Project BREAKIN: Retreat

Blog 2                    June 30, 2010                     Tiny Toones Week 3

Blog updates have still been just as difficult to fit in as they were the first two weeks.  Therefore I am going to try to once again fit a week in one blog.

Last Saturday was our staff/mentor/volunteer retreat.  The planning was very difficult for a number of reasons.  The retreat had been initially planned as a 3-4 day weekend trip.  The idea was pitched by Konrad, our Tiny Toones contact and fundraising coordinator, who unfortunately ended his post a few weeks before our arrival.  At this time we began switching contacts to Michael, the head administrator.  Unfortunately communication was not clear on all three ends.  We understood it as Tiny Toones planning the retreat in terms of target goals and contacts for speakers and team leaders where we would then do the selecting and interviewing.  Tiny Toones staff however did not communicate this during the transitioning of positions.

In the end we were able to plan a solid one day retreat of team building and a gender session to address the problems at the center.  Tiny Toones is a very male dominated place where the majority of staff are men and the majority of the volunteers are women.  A lot of times there is a bias as well as uncertainty regarding what the girls (as in mentors and students) can do and if it is ok to be done in front of the boys.  Much of this has to do with Cambodia’s culture, but at the center no one wishes to adhere to subjecting one gender to more scrutiny or causing more problems.  In any case, the majority of the young staff/mentors/volunteers were interested in having a gender session.  The organization One World volunteered to facilitate the team building sessions and the gender session was facilitated by BABSEA’s program manager Sotheary.

The retreat went well in terms of training and down time.  There was positive feedback from everyone regarding the team building, even though there were some problems when it came to interpreting what the One World volunteers wanted everyone to do.  Many people reported learning a lot from the gender session, and it was most definitely a success with the girls.  A few of the female staff and volunteers continued to speak and ask questions of Sotheary after the session and some expressed interest in having more workshops focusing solely on gender issues.

All of us were incredibly happy that we managed to pull off the retreat in three days of planning and only wish we were able to plan the full 3-4 day retreat as we’d hoped.

Although the retreat did not go exactly as we had planned, we are however instituting the weekly workshops/classes as we had hoped.  A lot of the younger staff, like the breakdance or music teachers, are not as proficient in khmer as they should be.  In some cases it’s because they were deportees and in others because the Cambodian education system and financial stability failed them.  Because of this we have tweaked our project to allow for 2 classes a week of intensive language courses to continue for a year.  At the moment, everyone is working on gauging the literary levels of the mentors who will be involved. 

This week we are focusing on interviews with the staff and dancers.  As it turns out a couple of the dance teachers don’t actually live within the capital.  Some of them are from the provinces hours away.  For many this means rarely seeing their family and having to stay at the center.  However, they all seem to not be wanting because Tiny Toones itself acts as a family, particularly the group of people who all sleep at the center.  It is a very tight knit community where in every member looks up to Kay Kay as a father figure, an employer, or a guide.  The more time I spend watching Kay Kay interact with the dancers and the kids, the more clear this becomes.

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