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First Basic Training Workshop for Facilitators on the Learning to Live Together Programme held in the USA

A Basic Training Workshop for Facilitators on the use of the Learning to Live Together manual was held in Boise, Idaho in the US from 18 - 20 October in collaboration with Catholic Charities of Idaho.
24 participants working as family counsellors with immigrants and refugees, with children affected by all kinds of violence, schools affected by bullying, and coming from different religious communities were part of the workshop.  The workshop was part of an initiative to bring the Learning to Live Together programme for the first time to the United States and explore opportunities with the Catholic Charities of Idaho (CCI) to use the framework of the Learning to Live Together Program to work with families. 

Ms Melaney Swenson, West Central Regional Director at CCI opened the workshop and welcomed all participants reading a message from the Mayor of Boise, who acknolweged the multicultral diversity of the city and its work as a Refugee Resettlement Community.  He expressed the interest of Boise city to encourage programs to develop skills, tools and insights to ensure that every individual is treated with empathy and respect and has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

Following a get to know each other exercise, representatives from Arigatou International introduced the organization and its initiatives, the Learning to Live Together program and its educational approach.  Participants discussed the importance of creating mechanisms and approaches to support the full development of the child.  By sharing their views and perceptions of children as individuals in their own right, their potential, and what hinders their full and holistic development, participants identified the importance of not only working on the physical and emotional protection of children but also on their spiritual growth and development. 

The first day was used to reflect on the social issues that affect Boise and particularly children and youth and to discuss how the learning modules of the manual can be supportive in dealing with some of these issues, empowering children and youth ,and creating spaces for mutual understanding and respect.  Participants highlighted issues such as bullying, domestic violence, cultural practices that support violence, and lack of child friendly policies and judicial systems.  They also shared initiatives that have been developed in Idaho to promote social cohesion and support to children and families.

Participants initiated the second day with a silent journey that explored their views on spirituality and allowed to reflect on themselves and their relations with others.  The experience brought several reflections about the importance of empathy and what it takes to be empathic, the healing processes that are necessary when relations have been broken, the importance of silence in our lives, the role of our beliefs in dealing respectfully with othes, and our individual and collective responsibilities.   This session was then connected to discussions about ethics and ethics education, the importance of critical thinkin and providing spaces for children and youth to raise questions, engage in dialogue and deconstruct their own reality through the exchange of ideas.  A few practical exercises helped discussing the differences between ethics and morals, and the pedagogical approach of the manual, and the needed facilitation skills l to nurture values in children and youth.

On the last day of the workshop, participants worked in groups and were guided to design different programs and sessions based on the Learning to Live Together in diverse contexts. They had the opportunity to present their work and get feedback from their colleagues and trainers.  At the end of the workshop, individual and collective implementation plans were discussed. Participants proposed the use of the manual in several settings, through peace education programs, anti-bullying activities, refugee projects with families, girl children/teenager group activities, Sunday church and intercultural and inter religious programs, among others. Participants were interested to find ways to collaborate, develop joint activities, support each other and meet again to share experiences using the Learning to Live Together Program. 

After the workshop, participants received all workshop materials and they created a Facebook group to keep the communication and share their practices. 

Thanks goes to Catholic Charities of Idaho and particularly to Ms Melaney Swenson for their unwavering support and genuine collaboration to make this workshop happen.  We are also grateful to Mr Peter Billings, consultant for CCI and advisor for Arigatou International, for taking up the initiative to introduce the Learning to Live Together Programme in Boise.