Miles de Manos (Thousands of Hands) is just one of a number of promising programs I got a small taste of recently, while their teams were visiting up here in Oregon for the inaugural Strong Global Communities, International Conference on Prevention Implementation – an event which I hope will be an annual international gathering of youth crime prevention practitioners. A key component of their work involves drawing key individuals at the national as well as at the community level, out of their various silos in order to work together on prevention efforts – a model from which the U.S. might learn a thing or two.
Their work is inspirational on a number of counts, due not only to their innovative approaches but to the fact that, despite representing a half dozen different countries from Honduras to Chile and points in between, they are overcoming challenges of monumental proportions – a much higher percentage of homeless, orphaned children then we usually see in U.S. schools, whole communities speaking unique dialects rather than the country’s primary language, miniscule school budgets, extreme levels of unemployment and entire populations still recovering from the polarization and trauma associated with recent atrocities and civil war.
Most of the practitioners I had the chance to hobnob with were from international teams, which can be problematic. Consulting groups swooping in to save the day – helicopter consultants – can really make a mess of things. Tracy Harachi, an extraordinary American woman currently setting up the first school of social work in Cambodia (the country has only 300 college graduates left alive out of a population of 8 million), illustrated such disasters well, relating tales of one well-intentioned group that drilled wells in one country without checking for contaminants – the arsenic was discovered only after the cancer rate spiked – or another group that built a fish farm for a group of nomads in Kenya who didn’t want it, and who had no interest in eating fish. So it was a comfort to meet so many consultants, including Harachi, who display both competence and sensitivity, and who are committed to working with, and listening to, local communities before dropping pre-designed programs in their laps. https://education.uoregon.edu/rou/center-equity-promotion
Miles de Manos is a wonderful model of consulting done well. They start by reaching out to local teachers and parents, working closely with both groups to develop a shared model of what’s to be accomplished, built on a foundation of non-violent positive behavior support and connectivity among all the players. Just as we have seen in the U.S., communicating clear expectations, encouraging positive behavior and establishing consistent consequences pays off ten-fold when it comes to success in schools. The program has been field tested in Intibucá, Honduras, and has plans to roll into El Salvador and Guatemala later this year.
Miles de Manos is being driven by Prevenir, a regional violence prevention program of GIZ, a German agency for international cooperation that works on everything from climate change to youth employment (www.giz.de ). The conference was hosted by the Center for Equity Promotion at the University of Oregon College of Education, https://education.uoregon.edu/rou/center-equity-promotion and Partners for Our Children, University of Washington http://partnersforourchildren.org/