Wednesday evening. The sun starts to set. Our SALT team is in Citetol, one of the ‘slums’ on the island of Mauritius close to the international airport. ‘Tol’ means the tin material from which most of the houses in this neighborhood are constructed.
The community is one of the ‘poverty pockets’ on the island (less than 7USD for the entire household per day). Poverty on Mauritius often goes hand in hand with drug abuse. Our team of coaches is ready to discover some strengths and connect with the community members....
We are here because Citetol is part of a social housing project of the MCB, a Mauritian financial institution that we recently signed a 2-year partnership with. Our partnership aims to facilitate the CLCP in a multi-sectoral platform of NGOs, state actors and private sector.
The platform is in its early phase and envisions to join forces to facilitate and accompany the (local) response to drug abuse in a collaborative and systematic way. Earlier this week, the platform developed their fascinating common dream and a self-assessment framework (watch this Ning space to read more exciting stuff on that later...).
Drug abuse (especially heroine) is a major issue in the country. Most of the current response is services-based and centre-based. Outreach and systematic community facilitation happens, but is limited. Facilitation of the CLCP/ SALT on the level of the platform, platform members and local communities could potentially be a useful additional strategy to focus on down the road. But first, let’s appreciate the strengths that are there already!
Back to Citetol. We meet beforehand with two social workers that for more than one year have been working actively with the poorest 25 families in the neighborhood. Siegfried is a relaxed, articulate psychologist that connects naturally with pretty much every human being! Veronique is a kind, caring and smiling social worker. Our team was struck by their natural SALTiness. They radiate SALT without ever having heard of it!
We had a powerful and valuable SALT visit that evening due to a few factors that I want to share with all of you:
• We took time to prepare and connect with the ‘linking persons’ (in this case the social workers) to understand the dynamics, introduce ourselves and the purpose of our visit and meet on a human level before starting the visit.
• We didn’t announce our visit. It was a natural ‘stroll’ through the community. This was possible because of the social workers who are well respected and considered real ‘caring friends’ in the community.
• We didn’t engineer or planned the visit meticulously. Instead we connected with community members on the way and had relaxed conversations. Home visits would arise naturally instead of purposefully.
• We were relaxed ourselves. The more we demonstrated a lightness and ease during the visit, the more the community members (and the dogs!) felt at ease. It’s the energy that we bring that will often determine the response of the community.
• We didn’t fire a list of questions to community members or were intrusive. Instead we stimulated a dialogue with humor and appreciative questions where we invited the community members to ask us questions as well.
• We were actively sensing when it was time to move on if we were taking too much time at a certain household.
• We danced with the kids, picked fruits with the women and chewed sugarcane with the men.... We weren’t separate and actively tried to connect with members.
• Last but not least, we did a in depth After Action Review with the social workers to identify what strengths we observed, what worked well and what didn’t work well. We invited the social workers to evaluate our SALTiness. It was interesting to note that the social workers use similar questions for their debriefs as ourselves. They added one more: How was the response of the community members to our visit? For them this was the main indicator of our success.
That evening we identified a whole list of strengths in that community. It might be a ‘poverty pocket’, but it’s one with precious strengths!
The local team (Joke & Onesmus) will continue to learn from both the social workers and the community on Citetol. To be continued....
One question for all you readers: What are your principles for great initial SALT visits to a new community?