Date: 17-07-2018

NEWS - The Circle of Friends is for Child Healing and Support

Ibrahim always liked to talk, but when the topic of dinosaurs came up, he would speak passionately. He knows their difficult names, size and diet, how they lived and who their enemies were. There was not enough time to go through all the details in the big circle in the classroom, which caused great destress and anger outbursts with the young boy. So the teacher offered Ibrahim the opportunity to form a Circle of Friends with whom he could socialize and talk more dinosaur.

He gladly accepted this challenge. However, during his first Circle of Friends meeting, other children became quickly frustrated by the topic. There were frequent quarrels and slow agreement on what else to do or discuss. Ibrahim got very upset after these gatherings, saying it was the worst day of his life every time. But he finally turned, exposing himself to the ideas and feedback of his peers who’d wish share their ideas on playing together as well.

Slow but steady change
He learned slowly that what others experienced as fun was sometimes stressful and frustrating to him. Although he kept saying the meetings were a bad and that he hated the Circle of Friends, he was still eager for the next encounter. It was then noticed by his teacher that he was going through a slow, but positive process.

Yet, a miracle happened soon. The Circle finally managed to agree on their activities and everyone was so happy. The Circle taught Ibrahim to control his anger and thus positively changed his ability to socialize. Some of this behavior still persists, but in a much more controllable and acceptable way. (Samira Kudić, Ibrahim’s school teacher)

DUGA Philosophy
Stories such as Ibrahim’s come from the heart of DUGA’s philosophy and they are testimony of what positive exposure and a bit of patience can do for a child and group dynamics. DUGA plays an important role in the local communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ensuring equal opportunities for every child and young person. They promote access to pre-school and primary school education for marginalized children. They focus especially on children with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.

DUGA offers several trainings to (pre)schools that enable teachers to grow their professional skillset and also to help grow children’s resilience and social standing. One of these trainings is the Circle of Friends, or Social inclusion through peer support (the Circle of Friends Methodology). The method is designed for intentional building of relationships around a child vulnerable to exclusion because of disability.

It is worth mentioning that DUGA is currently participating in regional Peer Learning Activities alongside Korak po Korak from Croatia and Centre for Interactive Pedagogy from Serbia to promote Circle of Friends Methodology and professionally exchange.

More specifically, is meant to change behaviour developed during a turbulent period in children’s life and it works by means of mobilising the young person’s peers to provide support and engage in problem solving with the child in difficulty. It is an inclusive approach to meeting emotional and behavioural needs of children in risk of being isolated. The outcomes are positive, strong and sometimes surprising.

Other highly effective trainings provide by DUGA can be found here

Input welcome for Smooth Transitions
Surely DUGA is constantly on the lookout to improve itself and expand their services. Shortly, they will commence a partnership with public preschool institution ‘Children of Sarajevo’, existing of three complementary projects. The purpose of the cooperation is a growing managerial demand to improve the quality of services of preschool education. It means providing broader access to existing opportunities, and in general a smoother transition from preschool to primary schools.

The plans are meant to set the new standards for quality preschool services for vulnerable children, and of course their educators and parents.

DUGA emphasizes that it would be great to exchange learnings with another ISSA organization who went through similar processes in early childhood programs.