professional practice
Recently, our whole organisation had the pleasure of participating in a coaching training process. Learning how to hold “thinking conversations” with others, both an art and a skill. We worked together for 3 days and it was a delightful learning experience!
The content and the concepts were clear and were exciting, but what really truly made the difference for me was the facilitator of the training. She was completely present. She was completely there in mind, body and heart, committed to our learning process.
Her presence was communicated in the following ways;
  • She did not once in all the 3 days look at her cell phone. Every tea and lunch break she interacted with us. That communicates something very strongly to me in this day and age where we are all (I include myself) glued to our communication devices whenever we see a gap!
  • She listened really, really well.
  • She was in no rush at all. We had a lot of ground to cover, but she had all the time in the world for us, walking at our pace so we focused on the area’s most important to us.
  • She was completely committed to our learning. Her language was such that she was always gently encouraging; “You can do this, you can do this. It just takes practice, give it a go.”
  • She believed in the potential of every single person present and communicated that over and over again.
  • She brought who she was, she was authentic and real.
When was the last time you were listened to in a way that made you feel like you were the only person in the room? When was the last time someone gave you their full and absolute attention and was in no rush whatsoever to interrupt you? We practised a lot of that kind of deep listening during the week. It was marvellous! It was wonderful to be listened to by my colleagues and it was wonderful to simply listen. To be present. And something happened in the staff body over these 3 days. We were a more cohesive bunch than we have ever been before. We all became more and more present to each other. And we ended the training with a time of acknowledging one another. Speaking affirmations of what we had noticed and experienced over the 3 days, deepening our relationships with one another and our commitment to having deeper conversations as we integrate this practice into our work. I found this really very beautiful.
professional practice1Presence unlocks something. When you are slow to talk and quick to listen, the powerful questions that lead to insight come! However, when you are so busy formulating the perfect question or response or defence in your head, you are actually no longer listening at all. Being present takes some intentionality on the individual’s part. We need to decide to be present; mind, body and heart, in order to truly listen to another. Your presence is a gift, whether you are in a professional or personal space.
What could the benefits be for us if we decided to be present in our conversations? How much more effective could we be if we decided to lay aside all distractions and focus on the other person?
So here’s the challenge! For one whole day, choose to be completely present. Choose to lay aside all distractions when you have another person in front of you, and pay attention to only them.
Let us know how it goes! With huge thanks to dlalanathi for the opportunity to be on this course. And to Dr. Nicola Graham of Thoughtsmiths ( who facilitated with such excellence and presence!

In the field Sexting Module

In the field: Testing, testing…

I (Linda) am an office-based member of staff at dlalanathi. I see my chief role as supporting the work done in the field by my colleagues, working with them to offer processes that are relevant and timely in responding to psycho-social needs they encounter daily. Over the past months it has become more and more apparent that we need to add online safety to our repertoire of child protection processes. No matter the socio-economic status of a community, larger numbers of children and teens are gaining access to smart phones and the internet.
The internet is beautiful, the internet is terrible. Just like a huge Metropolitan city such as Johannesburg. The City is dazzling in beauty and yet also in parts, terribly dangerous. We would never allow a child unfamiliar with such a large space to wonder around alone and unsupervised, so why let them loose on the internet alone and with no “directions”, boundaries or supervision?
Enter the first phase of design; reading and reading and more reading around the topic of children, teens and online safety, the impact of technology-assisted sexual abuse, and the impact of excessive time online. Reading and research lead me to Emma Sadlier and Lizzie Harrison’s book “Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones: A Teenager’s Online Survival Guide.” I decided to design a module on sexting (sex+texting); when someone shares sexual, naked or semi-naked pictures or videos of themselves with others.
With the module designed, I set out to test it; with a group of women leading a child participation group, with a school LRC (leadership group), and with an all-female out of school youth group. What a joy! To be in the community and meet so many people I usually only hear about via my colleagues. And to first-hand test something that I have designed. I love the insight and experience it gave me. One of the biggest challenges in design and testing is the feedback post-testing – most often fieldwork staff are so much in the non-stop action that there is precious little time to sit and feedback how it went, what worked and what didn’t. The pleasure of being there in person and seeing the participation, and the process unfold for myself was lovely. I really got a feel what didn’t work and an inkling for what would be better.
Besides some of the technical learning that happened for me, here are some key things I took away from my experience:
  • Sexting per se between children and teens in the community we work with is not a common practice at present.
  • Sexting is a made-up English word and is tricky to translate into isiZulu.
  • The passing on of pornographic photos and videos generated by the porn industry via WhatsApp is a far more common practice in this community. (As opposed to nude selfie pictures sent between two people in a relationship with one another). The average age of first exposure to full on porn is 11 years old in South Africa – unfortunately this statistic seems to bear out from all I heard.
  • It is vitally important to start talking to caregivers about the beauty and the dangers of the internet, they need to be on board, placing boundaries and protection around their children.
  • Some schools are telling caregivers that their children need to have smartphones in order to access the internet and enhance learning opportunities. These same schools have not necessarily talked about online safety and safeguarding measures (And this concerns me greatly).
  • It’s a really tricky tightrope when you’re aware you have some children who are extremely sheltered and have never heard about pornography and now you’re bandying the term about, and then some children who have heard, seen and possibly done it all.
  • Re-design needs to happen, with a focus on how one can conduct a healthy relationship with the internet so that one’s reputation and retina are not damaged and the soul not permanently scarred after a few years of internet use.
  • I am delighted to go back to the drawing board and re-think the design of this, it means that the feedback has been real, and hopefully I have ‘heard’ correctly as I have listened and engaged with people.
Most importantly, I learned to get to know your ‘audience’ or end user – after all, they are the reason we are here.

