Training With Professor Debbie

Len Gengel and Cherylann Gengel have been committed to providing quarterly training for all staff members at Brit’s Home over the last several years. Topics in the past have included theory and practice in child/adolescent development, behavior management, creative teaching techniques, classroom management, and emotional and social intelligence.

This past week over 40 staff members from all three shifts once again participated in a week of staff development focusing on a review of the four uniquely human skills known as the Agile Mindset (empathy, divergent thinking, entrepreneurial outlook, and emotional and social intelligence). They then learned about The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey) but because there was so much discussion and application only made it through the first five: (1) Be Proactive – Personal Vision; (2) Begin with the End in Mind - Personal Leadership; (3) Put First Things First - Personal Management; (4) Think Win/Win – Interpersonal Leadership;) and (5) Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood – Empathic Communication.          

All staff worked on two major projects throughout the week. The first project was an adaptation from Dear World (dearworld.com) involving personal storytelling of a significant life event along with practicing effective listening skills. We called our project, “Dear Haiti,” and each staff member reflected upon a story to tell and then shared it twice in different small groups. The next step was to have each person write a title for their story somewhere on their skin to invoke curiosity and personal communication. Sample titles included Rainy Times; Permanent Pain; Sink; Not Giving Up; Sadness; Acknowledge; I Gave a Hand; Resilience; Grateful; I Was Sad for a Long Time; I Will Never Forget; Faith and Happiness; I Dislike Teaching; I’m Not Supposed to Repeat Bad Words; I Did Not Die; and I Stepped In. The purpose of this project was to enhance communication and empathy among staff members and to foster a positive working climate; the better people know each other in an organization the more successful it is. Many staff members were surprised about what they heard from each other and felt closer to each other from the experience.

The purpose of the second project focused on articulating values and priorities in one’s life and the allocation of 24 hours in a day; learning the importance of being in charge of one’s life. After our discussion, each person made a “Pie of Life” and sliced the pie into various sections representing family, work, pleasure, spiritual life, career/education, health, etc. The analysis of the pie was thought-provoking and staff wrote “I will…” statements reflecting changes they wanted to make in their allocation of time to better represent what was important to them. For example, one staff member said that he would turn off his phone when he went to sleep at night to get a better and longer rest. Good plan!

In addition to the staff development that is offered here and to help fulfill Be Like Brit’s Vision to Raise the Next Generation of Leaders in Haiti, The Yunus Centre Social Business Centre at Becker College launched, “Dreams: Educating the Future of Haiti” for Be Like Brit staff. Last year, 11 teachers and caregivers applied for and enrolled in a two-semester, six-module, education/training program.

Teaching modules consist of learning and social competence; emotional development; ESL; prosocial behavior; and behavior management. Social impact metrics are utilized throughout the program.

This project is considered a social enterprise under Becker’s Yunus Centre focusing on building the social good, the common good, and addressing social issues to create positive community change.  

A graduation was held in May 2017 at Brit’s Home where the 11 staff members received their certificates of completion. A second cohort of 25 staff members (more than double!) began the same program in September of 2017 but in Haitian Creole. This cohort is taught by Mr. Wilmann Laguerre, the valedictorian in the first cohort and member of the leadership team.

There was a lot of personal sharing, laughter, and deep discussion throughout the week along with eating lots of candy, of course! The staff here at Brit’s Home work diligently, they care deeply about each of the 66 children, they work long hours without complaint, and they are committed to making a positive difference through their interaction with each other, with the children, and in their leadership capacities.  

Whenever we close an intensive week of training the staff always tells me that they will continue to pray for me so that I may receive more wisdom to share with them. And I also pray that each extraordinary staff member will continue to be a light in my life.  

Dr. Debbie Pallatto-Fontaine is the Executive Director for Global Initiatives and the Yunus Social Business Centre at Becker College in Worcester, MA, and staff development specialist for Brit’s Home. For more information on the training and education programs you may contact her at: