have been caught in an ethical uproar within myself as I watch teachers smack children hard on their bodies or twist their ear to get them to go back to class. Or the teachers walk around holding a ruler and sometimes hitting it into their hand. I cringe every time and am amazed that nothing is said or done by the field workers. They (field workes) say that it will take time to change the way things are. Only recently have laws about hitting been put into place”.So anyone who ever sometimes questions discipline for children with corporal punishment, I tell you that when you see it in practice you may not question it again. The fear not respect that engrosses the children's eyes and demeanor.
The simple fact that they believe they deserve it or have become used to it. I question the personal inability to be able to comprehend how teachers of all people can hit these children when they have vowed to help and work with children. Yet, I also know that it is engrained in the cyclical cycle of abuse or knowing no different methods. I am also linking such physical contact to knowing that this is part of the reason I see people being mean to other people and animals etc. on the streets. Along with hints of the caste system which is also an incomprehensible reality to me.
And after the interview I usually do a few English songs with the children like “The Chicken Dance” (which I don’t even know if we could classify as an English dance), “If you are Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands” and “head and Shoulders Knees and Toes”. Then the children are laughing and we say our “thank you’s and goodbye” and they shake my hand (several times) and sometimes they pinch my cheeks or place their hand quickly under my chin. They may even ask if I am Jennifer Caprioti the famous tennis player and sometimes ask for my autograph. And as we finally pull away from the crowd all the other school children are out watching again, waving and saying goodbye until I am out of sight. And then I am tired from smiling so much, trying to understand what they are asking me, trying to forget about the abuse I have seen, trying to forget about the unbearable heat as perspiration pours down my face.
On occasion I have much time to reflect as we walk back along the road or through the paddy fields. One time however we arrived in a really remote place and the rain started. It was like no rain I have seen before. Absolutely pouring and within minutes the school grounds were flooded. Rivers had formed. A mother of one of the children in the sangha had traveled to the school to tell us that we needed to leave immediately or else we would be flooded in and would not be able to leave the area until the following day when the rain had stopped and things dried up.
We were worried about some of the smaller children and trying to cross the flooded paddy fields and newly developed rapidly moving rivers. So, each adult took two small children with them and we formed a line as we started our long, wet journey. It was near impossible to stay dry. And luckily we had a guide to take us through the paddy fields other wise it could have been disastrous as the only way to walk on normal days is a very narrow path that is elevated from the muddy paddy fields. Even on these days I have to concentrate to stay balanced like walking on a balance beem in gym class. So, imagine this narrow path being completely submerged with the heavy rains and having to slide your feet along the path so as not to lose your footing.
All the while enjoying the experience and knowing it will be one that stays in my memory for ever. Then a village member comes out to meet us and offers us an umbrella and to come to their house until the rain slows down. Here we sit in our wet clothes drinking tea and answering questions. After awhile they are able to get a jeep to come and pick us up and we set off to finish our journey home.
Anyway, usually after our morning interview we have a lunch in the remote village area before beginning our bus journey etc. to the next afternoon's interview. The lunches are usually quite good but alas I am always worried about the food prep and worried about if this will be the meal that makes me sick. Then we head off to the next interview, which usually is similar to the morning interview. Then when both interviews are over I return to Namma Bhoomi. I am exhausted. I go directly to my room to put on a free flowing skirt and fresh shirt. I also may wipe my body down with cool water. Then I dig into a book or write in my journal. (I am very happy to be able to have time to read books that are for personal pleasure and not just for school!). I also spend much of my time SMS–ing or phone texting with my new friends in India.
This eats up a lot of time as you write and wait for the reply...write and wait etc. And in between I eat dinner around 7:15. The meal is usually rice with a dahl and some vegetable. At this time I also teach English to any of the children who want to come and eat dinner with me. Or I practice my Kanada language (the Indian language spoken here in Kundapur), which is coming along fairly nicely. Then at around 8pm I head to my room and continue with my reading, SMS–ing, or even mendi drawing with henna on my hands or feet. Then at around 10pm I switch off my light, listen to the fan and fall asleep only to begin a new adventure all over again the next day.
As for my Sunday off“This weekends adventure tops them off so far. I went to visit my new friends in a close university town that is a one-hour bus ride from Namma Bhoomi. On the Sunday around 12pm we set off for a journey to Kundulu Falls. The car ride was supposed to be about one hour and then only a 1km hike to the falls. (well folks this is India and timing just seems to be a little off, similar to the Yukon but quite a bit more drastic). The car ride was actually right on schedule but as the actual hike progressed we realized that it was a little longer than 1km. And when we asked other hikers how long it would be we got “2kms, 1 km, 3 km, 1 hour, 2 hours...” And so, we knew no more than when we began.
