Written by Nomeda Marazienė from Leadership Experts Group
“Yes, these are the colors of the Lithuanian flag.” – Rimas, a nine-year-old participant.
Six Seconds’ preferred partner, Leadership Experts Group, has partnered with Barclays Group Operations Limited – Lithuania to bring EQ training to the Foster Care and Social Family Support Centre in Didziasalis, a tiny town on the border of Lithuania and Belarus. As their project heads into its first year, children who have participated now reflect on what they have learned about emotions. These foster children have suffered betrayal, rejection, physical and psychological violence, so there is a greater need for this project than in the general population.
Goals of the emotional intelligence project
The goals of the project, which started in January 2016, were to strengthen the community’s self-awareness, self-management and interpersonal skills, to develop the children’s financial literacy, and to establish a positive outlook so that every member of the Centre would be capable of achieving economic independence.
Children with social isolation experience negative changes in their personal relationships. They experience disruptions in their physical and psychological health, which, in the long term, lead to dysfunctional behaviour. Social and emotional skills’ training helps to reinstate the children’s inner resources (self-confidence, self-respect, feelings of self-worth) and thus eases the socialization processes both in the institution and outside it.
How the project was implemented – our story
The educators actively participated in all the activities.The idea of the project was to strengthen the whole community, to increase their team spirit. “When the military staff came into our small territory, the children managed to get over their fears. The thing I remember the best, and it is like our new rule: when you feel like you are about to give up, you can’t do something, you have to get into the action“ – says the chief of the children’s foster center, Audronė Petrovienė.
Famous Lithuanian specialists also agreed to participate. Saulius Jovaišas is an expert in personnel selection and management. During his meeting with the children he discussed the importance of having goals, how to formulate them correctly and then take action. He discussed the main principles of job searching and job interviews with the older children and encouraged them, using his charisma and honest support. “I now know how to achieve my goals”. – says Leva (participant).
According to the latest research, Lithuanians are the least empathetic people in the world (University of Michigan, William Chopic, 2016). That gives an extra dimension to the children’s trip to an animal shelter – one more exercise implemented during the project‘s course.
The children learned empathy, compassion, taking care of the weaker and not expecting anything in return – isn’t that the a sign of high emotional maturity? It was an emotionally charged moment for some children, provoking an association to a pet they used to have. “I also liked the dog shelter, when they took us there”, – says Renata (participant) – “I have a video of that visit. It was sad to see the dogs without homes, but what I really liked about it was walking the dogs. I chose a small dog and he was so cute! He looked a lot like a dog I used to have and it felt like we became friends”.
A special thanks goes to Leadership Experts Group partner Eglė Masalskienė. She has worked with the children and the educators on the topics of effective communication and self-management.
How do we communicate to create mutual value? How can we find things that connect, not separate us? What do we do when we know the way things are supposed to be, but the other side is selfish?
How can we keep our dignity and respect for self and others when opinions don’t align? How can we avoid the need to be right no matter what? Can we let go of some of our strong opinions for the betterment of others?
These are the challenges of daily communication for us, adults, too.
The children have suffered betrayal, rejection, physical and psychological violence. During the facilitation sessions the children have discussed, debated, drew and shared their pasts with each other, as well as discussed and agreed upon values of communication both in and outside the Centre.
The workshop on assertive communication rules
During the self-management sessions the children have learned to recognize their behavioral patterns, especially in the situations where they are under pressure. How can the children deal with a massive amount of information every day? How do they prioritize? What is a trigger for them in emotional situations? What emotion do they react with and how do they express it? Accompanied by LEG partners, the children learned the principles of emotional navigation and tried out self-management and relaxation exercises.
On October 18th the Centre’s community met a professional artist, traveler and an author of a few books, Marius Abramavičius. Together with the artist the children made their own kites and coloured them brightly. Of course, the most fun part of the exercise was to let kites fly in the wind. Watching the children and the adults flying their kites high up gave a sense of all-encompassing freedom. A kite is a symbol with many meanings, and this time it was associated with a hopeful outlook about self and others as well as the belief that everything will be alright.
As the project progressed, Barclays’ employees’ voluntary work had a huge impact. They took the children fishing, watched and discussed the movie ‘Whiplash’, and accompanied the children to sport events. The children from the Centre need to have examples of successful, individual leaders possessing examples that they can follow and engage with – that help the children to strengthen their core – self-confidence, self-respect, and feelings of self-value.
The children’s educators also studied emotional intelligence (EQ). During a 28-hour long program, we discussed personal and interpersonal communication principles, analyzed effective and ineffective behavioral patterns, analyzed emotional navigation through real life examples and made personal action plans for the improvement of empathy, emotional navigation, optimism, inner motivation and emotional recognition.
Financed by Barclays and carried out by LEG and “Barclays Group Operations Limited-Lithuania“ volunteers, the EQ project in Didžiasalis Centre was very driven, continuous, dynamic and a non-standard project for the improvement of the whole community. It is inspiring the whole community’s understanding of their goals and their desire to change Lithuania.
Nearly a year into the program, the project is coming to the end. The children’s EQ measurement will be made in the beginning of December. All together we hope the results will show signs of promise: A 10% increase in children’s total measured emotional intelligence and a 15% increase in the main socialization indicators among children (inner motivation, optimism and empathy).
The project has employed EQ assessments for children and adults provided by Six Seconds, The Emotional Intelligence Network.
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