Sallie Dunning, M.Ed., trainer and coach at Open Circle (OC), and Jen Dirga, M.S.W., OC program manager, traveled to Uganda this spring to share techniques, perspectives, and ideas around social-emotional learning (SEL) with a rural community. Dunning and Dirga worked with Beatrice Achieng Nas, BSC, director and founder of the Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation (PCEF) and a recent visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), to introduce the concept of SEL to educators, students, and families in Amor Village.
After months of preparation with others who have worked in rural African communities to make the program considerate of cultural norms and manageable with limited resources, the trainers were able to integrate many of the OC practices and skills. Dunning and Dirga worked with the community on key areas of OC and SEL-enhancing life skills, increasing self-awareness, increasing self-regulation and developing supportive relationships.
This collaboration was funded by WCW and by the United States Government's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and implemented by IREX, in which Nas has served as a Fellow over the past year. A program of WCW, Open Circle provides an evidence-based social and emotional learning program for Kindergarten through Grade 5; OC specializes in delivering engaging and interactive professional development that combines theory, research and the practical experience of educators.