Child care professionals working across a wide spectrum, from infant to school-age, took advantage of 2 days of learning at reachwithin’s second annual conference. Caribbean Children and Caregivers: The Importance of Their Relationships held on 2 & 3 July 2015 in Charter Lecture Hall at St George’s University.
The conference focused on the importance of developing healthy relationships between the child and the caregiver/teacher to help improve the child’s short, and long term behavioural outcome, and allowed participants the opportunity to network, and engage with experts from the US and Grenada who delivered keynote speeches and facilitated Q&As and workshops.
Sen. the Hon. Simon Stiell, Minister of State, Ministry of Education; and former Permanent Secretary, Elizabeth Henry-Greenidge, Ministry of Social Development, opened the conference reminding participants of the importance of their role when it comes to the positive nurturing of children in Grenada. They endorsed the affirmative initiative undertaken by reachwithin and expressed their continued support for reachwithin programmes which, for over a decade, has been helping to improve childhood outcomes in Grenada by offering psycho-social support to children and developmental training to their caregivers.
The second day of the conference opened with traditional drumming, song and dance, including a short drumming lesson for participants, from Monty Drayton and his team. It allowed the audience to experience a snapshot of the thereupitic drumming delivered, through reachwithin programmmes, to children in residential care in Grenada.
Topics touched upon at the conference included the Polyvagal Theory by Dr Stephen Porges (Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina) which explores the way we understand our nervous system, senses, emotions, social self and behaviors. Dr C. Sue Carter (behavioural neuroendocrinologist and Director of the Kinsey Institute and Rudy Professor of Biology at the Indiana University) explained the importance of the hormone, Oxytocin, when forming human relationships and Dr John Hornstein (research associate at Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston) looked at the cultural process of how we parent.
In the afternoon workshops Sera-Leigh Ghouralal of the Grand Anse Playgroup, Genada, gave practical tips on managing classroom behaviours, Dr Hazel DaBreo, psychotherapist and founder of the Sweetwater Foundation, Grenada, explained and demonstrated the benefits of yoga in her Yoga as Therapy workshop and Gaylen Plant alongside Aditi Subramaniam, both of Boston Children’s Hospital, Brazelton Institute discussed The Power of Play for children aged 0–3 and 4+. The keynote speakers also held intimate afternoon Q&A workshops which allowed participants to ask questions on any topic relating to child-caregiver interactions.
reachwithin’s Executive Director, Richard Honigman, said, “I am proud that we could once again hold a conference for caregivers. Be they parents, residential care home workers, rovers or teachers, they are all important in helping to shape the lives of children who are our future. I was especially happy to see a number of care professionals from Trinidad at this conference which shows there is a clear regional need for more of these events in the future as the concepts are universal.”
“The opening addresses by Sen. the Hon. Stiell and Ms Greenidge were excellent and inspiring and help to set the overall tone for the conference. I was pleased with the impressive way in which the keynote speakers, Drs Porges, Carter and Hornstein, delivered their lectures which were supported by the practical workshops led by Hazel DaBreo, Sera-Leigh Ghouralal, Gaylen Plant and Aditi Subramaniam. All contributed to the flavour of the conference and delivered the same message which was, the power of relationships in shaping how we feel about ourselves and others. I believe all caregivers who attended came away with greater knowledge and skills.”
reachwithin was able to stage the conference with the kind support of St George’s University and research institute WINDREF with lunch provided by Goddard Catering Grenada. Generous donations from sponsors, True Blue Bay Resort and Villas, Mount Cinnamon Grenada, Real Value IGA Supermarket, Camper & Nicholsons Marinas and Laluna Resort allowed up to 25 care professionals to attend the conference free of charge.