The art of reducing violence against women, children… five counsellors trained

A counsellor from the Help and Shelter Centre is one of five persons who recently participated in a five-day training session sponsored by the Margaret Clemmons Foundation, aimed at using the arts to reduce violence against women and children.

Help and Shelter Counsellor Tessa Green along with Oslyn Crawford, Yogetta Rampersaud, Davin Munroe and Leslie Albert who are attached to the Ministry of Human Services, attended the workshop at the Peaceable School’s summer programme at the Lesley University in Cambridge Massachusetts.

At a press conference on Wednesday at the NGO’s Homestretch Avenue office Green said the Centre was privileged to have benefited from the workshop. “It’s a programme I think will work in Guyana but needs the support of all,” she said.

According to a news story from the University’s website located at web.lesley.edu/news: the programme was held under the theme “I=WE Practicing and Supporting Leadership for Peaceable Schools and Communities.” The “Institute provides both a theoretical framework and practical solutions for educators and community members struggling to find alternatives to the culture of violence and create environments where teaching and learning can flourish,” it said. The article also said the programme creates a “network of graduates…for ongoing support in applying newly learned skills and tools to current issues.”

In her address, Clemons said sponsorship to the summer programme was part of a template her Foundation had designed specifically for Guyana to aid in the defence of women and children against violence; using the arts. The Foundation and the University developed a plan for introducing creative learning and expressive arts therapy to various institutions in Guyana such as schools, law enforcement, social services and health care organizations.

“When I begin to examine Guyana I’m very impressed with what’s in place,” to address domestic violence, she said, adding that Guyana was the “perfect place” to implement the programme which aims to change the behaviour of persons in relation to violence against women and children. “There’s something about Guyana. It is an extremely sympathetic community. Bringing programming here is easy,” an excited Clemons said. She also revealed that she had already done research and another phase of the multi-aspect programming is to host a train-the-trainers programme. The one-year programme at the University was designed specifically for Guyana and it will require participants to travel to the University intermittently for face-to-face sessions while the remainder of the course will be done online. Clemons vowed to “continue to train every single staff at Help and Shelter and the ministry,” a total of about 40 persons every year.

Clemons is currently working with the Centre and the ministry but she plans to include more NGOs over time. Discussions are also being held with the University to bring the Peaceable Schools programme to Guyana.

Additionally, Lauren Stevenson, the key consultant, programme developer, researcher and documenter for the Foundation pointed out that one of the things the arts can do is use a person’s internal landscapes, social relationships and communities as a medium to bring about change.

Stevenson is the author of three books two of which focus on the arts in education. One, Third Space-When Learning Matters looks at the role of the arts in changing schools and the other Inspiring Wonder and Discovery examines the partnership between community-based organisations, teachers and activists.

The Margaret Clemons Foundation is a New York based non-profit organization with a mission to stop violence against women and children through the arts.

It uses teaching, therapy, community outreach and the arts to contribute to social change that increases equity and justice and supports peace and harmony.

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