Connecting local responses around the world
Eleven staff of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, from all strata, cleaners, supervisory, middle management and senior management, participated as the “community” for this SALT visit. The purpose of the SALT visit was to ascertain strengths of the staff to becoming AIDS competent. The SALT visit Facilitators were Michael Mc Garrell and Autry Haynes.
When we started, we were apprehensive because this is our first real attempt. How do you introduce the subject of “identifying strengths of your community” when traditionally the focus was strengthening weaknesses or focusing on awareness to identify weaknesses? We approached with opened minds. We started with the concept of competence by illustrating the levels of competence and linking that with being competent in reducing risk / vulnerability. To introduce “Identifying community strengths” we posed the question “Are you human? What characterize you as being human?” Our surprise! There was a buzz of responses. We linked the answers of each person as their strengths and noted that the community strengths is an accumulation of the individual strengths, how would you, therefore describe the strengths of the staff of the Ministry as a whole? The youngest and normally shy/timid staff member without much hesitation noted that for her the strength of staff is “Friendship.” She expounded that because of this strength, it will be easy to socialize as well as to get involved in team effort activities such as games / sports and therefore easer for any intervention related to accomplishing “AIDS competence.” This generated the identification of several other strengths, such as the element of trust, resources such as knowledge and materials about HIV/AIDS, the small structure of the Ministry hence it ill be easier to monitor interventions and progress, there was also the element of openness and receptiveness and ability to listen, as well as support from top management towards interventions addressing reducing risk / vulnerability. One meaning full strength identified was “communication” albeit that it was observed to be at a low level. It was observed though that this strength was important with respect to behavior change and participants agreed that improving communication within the working environment was needed and “It begins with me.” Staff resolved to share what transpired at the discussion with staff members and to practice simple salutation within the working environment to initiate effort of effective communication.