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SVG Guidance Counsellors Retool with ‘Return to Happiness’ Training

SVG Guidance Counsellors Retool with ‘Return to  Happiness’ Training
Left to Right: Kathleen Jeffers- RTH Certified Trainer, Nicole Lynch UNICEF Consultant & Sharlene Morris President of SVG School Guidance Association

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The St Vincent and the Grenadines Schools Guidance Counsellors Association recently concluded a one week Return to Happiness (RTH) training session.

RTH is a UNICEF developed program that has been used in the Caribbean to provide psychosocial support to children ages 0-18 in the event of a crisis. With the advent of COVID-19, it is now being used to support teachers as they navigate their own trauma and distress.

This training was run as an intense one-week programme which focused on self-preparedness in the helping process, psychological first aid, crisis management and intervention strategies.

President of the Association Sharlene Morris explained that in these uncertain and disruptive times precipitated by the COVID-19 -Pandemic, it is necessary for counsellors to keep their skills sharpened and be prepared to give assistance to the affected and vulnerable.

The session was facilitated by Kathleen Jeffers, Director of the Adult Education Unit, and certified Return to Happiness trainer. There were also presentations from Sharlene Morris, President of the Association, on Crisis Counselling as well as Joanne Haynes, committee member who focused on the Community Resiliency Model of crisis intervention strategies.

Morris outlined the range of extraordinary activities the association has undertaken to ensure that the stakeholders of the SVG Guidance Counsellors Association have continued access to services and support including training, interventions for victim self-help, counsellor education and parent support.

She noted, “recently, our Caribbean counterparts joined forces with us to present on the topic ‘Grief’, a presentation done by Licensed Senior Clinical psychologist Mrs Alicia Lewis of Jamaica. Our West Kingstown zone hosted a forum which dealt with the General Principles of Care and Trauma Stress and Children and Crisis. This forum was addressed by Drs. Amrie-Morris-Patterson of Trinity Medical school and Alisa Alvis of Alisa Alvis and Associates. Given the importance of this session, we felt it necessary to open attendance to other persons in the helping field”.

Morris added that the South Windward zone also hosted a parenting workshop which saw participation from about 100 persons. The forum was held under the theme Parenting during the Pandemic. The featured presenter was Joanne Haynes of that zone.

Last Friday, February 12, there was a graduation ceremony held to recognize those who received the RTH training. The feature speaker was Nicole Lynch, representative of UNICEF who gave an awe-inspiring speech encouraging counsellors to continue to work hard. Lynch issued a rallying cry, stating that the time had come for counsellors to step up and step out even more now in these fragile times. Another feature of the graduation ceremony was a cultural presentation. This was a ‘jingle’ of sorts done by Annalita Dublin and Chickeria Cumberbatch entitled ‘Stay Cool’.

In her remarks, Association President Morris indicated that “The school counsellors continue to work hard, especially so during these times, and it is extremely gratifying to us to note that our work is being recognized. We received a tremendous boost in morale during our last monthly meeting when Chief Education Officer, Mrs Elizabeth Walker endorsed the need for the service provided by counsellors and commended the association for the work being done.”

Morris reiterated the counsellors’ devotion to their work and to those entrusted in their care and took the opportunity to encourage teachers, students and parents to be mindful of the times we are living in and so practice self-care in order to continue to be productive.

Concerned parents and guardians are advised to contact their children’s school counsellors for further support. The Student Support Services division of the Ministry of Education may also be contacted at 457-1188.

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