Change for Adolescents, from the inside out

“I consider myself transformed after these 2 sessions. They have helped me discover myself in order to serve better”

Jean Ebens MerisierCoordinator of the network of children and youth advocates - Plan Haiti

Port-au-Prince, July 2017 – Rooted in the belief that every human being has not only the right, but also the inner potential to thrive, a new pilot invests in the personal resilience of Haitian adolescents. Using a combination of psychology, mindfulness and stress management practices, leadership methodology and life skills the curriculum has been conceived to enable youth via their immediate tutors and teachers to reach their full potential.

Social animators from 18 non-governmental organisations involved in the work with marginalized adolescents in Port-au-Prince and the Grand South/Jeremie are part of this initiative. Rolled out in three phases the project combines theoretical knowledge with practical exercises and coaching on the job. Feedback after the first two phases is enthusiastic

‘’The first training was on the ‘’how to be” and the second on the ‘’know-how’. This combination of both has not only allowed me to discover who I am, but also to develop my abilities to better guide others.”

Fabiola JosephAssistante sociale de la Clinique des adolescents – GHESKIO Center

As every training faces the looming risk that trainees fall back into their old habits, dispositions have been taken to avoid the trap of unsustainability. Building on the 1-week core course, a 3 day workshop on animation skills ensures that participants have the tools to share their new insights in a captivating manner with the adolescents they work with. During the third phase coaching on the job accompanies the participants while they apply their new know-how. In parallel to this formal set-up the group has decided to create a WhatsApp group for mutual support. Monthly meetings will allow them to share their experiences and further expand on the topics of the two courses.

“I will be applying these concepts in my professional life. I want to work with people who have needs in relation to these concepts and train my team and our youth on these key notions.”

Anonymous quote from the evaluation training question

This training is a first for the Haiti office and the outlook is promising. Investing in individual social workers means investing in the executing abilities of UNICEF’s NGO partners. Because if their staff are driven by purpose and passion, then their organisation as a whole is able to perform at its best, for the children whom we seek to serve.

The science behind

Everything is connected. Mental distress, frustration, discouragement or stress, result in physiological consequences, such as pain or disease, whereas biological factors such as nutrition or illness have an impact on a person’s mood and performance. An individual inflicts this inner state of mind on his immediate circle of relations – family, friends, colleagues, and in the case of social workers the youth he works with. Vice-versa working in a challenging environment causes stress and anxiety. It is a vicious circle that can be turned in a virtuous one.

Studies show that giving people a sense of purpose enhances their professional performance and personal wellbeing[1]; whereas investments in physical and psychological welfare pay off in terms of social atmosphere and behaviour[2]. Over the past decades, attention to the internal resilience of staff has become a standard business practice for many leading international corporations[3] who grasped the direct link between staff wellbeing and institutional performance; yet it remains neglected by national policies, as well as humanitarian and development organizations. This pilot is a step in the direction of change.

Cornelia WALTHER

[1] Deloitte, Culture of purpose, 2013,

[2] Why Companies Are Turning To Meditation And Yoga To Boost The Bottom Line

[3] Google, McKinsey, Nike, Apple, Twitter, Yahoo, Procter & Gamble, HBO, Deutsche Bank, Aol, Heinz

This post is also available in: French