Friday, July 15, 2011

POP - Conflict Resolution & Social Harmony - Training the Trainers Programme

POP or the Pre-Orientation Programme for the new university entrants was a topic which brought out serious debates among the Sri Lankans few months back. But as for now, the training is going on and as far as I heard, English and Computer training programmes will begin shortly.
Being a girl who loved extra-curricular activities more than the academic work, I was elated after hearing about this pre-orientation programme. People were shouting that it is going to be a military training and some were against because the students had to stay in army camps for 21 days or so for the training.

In my idea, a student should be open to any kind of an experience and that is how she/he can serve his/her society back. I do not know whether such a programme can make a leader out of a student or not. However, I was feeling that it would be an experience of a life time.Therefore, what my first feedback for the news was "oh yeah, I want to be there!"

But oh sadness, I'm already a university student and no chance for me to get in. Meanwhile I saw that the applications were open for the Training the Trainers programme on  Conflict Resolution & Social Harmony and gave it a shot. Apart from the POP website, these were the only two news articles I could find in the web regarding the programme. [link 1] [link 2]

The second article says that "Local academics trained at the University of Columbia in the US are to conduct the one day workshop on social harmony and conflict resolution" which is not true because I too will be conducting 8 one day workshops in the near future :D

My name tag, Syllabus and the Participant workbook

I was notified by email that I was selected and I was requested to be present at the BOC Training Institute - Maharagama  the next day. It was alright for me because I'm always logged on to my email. But I found some of the participants complaining that they did not get a invitation letter. They have come to the premises just to check whether they have been selected or not. When I told them that I have got an email, they said that they have not checked email. I think this is a little draw back in the side of both the parties. One, people should check email often and two, government should understand that people do not check email often.

At the entrance, I was given several forms to fill out. One was for registration, the second one for hostel facilities and further, I was asked to sign an agreement with the Ministry of Higher Education that I would conduct 8 workshops after the training.

At the inauguration programme, we were introduced to the whole concept of POP and then why a module on Conflict Resolution & Social Harmony was necessary for the new university students. The programme was designed by David Philips and Danielle Goldberg from the University of Columbia in New York.

After the introduction, we were divided into two groups and were to work in those groups for the next  three days (6th, 7th & 8th of July). Facilitator for the Red Team was Bonnie Miller* and the Blue Team was guided by Danielle Goldberg
Participants from both teams during a tea break
On the first day, most of the activities were aimed at familiarizing ourselves with the other participants. For me, this was the most interesting thing about the programme. Whoever had done the selections have been very careful to select people from various back grounds. For example, there were final year university students, second year university students, school teachers, demonstrators (at universities), NGO workers, Senior lecturers of state universities, recent graduates, psychologists, zoologists and even some people employed in the private sector companies. Their age was ranging from 20s to mid 60s and their home towns were in various parts of the island. In one word, there was DIVERSITY there. I really enjoyed working with people with different backgrounds, different ideas and working styles. It was a chance for us, as facilitators to learn how we should tackle the new university students who come from various back grounds to get the Conflict Resolution & Social Harmony training from us.

Through the three days, there were lot of discussions, learning, debating and fun going on. For me, the most interesting activity of all was the forum theater where the audience was given a chance to suggest different actions for the actors to carry out on-stage. It was an effective way to see how creative the audience was and how could we use that creativity within us to solve a conflict in a effective manner. We were introduced to the concept of power, conflict and were given a chance to experience  how people deal with conflicts  through role plays. Well, if you like big words, let us call it conflict styles. We did lot of group work, lot of acting and lot of drawing regarding the topics. The final objective of all what we did was to find out a way to foster social harmony among the university students of Sri Lanka.

The workshop was designed in such a way that different aspects of the Conflict Resolution & Social Harmony programme were tested. For example, we were able to conduct and take part in the activities that were designed to be conducted for the new university entrants. Thus, we were able to get something like an-on-the-job training that will prepare us to do a successful workshop for the new university entrants in the near future. The trainers were very friendly and sometimes funny so that we  felt that they were two participants just like us. That was the best thing I learnt from them : if you want to be successful as a trainer or a facilitator, be a part of the audience.

On the final day of the workshop, we were given a chance to give feed back for the programme. Although the training lasted for three days, Conflict Resolution & Social Harmony workshop for the new university entrants will be conducted within one day. We were asked to select the parts that should be included in the one day programme and accordingly, the Ministry of Higher Education will be preparing a one day curriculum for us to be used in the real workshops. 

Honorable Minister of Education was to be presented at the closing ceremony of the programme to speak to us and to give away the certificates to the participants. As usual, he was late and participants got a chance to demonstrate ice breakers they knew. It was fun and guess what, a couple of AIESECers were there, So, it is obvious, we danced.
Kesh, Sham & Pasindu breaking the ice!

Ms. Pamodi Kannangara, Coordinator for Conflict Resolution & Social Harmony - Training the Trainers Programme, Dr. Nihal Dayawansa, National Coordinator of the Pre-Orientation Programme and   Dr. Yasantha Mapatuna, adviser to the Ministry of Higher Education spoke. Honarable Minister of Higher Education gave a speech, presented the certificates and the closing ceremony followed.
Minister of Higher Education distributes some of the first certificates for the course
The Program was supported by the US Embassy/Colombo and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Higher Education. Accommodation and food were good and the bottom line is "It was a great experience". 

Kudos to all who made that happen!

I'm looking forward to meet the new university entrants and pass down the knowledge I gathered to them.
On a side note, there is a great opportunity for nonprofit leaders from outside the US to go to the US for a year of professional nonprofit experience (They should have at least 3 years professional experience). Check it out here

*Bonnie Miller earned her B.A. in Psychology and M.S.W. in Social Work from the University of Michigan. Her professional experience includes forty years as a social worker, psychotherapist, educator, consultant, social activist, and trainer. She has held teaching positions in Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology at universities throughout the world and trains diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute of the U. S. Department of State.Over the past decade, Bonnie Miller has served as a consultant to many organizations to prevent child abuse and to help traumatized youth, refugees, impoverished families, and young leaders, as well as women who have been forced into the sex trade.Bonnie’s experience in Sri Lanka includes a May 2011 contract with the Government of Sri Lanka to document recent advances in the fight against human trafficking. In 2006, she traveled to Colombo to train Sri Lankan master trainers from all parts of the country on effective communication with children and modern teaching methods. Her manuals on parenting and education were approved by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education, and 3000 were translated and distributed throughout the country.

--Thank you Ms.Danielle for the photos, news on Atlas Service Corps and the bio of Ms.Bonnie


  1. nice post.keep it up!!! (P****)

  2. Deepa !!!

    This good moment.......... to all participant.


  3. hi Ranees, yeah, those three days were amazing. Btw, do you have nay idea what happens next?

  4. meketh giya deeps ge post eka :)

  5. link should be corrected to Buddie :) yeah, I was getting hits from that site for this post. Ms.Danielle told me that she included this post in a report she sent to the uni. May be that is how the link ended up there

  6. Great!! we will meet up again I hope ;)

  7. It was a great experience to me and new moment

  8. hehe okies, I think I know who you are :)

  9. I have one sentence to say "you missed it." :( yeah, it was amazing and awesome. Feel proud to be a part of it :)

  10. I too wanted to join this program but wasn't able to make up my mind due to a very personal problem. Anyway thanks for the post and I can see that it surely was an awesome program :)