The lessons a trainer learns – Part 1

What kind of support do we need to provide to deprived women who want to become professionals in early childhood? Our REYN Hungary program aims at training five Romani women to find a job as kindergarten assistants. This post talks about the lessons I have learned as their trainer. I am Flora Bacso, Trainer and Mentor at Partners Hungary Foundation.

What challenges do you think you will encounter if you fight for Romani women’s emancipation? Lack of programs and funds? Too few training opportunities? A discouraging job market? Biases towards Roma? You could probably go on with the list.

What can we do about the challenges?

I have been mentoring five Romani women for a year now.  They trained to become kindergarten assistants, read more about this in my previous post.

My role as a mentor is to motivate the mentees during and after their training. More importantly, I help them with any kind of issue they encounter when trying to enter the early childhood care profession.

It is extremely hard to bring a twist in the lives of people who are disadvantaged. As a mentor, you can get discouraged a times.

Consider this: Romani families expect the women to be in charge of the houses and to take care of the children. This puts already a heavy burden on them and it is something they can hardly change.

In addition, deprivation affects them on many levels: financially, spatially, they fear the unknown, and resent over previous failure.

In such a situation it is key to acknowledge and celebrate success however small that may be. Small success can be hard to see at first as progress is seldom linear. Progress is rather made of setbacks and advancements; this can be fatiguing mentally.

Lessons Learned

The deeper I got into the program, the more support I needed as a professional. Whoever works with people surely have found themselves asking questions about the work they have been doing.

Unique situations demand self-reflection and unique solutions. Am I doing it right? Is this enough progress? Do I see all the options? Besides discussing such questions with my Roma and non-Roma colleagues which proved to be a great resource, I also started to attend supervision training sessions which taught me a great deal about valuing small successes and progress.

Eva Csutka, my supervisor, who is a chief social worker working at a temporary home for deprived families in Budapest sums it up:

 “When we work with people who live in deprivation, we always have to tailor the goals to their circumstances and possibilities. It is not realistic to set goals which are not flexible. The most we can do is to build a solid personal connection and being very clear about our own boundaries and competence. … Sometimes as mentors, we don’t even see the effect we had on the people we have worked with for a long time. Maybe we are the first in offering professional support: without paternalizing them, minimizing their problems or resenting them for being slow to change. But this is how we sow the seeds that might help them build momentum for small changes: being empathic and non-judgemental, empowering them to make decisions that fit their lives.”

In the course of the following weeks, I will look at the unique challenges we faced with each of the mentees of the Romani Early Years Hungary program. I will show concrete examples of what has made a difference and also what advises I have given to them. The more we learn from such field experiences, the better support we can give to Romani women. At Partners Hungary Foundation, our aim is to build a fairer society, step by step.

By Flóra Bacsó, Trainer and Mentor at Partners Hungary Foundation.