Who are we, and what are our strengths? These questions will help build dialogue and action for students, educators, and corporate Bahamas involved in the Character Day Bahamas program.
This year’s Character Day campaign kicked off in August with 220 participants joining two interactive and thought-provoking workshops hosted by the PACE Foundation. Discussions involved character development and shared strategies for the classroom and work environment that create an inclusive culture in which difference is appreciated, everyone is valued, and love lives.
Sonia Brown, president of the PACE Foundation, explains why the “Power of Love – Building a Culture Where Love Lives” was chosen. “Character Day promotes conversations around building character strengths and being our best selves. Love is a critical component of this, and if we love and appreciate ourselves, it shapes how we view and interact with the world.”
“For the past two years I’ve been here, the sessions have been amazing, informative, and engaging,” said Teneille Ryan, a guidance counsellor at E.P. Roberts School who attended the workshop. “But this year, we’ve had a little more participation from the attendees, and it’s been fun,”
An energetic atmosphere during the workshops for educators, guidance counsellors and youth workers flowed with the popular topics presented. The slated speakers had a wealth of knowledge on love, communication, and inclusion. These experts included marriage and family therapist and counselling psychologist Barrington Brennen, disability inclusion consultant Erin Brown, and two well-known U.B. educators, Dr Detra Bethell and Dr Niambi Hall Campbell Dean, who spoke in depth about relationships.
Brennen’s presentation, “Communicating with love,” stressed communicating with clarity, and he encouraged the audience to “know their partner’s language and to understand that what is being said at the moment is not necessarily what that person feels when speaking. He shared tips that people should listen more effectively, have a non-judgmental attitude, and love unconditionally.
“Relationships make the world go around,” expressed Dr Campbell Hall Dean, who covered examples from the One Love Foundation to illustrate healthy relationships. Signs include being in a comfortable place, honesty, respect, kindness, healthy conflict, trust, independence, equity, taking responsibility and having fun.
On the other hand, unhealthy relationships could teach us to love better by recognizing but not ignoring dangerous patterns and working towards a better outcome. Dr Campbell Hall Dean cautioned people to trust their gut and to seek help if necessary. Some things to look for in unhealthy relationships are intensity, manipulation, sabotage, guilting, deflecting responsibility, possessiveness, isolation, belittling, volatility, and betrayal. Expanding on those concepts, Dr Bethell also offered information about the types of love, love languages, and listening techniques.
“Building Inclusive Communities and Communicating with Love” was covered by disability and inclusion consultant Erin Brown. She highlighted that children could thrive better when their needs are met and reminded educators that they may wish to alter their teaching style and understanding for different-learned students. They should also be mindful of how to create inclusion.
Examples of communicating with the public meant being more conscious of challenges persons with sight, hearing or physical disabilities may face and how to assist them better. “Some tips for inclusive communities and how to build them include being aware of your unconscious biases,” said Erin Brown. “Whenever you’re planning or holding an event, look at the stakeholders you will engage and understand what you may have to offer.” She further advised, “Have inclusive communication. For example, if you are using flyers, ensure there is an image description for those not using sight so their screen readers can read the information on the flyers. Next, use closed captioning for speech, and make sure there are access ramps at venues. Advertise what accessibility facilities are available, like bathrooms, and ask if special services are required on the questionnaire for conference planning,” she added.
Character Day will be celebrated on October 18 with activities across The Bahamas. Program coordinator Charlene Carey reminds us that Character Day is for everyone and that small grants of up to $1,000 to support year-long character development projects at local schools and youth programs are available. “Projects must contribute to our mission by creating character development opportunities that help to build character and stimulate conversations,” she said. Carey encourages people to hold Character Day events at their school or organization and vote for Hidden Heroes deserving recognition. Applications for funding close October 15th and are available at http://www.characterdaybahamas.org.
“I’m encouraged that Character Day continues to grow and expand and that we see new faces (at the workshop) each year,” said Campbell Hall Dean. “Educators feel this is a great way to start their school year and get the encouragement they need to take them through the year.”
“We are hoping to equip Character Day participants, whether school children, parents, or staff members, with tools to help them identify, build, and nurture healthy relationships,” said Sonia Brown. “We are grateful for the many schools that participate year in and year out and continue to delight us with creative projects to engage students.”
This year, four family island representatives have been engaged to lend support to Character Day participants across the Archipelago. Character Day is a hallmark of the PACE Foundation that the Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc. funds. More information on the project is available at http://www.characterdaybahamas.org.
Source: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
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