One hiker warned us about leeches and so my friend from the USA asked “Is he joking?” and no more than 20min later we got our answer. We were covered in jumping leeches!!!!!!! These leeches live on land and water!!!! There were hundreds all over us and they were tiny, unlike the big black fat ones at home. These were so small and when we tried to pull them off they would cling to our hands and get stuck in our finger nails and then we would be dancing around trying to fling them off. They were in our toes, our pants, our underwear, up our backs!!!! So, our trip was even longer as we stopped every few minutes to de-pluck from leeches!!! At one point we had to cross a rushing river and two members from our group fell in. One lost their shoe in which was safely retrieved but lost again when someone tried to throw it back over to the other side of the river! At this point we were getting tired and frustrated but we had come so far that we had to keep going.
About 45 minutes after the river we made it to the falls and the rain began! It started to pour but we didn’t care anymore. The falls were beautiful and we all went for a swim fully dressed. Our stay was short as the sun was setting and we feared being in the jungle in the dark. So we tried to hurry through the rain and thunder as much as possible back to the car. We still ended up spending half of the walk back in the dark and trying to use the flashlights on our phones to aid in pulling off the leeches. Finally tired, hungry and totally grossed out by leeches we made it to the car. We turned the car headlights on and started a more thorough search for leeches then we jumped in the car and headed back to town.
Along the way I felt something fall on my foot so we turned the car light on and there were two fat, bloody leeches! They had had their fill and fallen off!!!! When back at my friends place and the hotel everyone we went in pairs to do a final thorough mostly naked search. They were gone but left their little red dots (which reminded me of very small hicky marks) all over our body. We showered and went for dinner! I had to call Namma Bhoomi to say I was very late coming back and not to make me dinner. As we were eating our one friend called and said the car was broken due to the bumpy roads the radiator was leaking and would be unable to drive me home! At this time, 9:30pm there was no more buses running, no taxi’s would go. The only answer was a motorcycle ride or spend the night and head off first thing in the morning. There was no way I was going to go on a one hour motorcycle ride with no safety gear in the dark on the amazingly bumpy roads with a tired driver and crazy lack of road rules! So, I ate while trying to figure out another way and then one friend came through, they found another car to borrow and they drove me home by midnight!!! So, that was one Sunday adventure.
I still have not mastered doing my own laundry yet. I finally had to give-up this week and get someone to wash my clothes because they were starting to smell like mould and mildew! It is hard work and please someone remind me the next time I am home and complain about doing laundry that at least I am not having to do it by hand!!! I think I am also intriguing to people as they watch me with animals.
It has been noted several times that I care very much about animals and I always just reply with yes. Then one person said it seems that only you, Jennifer, notice the sick or sad dogs and we just do not see it. I did not answer to this. Then this person said they are going to write an article about it for their journalism class. I had to think to myself if I am making my feelings about the animals too obvious. Does pointing out their unhealthiness, sicknesses or ill treatment by humans make it harder for people to make it through the toughness of everyday life with poverty, and sickness.
My answer was, I cannot hide my feelings and I do not complain to people I just do my part by speaking nicely to the animals and saving my left over food to give to them or even a small pat on the head to show a little affection. With this I have noticed that a few other people I work with are now are saving their left-overs and giving it to the dogs. They often come to tell me this and then I give them a big smile and say excellent. So, I figure that doing what I feel is necessary for myself to mentally survive seeing the anguished animals is also a way of modeling for others.
Ahhh life in India. Many ups and downs and something
about it is so intriguing! There is a beauty amongst what seems to me to
be ciaos. There is definitely no place even similar to here. And I can’t wait to come back and talk about ethics!!!!! And how there is definitely
no simple answer...
I hope everyone is well and I am thinking of you all. I can’t wait to see you when I get back. And how strange it will be that after a few weeks of being back this time in India will become a memory like so many other memories and I will soon being talking about the time I had spent in India...
The entire international practicum experience was memorable from spending time in the field with children, learning to adapt my daily routines within a new environment, and learning about the philosophies and frameworks of an international organization. I also spent a lot of time questioning and exploring my cultural “ways of being” and how this impacted the people and communities I was working and living in. Inevitably there were some ups and downs that come with a new adventure but overall it was a fantastic experience both personally and professionally. I would recommend anyone who is interested in such experiences to pursue these interests.
I would also like to thank all those people who supported me from within the Child and Youth Care department throughout my experience in India.