Cristina, our volunteer at the workshop

As a volunteer for Caregivers Link …

On Saturday 27th of April I attended a Needs Identification Workshop at the day care center of the Schizophrenia Awareness Association (SAA), Pune. This workshop was initiated by Shikha and accomplished successfully with the energetic help of Janet and the SAA staff. For me it was my first event as a volunteer for Caregivers Link.

Before I proceed to reporting about the workshop, I want to clarify what a Needs Identification Workshop is and the role SAA played in the implementation.

SAA has created an environment where care-receivers and caregivers can speak openly about their difficulties. This achievement results from providing them with infrastructure and certain activities. Most important, in this environment the parties concerned are able to gain a positive experience through understanding some of the issues. This is very crucial because especially people challenged by mental illness and their caregivers often face prejudices and unfounded accusations, complicating their life conditions. Isolation, social withdrawal and a low self-esteem can be the consequences. On the contrary, the opportunity to speak and reflect without being judged can trigger an evolution in self-understanding. Finally this can lead to a better self-esteem and a more proactive behavior.

According to my observation, this is exactly what happened to this group of caregivers at SAA. The Needs Identification Workshop was an attempt to capture this process, analyze it and present it to others. In order to improve the conditions of caregivers and caretakers their needs have to be understood.

In the beginning, while watching the caregivers taking their seats, I was worried about the general mood of the audience and their willingness to participate. Would people feel uneasy or reserved to talk about their problems? If yes, how to trigger a discussion?

At the workshop

After everyone had arrived, the SAA Team and Shikha presented a speech about their goals and expectations on the workshop. Then we started our first activity – the spring-cleaning game.

Everyone got a piece of paper, some crayons and was asked to draw or write their current thoughts on the paper. The symbolic meaning of this game is to remove disturbing thoughts from the mind by putting them on a paper. So it can be understood as a mind calming activity, which helps participants to fully focus on the workshop.

It was amazing to see how people were engaged in their work, creating beautiful and colorful paintings.

I observed that the act of painting itself had a very calming and positive effect on the audience. After everyone had submitted their painting, I could see the relaxation and the satisfaction on their faces because they immensely enjoyed their own creativity.

Afterwards the caregivers were asked to think about the biggest problem they had before they joined SAA and write it down on a sticky note. Subsequently they had to write down the biggest problem now. Me, Janet and Shikha collected the sticky notes and differentiated the mentioned problems into categories.

After presenting the results, we divided the caregivers into two groups and encouraged them to discuss these categories. Finally they had to provide possible solutions and present them. I was stunned at how enthusiastically everyone participated and openly spoke about their personal experiences.

I was happy to see how the caregivers livened up, given a chance to talk about their daily life challenges. The workshop exceeded way beyond the scheduled time as nobody was in a hurry to leave. In fact the discussion was lively and people focused till the last possible minute.

Finally the SAA staff gifted us with in-house books and we concluded the workshop. When I came home I was tired and exhausted but at the same time thoroughly satisfied. For me it was a very exciting and interesting day. I am looking forward to the next event!

To know more and to download the workshop report, please click here.

(Cristina has since returned to Austria and is currently pursuing a course in psychotherapy. We wish her all the best and are happy that she is in the process of fulfilling one of her dreams.)