Introducing the Team: Nontobeko Khoza

khozaNontobeko Khoza: Community Capacity Building Facilitator
We have the pleasure of introducing Nontobeko “Nonto” to you! Nonto has been at dlalanathi since 2009. We can’t imagine life without her, she’s strong, reliable and real!
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month?
On a personal level, after the coaching training we had (as an organisation) in February, it really helped me to take action on an issue I had been postponing and postponing for two years now. I have now taken action and it is not easy, it’s uncomfortable, but I see a big difference! I think that the training really pushed me to take action.
At work, running our ME Power process with a group of community members (with whom there have been some group tensions) that I have been working with for over two years now, helped me to see them in a new way and helped me to know them better; where they come from, and their struggles. It helped our relationship, for me to be more understanding of where they come from. I think it helped them to know where they are at in terms of their live’s and goals. I became closer to them after that training and they see their strengths.
What is one challenge you have had to contend with in this role?
It’s when there is no participation. It’s when we go out into the community, do awareness’s**, and then nothing… After awareness, we hope that people are willing to continue participating in our programmes, but when there is nothing, that becomes a challenge for me because it feels like I’m not doing enough. Another challenge is when a conflict arises in the community and I start to wonder what I have done wrong, have I made things clear about our role as an organisation from the beginning?
Please share a story from the field…
One woman in the community who has been a key person right from the beginning of our work here as had some significant personal challenges. During one process in which she was participating, she cried every day due to her personal challenges. She told the group each day how she was feeling and why she was crying. At the end of the process, she told the group that she has never really had someone to talk to about all of this, and that’s why she was crying so much, there is too much pain inside. She felt (during the process) she had the space to just talk and talk and cry. She said what the group helped her to do is resolve within herself how to change her response to her challenging situation. This change in her response, changed her whole life. She saw her need to be with other people, to talk and to play. She loves playing with children, she loves children and children love her! Her home is an open place for children to go to. She has now opened a crèche and is saying it is dlalanathi who has helped her be where she is at now. She feels it is because she had a chance to talk about everything and cry that she has now moved on. The change happened slowly over time, but where she is at now compared to where she was before is a big change.
What motivated you to go into community work/youth work?
When I left school there was no money for me to further my studies and then I joined a youth group in my area and I think I was motivated from there. That youth group was doing some community work, like going to the schools and cleaning the rooms. They were doing different things, there was a choir, a drama group, from there I developed that love of working with people so when I had the opportunity to go to University I decided I wanted to work with people. I studied psychology and sociology and had the chance to work with Bev Killian. I helped her with her community work and research. I helped her with translation and running some children’s focus groups. I started to love working with people and working with children.
Initially when I finished school I wanted to do something with accounting, but when I joined that youth group that changed completely for me. A group helps you to think differently, it’s something that challenges you, but if you’re sitting doing nothing, nothing will happen.
And what keeps you going?
I always think “Things will be better tomorrow”. When I am going through some challenges, I just think that tomorrow will be better than today, there is that hope that there is change. I am an optimist. I don’t dwell on hardships. Once I tell myself that tomorrow will be better, I start to relax, even though I may be going through pain at the current time.
Here is Nonto in the far right of the picture, playing with caregivers and their children in a recent Family Support process.
What three words describe you when you’re not at work?
I’m simple, caring and friendly. I’m just me!!
** Awareness in dlalanathi’s community work process is a key part of building relationships when entering a new community. We present our processes and set up interactive sessions where people can learn more about dlalanathi, and the way in which we work.