We can learn a lot from others journeys along the path of culture change. Even though every community is unique and thus every journey just as unique, the lessons others learn along the way can enrich your journey, plant seeds of potential, make you rethink and engage differently and make it even more rewarding and less challenging.
After 7 years Charlene van Zyl repeated the 3 day Eden Associate training in November 2018, here is what her reflection on this session (captured in the Associate Assignment she submitted).
Thank you Charlene for agreeing to share the content of your Assignment with everyone. We are excited to see how your Eden heart keeps inspiring others in other cultures and countries!
1. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO REPEAT THE 3 DAY TRAINING?
I attended the first training held in South Africa in 2011. I have watched the Eden Alternative philosophy grow in South Africa and was aware that many changes have been made to the courses and workshops since the first 3-day associate training. I wanted to do this course as a refresher course, and looking at it from the viewpoint of becoming a potential Eden Educator myself.
2. AFTER YOUR FIRST TRAINING…
A: WHAT ASPECTS OF THE PHILOSOPHY DID YOU MANAGE TO IMPLEMENT?
I started to warm the soil at Rand Aid Association in 2012 after the associate training, for their own Eden journey that would follow over the coming years. Through a few presentations and meetings (and pure excitement and enthusiasm about it), I managed to open a small group of people’s Eden eyes as I was in the fortunate position to be part of managerial meetings. This sparked the beginning of their Eden Journey. More seeds were planted with the Open Heart, Open Minds series and more and more people were introduced to the philosophy and principles of Eden Alternative.
2. AFTER YOUR FIRST TRAINING…
B: WHAT BARRIERS DID YOU ENCOUNTER AND HOW DID YOU ENGAGE WITH THEM?
I would say that the biggest barrier at that stage was that Rand Aid made use of agency staff and that they were not willing to change that. There was a big distrust between management and the staff and this made it hard to try and implement a philosophy which is all about relationships. We started with some staff support groups, which if I think back now, would have been much easier if we just started with learning circles from the beginning. With the support groups though, we managed to hear some of the staff’s difficulties and could communicate this to management. I was the in-between person between management and the care staff and this was not an easy position to be in. In the end, we changed the set-up by starting with interactive learning groups with the care staff, teaching them how to implement certain aspects of Eden Alternative, and educating and empowering them. I also started slowly to encourage management to be more involved in the everyday things. To be there during meal times and setting up a resident group to get input straight from the residents about the happenings in the Care Centre. We had a lot of trial and errors, but tried to learn from our mistakes by constantly adjusting strategies and slowly moving away from all the decisions made by management and more and more decisions being made closer to the residents. Another barrier was also the fact that the Elders themselves was already very institutionalized and part of the system. It requires a lot of gentle motivation and easing into the changes that in the end will bring less loneliness, helplessness and boredom.
3. WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM ATTENDING THIS TRAINING A SECOND TIME?
Even though I was participating fully in this training, I also had a lot of time to observe. To see how other people experience the Eden Alternative and the changes that comes with it. Rand Aid has been on this journey for a long time and so the audience was very receptive to the training and the atmosphere was warm. Yet, there was still so much of the “system” imprinted in the way people think and seeing the “medical way” of doing things as doing your job well and taking really good care of the resident. I need these eyes as an observer if I become an Eden Educator and I need to be aware of how very gentle you need to be with the care partners. Each one believe they are doing their best and want to take pride in their job. I need to be able to build on that and equip them with the knowledge of how it can be different, but not putting what they are currently doing down.
4. WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO AN INDIVIDUAL REGARDING IMPLEMENTING THE PHILOSOPHY WITHIN AN ORGANISATION?
To be very gentle with themselves and with others. To focus on the good and the small changes and not the mountains that feel like they may never move. To start small and to record everything. For example; if you take a unit and try to implement the Eden Alternative there, it can feel less overwhelming and later the people from that unit can guide other units. To never try to do it alone and to never think you know the only way, but allowing other people to share their ideas and knowledge, quietly guiding them in the right direction if they are a bit off course.
5. WHAT WOULD YOUR SUGGESTIONS BE TO MANAGEMENT OF ORGANISATIONS WANTING TO START ON A CULTURE CHANGE?
To value their staff in big and small ways. To brainstorm together with the staff about new ideas, and fun ways to implement Eden Alternative. To ask their opinion daily. To think of different ways in which relationships can be build all over the organization. To never think they know what is best for the residents, but to ask the residents what is best for themselves. To empower as much as possible. To never get stuck, but to always grow and allow for growth opportunities.
6. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND OTHER EDEN ASSOCIATES TO REPEAT THIS TRAINING? IF YES, PLEASE EXPLAIN?
I think it depends on their specific situation. I would always recommend continuous learning as this gives us new energy and ideas and helps us to connect with others in similar work environments than us. I think all of us can get stuck in old ways and habits very easily, especially in an environment that has been institutionalized for years. So yes, for some people to repeat the training could be very beneficial. Especially if they have potential to educate others back in their own work environment. The first time is too much to take in and the second time allows for more time to really think of practical ways to implement and you already know the barriers that you will encounter and can ask advice about it. For other people, it might be good to attend a different Eden Alternative of Person-Directed Support kind of training to build on the knowledge they already have.
7. WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU THINK EDEN ALTERNATIVE SOUTH AFRICA SHOULD OFFER TO NEW CERTIFIED EDEN ASSOCIATES?
I think what you have been doing so far has been great. Regular emails to check in, Facebook updates and videos that inspire and educate and the sharing of stories of what is happening and asking people to share their own stories. I also think a once/twice a year reunion could be great or different regions having journal clubs or learning circles to share and learn together.