Six Seconds welcomes our new Preferred Partner, Indigo, a consulting firm founded by Mrs. Sereen Abu Maizar Wahbeh in Amman, Jordan. We spoke with Sereen and Manal Milbes Co-founder/ Operations Manager at Indigo about how they are helping spread emotional intelligence to all corners of the Middle East.
What specific challenges or opportunities come with working in the Middle East?
Sereen: People in Jordan are not very aware of EQ yet there is a hunger for knowing more and for going through this journey. With the economic and political situation happening in the Middle East, in Jordan we have a lot of refugees, and now that they’re trying to embed them in the community, it’s very hard. That’s where the empathy started to show up in our real world. We were very cohesive, we had our culture, but once the Syrians and Iraqis and all these citizens came, it was an eye opener, that we need to work more on with our selves, so the empathy part came up.
Once you are aware of your emotions, can deal with yourself you can deal with other nationalities and situations, differences in other people, you can put your self in their shoes and maybe they can be part of our community.
Here it’s very hard for us to deal with them. They come from different backgrounds, they come from war. In the real world, people are not accepting them in jobs,in restaurants, even in schools, or in society. We are having a hard time as citizens to accept each other. So that’s where the awareness first showed up, so that’s what we’re trying to do.
Manal: Everything is happening around us. Our children are being faced daily with challenges, with stories from all around the area, with different emotions; fear, uncertainty, and all of that. Even us adults, there are big needs to handle these emotions, and we need the support for everyone around us.
That is why we are working on this part. It’s not an easy period in this region, to be honest. It’s not only what’s happening in the U.S..In the Arabic countries, acceptance of others, it’s a subject that’s not easy. The U.S. is a country built on diversity. While, here, we have borders, culturally and socially. This is why at this period of time we need acceptance. We need empathy in our lives.
The awareness of EQ is just becoming known in the Arabic world. EQ is new to the market. People are more aware of the personal needs of children in their early years. International Baccalaureate (IB) schools have begun developing curriculum and programs around SEL/EQ, so now the awareness is much bigger.
There is a need we want to be part of. We are talking about a small category of people who have the awareness for that need, and we reached out primarily to private IB schools around the country. We want to target people who need it, people from outside the capital of Amman. It will not be an easy journey, but we are confident it will be a successful one. We’re looking forward to the outcome. It is exciting.
What’s your connection to Six Seconds?
Sereen: I attended the EQ practitioner course in 2013, and I fell in love with EQ. I have been a trainer for so called soft skills, communication and so on. Six Seconds was part of my training. I attended again in 2016, then I got the assessor course also last year. I am working now in education with Manal in the schools. We have a small center here with a play area for kids, a training area and center, small school and a trainining center, so it’s for parents, children, and educators. We figured out a way to embed the SEL to be part of the schools. I have been in training for 10 years, but in education it has been since October 2016.
Let me tell you more about how we started. In 2015. Here in Jordan we have the International Baccalaureate (IB) system in schools. It’s about themes. They have to go on a field trip to learn more about what they’re learning at school. We were giving them hands on activities on the knowledge they got at schools, but in a different way, with a puppet show an interactive show. We have twelve schools on board. They have KG -1 to Grade three. That is how we started. The SEL program is new. We have an EQ for Teachers workshop for how to embed the EQ curriculum in schools. We all it “glocalization” or global/local, becoming a world citizen, so that “glocalisation” is now 1 ½ years. We did a pre- and post assessment for that part, but not yet for EQ.
What plans do you have to measure success?
This is a pilot program where we will conduct an assessment. We can pick a school and try to conduct training for teachers and two sessions with parents so they know what is going on with their kids, and we’re going to try to train the teachers how to teach EQ to their students. Once we have this pilot project it will be more clear and easier.
How do you see your partnership with Six Seconds evolving?
Sereen: I’ve been attending EQ courses for the past five years, and we have a lot of choices here in the region. When I went to the Six Seconds courses it was an “aha” moment. Everything seemed so structured, I fell in love with the model. It was so real so I could apply it in my daily life. All the research, it makes a lot of sense because of the whole structure.
When we thought about the SEL program, we tried to do some workshops around the model and it made a lot of difference. Lize is working with us directly to help us design a curriculum, and I thought with the SEI assessment and Brain Brief Profile, the personal approach makes it more real and personal for the attendees. We can use their assessments, use their tools, they can support us with the material we’re trying to build etc.
What’s ahead for you? Do you have a long term plan?
Manal: We have a three year plan. We are starting with the private schools because they have an awareness for the need, and they can afford our programs, because the cost is really high. Our goal is to be on a regional level, not only local and Jordanian. This is not a Jordanian issue, it’s a regional issue. In three years we want to reach the Gulf and Africa. Our goal by the end of 2017 is to have the first model for parent, teacher and children to finish each module by the end of the year. We’re working closely with Liz, Susan and Jayne. We’ll have more case studies by then. We’ll be able to spread the program to public schools. We have big dreams.
Sereen: Because all of the programs are mainly in English, we are trying to embed our values and traditions in an Arabic way so we can do the curriculum bilingually in English and Arabic, so we can spread it to the public schools, they’re not familiar with EQ, especially in the less fortunate places. We want it to be applicable to Arabic, it’s not just translated, but we will interpret it in Arabic, and build it so it’s culturally appropriate, so it’s not some theory out there, so abstract. It’s our niche so that it will be bilingual.
How are you adapting the materials to be culturally appropriate?
Manal: Everything now that’s available, it’s not built for the region, for the Arabic world. We have to check the values, the acceptance, from the local people, so that’s why we’re not translating, but we are rebuilding it in Arabic, not just the language, but the mindset, also.
Sereen: Let’s say, we both like the empathy cards from Six Seconds, it has a lot of examples and stuff, but here in the Arabic world we don’t talk openly about let’s say drugs, or prostitution or abuse, so we have to come up with examples that we can talk about out loud because we have a lot of taboos, specially with the Islamic world going on around us, there’s a lot of red lines we cannot cross.
Manal: We have to keep in mind the challenges that students have to face here are totally different than challenges the children in U.S. or Europe face. For now, whenever we prepare for any training, training we adapt it with stories about something that would happen with children here.
Sereen: We’re doing needs assessments with teachers, we’re building a case that we can work on and through. We have a lot of mothers who didn’t receive any education. The interaction with children is really back dated. So we’re trying to figure out the problems they are facing, and so we can figure out how to make it real for them. We are trying to address this through our curriculum.
How has Six Seconds effected you personally?
Manal: I was introduced to EQ through Sereen. For the last year and half, the change that I can I see in my life, in my family, has inspired me to make real changes in my life, this has inspired me to partner up with Sereen and try to see this difference in other people. We need them to see to drive their change.