At most social events, Tongans will take a crazy amount of photos
of which there will be very silly shots
and a lot of self portraits. So, of course, being the good culturally relevant social worker that I am
I joined in too!
Although I’m still not sure if you are supposed to pose with one finger pointing or two? And what that even means?
At most social events, Tongans will also do a lot of singing. Usually, it’s together as a choir but at our training, it turned into Karaoke.
Even the catering team got in on the fun, because food and photos
are two things that Tongans are very passionate about!
However we did get a lot of work done, amongst all the silliness
Because everyone graduated! And we had a wonderful ceremony and much feastings!
I also had to give a speech and discovered that I don’t photograph well when I’m public speaking!
Keep reading if you want to read part of my speech (it was very long as in true Tongan form, I had much to say!) ….
“I believe that counselling has much to offer the community of Tonga. Counselling is one way to offer support, help and intervention to those within our community who may be struggling. It is one way to demonstrate our faith in action.
This training program hoped to provide a practical framework for effective basic counselling skills. We aimed to train a group of people within the community, from a diverse group of churches, not in how to be expert counsellors but in how to be accidental counsellors. People who within their church and their community, may be in positions of leadership and can be the first point of contact for people in crisis.
While we have wonderful NGOS within the community who are doing a fantastic job, there may be some people in Tonga who are not comfortable approaching in them for counselling services. Not yet. But these people may be comfortable in talking to their youth leader or their leader at church. And so, it makes sense to have a team of trained accidental counsellors in all church denominations.
This program aimed to develop a group of counsellors, equipping them with communication, questioning, assessment and referral skills so that they are trained to respond to people in crisis.
and we have been successful!
Each participant here tonight has demonstrated their passion and heart for their community. They have learnt to listen effectively and question wisely. They have learnt to ask what are often difficult and hard questions but to do this with confidence.
They have learnt to assess risk and assist people in clarifying their concerns. They have begun to understand that counselling is not just about problems but is about strengths and solutions. And each person here tonight was able to take these skills out into the community, at the beginning of this week, and to talk to the people they met about their lives, their concerns and their hopes.
This is a wonderful achievement and a great victory. I have been encouraged and inspired, not only by their hard work but by the compassion and empathy that has surrounded all their endeavors.
However, our program does not end here. In order to maintain relevancy, continual learning of skills and sustainable practice we hope to transform this program into a train the trainer model. To encourage our current group of accidental counsellors to put their skills into practice and when they feel confident in their ability, to pass on their newly acquired knowledge to another group. Learning must be shared. How wonderful it would be for these basic counselling practices to spread across Tonga, with local Tongan people taking the lead in this initative.
Counselling is a fairly new discipline in Tonga. Sitting amongst us tonight are the first group of community accidental counsellors trained in Tonga. They should be incredibly proud of all they have achieved, as I am proud of them.
They are ready for the challenge of using their new skills and knowledge to better support people within their church community, who may be in crisis.”