Training the Trainers in India

Looking Back on Training Trainers in India – Team Reflections - Part 4

This is the fourth and final blog about a collaborative Train-the-Trainer project between Amar Seva Sangam – Ayikkudy (ASSA) in Tamil Nadu, India, Handi-care International in Toronto, and McGill University’s School of Physical and Occupational Therapy (SPOT).

In a nutshell ….
ASSA is a non-governmental organization serving differently-abled people in rural areas of Tamil Nadu. Their village-based rehabilitation initiative involves rehabilitation specialists and community rehabilitation workers (CRWs) attending children with disabilities in their homes. Of course, an important consideration for the program is the training of these CRWs and Specialists in their respective duties. So, a collaborative approach was taken up by the three partnering organizations to share knowledge and develop a tailored “Train the Trainer” program that would support ASSA in expanding its capacity for training their staff.

If any of the above sparks an interest, you are welcome to take a look at our previous blogs and study, links are listed below. 

So, what did we learn?

The project is now done and dusted. And to wrap things up, we thought it would be interesting to share the team’s reflections on the partnership. We had many team members working from different parts of the world, and they mentioned the following key ingredients as contributing to the project’s success: clear communication, leadership, and organic knowledge exchange.

No surprises here that open communication was mentioned by most as an important component of a successful partnership. McGill SPOT has a long-standing relationship with ASSA and Handi-care Intl, where team members Crystal Garnett and Caroline Storr from McGill have worked alongside Ram Ponnusamy and Dinesh Krishna to provide fruitful fieldwork opportunities for SPOT students. This has allowed team members to build on pre-existing camaraderie and feel comfortable reaching out to each other. During the early stages, a helpful document was co-created by team members outlining shared expectations for communication and contributions. And even with this beautiful set-up, unsurprisingly, there were still some instances of misunderstanding. For example, when we discussed the concept of “feedback”, we found that team members at ASSA and team members at McGill had different definitions and practice of this. Another example is that some concepts (try empathy!) were difficult to translate into the Tamil language. We’ve got to credit the team’s ability to create space for discussion on these topics and incorporate input from various stakeholders in order to lay out a comprehensible training program for ASSA staff. 

Group of people at Global Health event
Faculty and students members of the McGill GHRI team and Ram Ponnusamy of ASSA, McGill Global Health Night, Montreal, 2018.

We were also extremely fortunate to have many opportunities for in-person interaction between team members from Toronto, Tamil Nadu, Montreal, and Vancouver. Initially, ASSA’s project lead, Ram Ponnusamy, was able to visit Montreal and provide his wealth of knowledge on ASSA’s context and nature of work performed by the NGO. The second opportunity for in-person interaction was a two week period in Tamil Nadu, India when three team members from Canada, Anik Goulet, Dinesh Krishna, and myself, were part of delivering the inaugural Train the Trainer workshops and collecting evaluation data. During these weeks, many impromptu team meetings were held to adapt or update material and to share feedback. While the partnership relied on forms of virtual communication, the quality and understanding between team members were greatly enhanced by these opportunities for in-person interaction.

The second ingredient to the successful partnership was a core leadership team. Matthew Hunt from SPOT ‘quarterbacked’ the overall design and implementation of the project, helping the team achieve the planned milestones. He was also able to draw out expertise and crucial guidance from experts like Aliki Thomas on educational research and knowledge translation, and Philippe Archambault on quantitative analysis. On the ground at ASSA, Ram Ponnusamy and Dinesh Krishna were exemplary in their leadership, allocating needed resources and time for ASSA staff, preparing contextually-relevant resources (eg. educational videos) and organizing all the logistics of hosting a string of training events. Their knowledge of the local context and recruitment of key members allowed for smoother integration of various components of the project, including translation and printing of training manuals.

Lastly, the team has felt lucky to participate in a project that allowed them to develop new knowledge about the other partner and to learn from each other. For example, Ram Ponnusamy has mentioned that being a part of this team has been memorable as it enabled him to develop knowledge in areas of project planning and scheduling, creating training material, and writing and reviewing research articles. For his part,  Philippe Archambault noted that he was pleased to learn more about ASSA and the benefits of integrated rehabilitation approaches in the community setting.

Where are we now?

We are now about 1.5 years past the initial Train-the-Trainer workshops held at ASSA, and team members and the staff there have noted a lasting impact. The content included in the program such as Active Listening and Mindfulness has made its way into regular practice among staff. They have mentioned that learnings from the program have also been incorporated into their training programs for new staff and refresher courses. Team members, Sankar Sahayaraj and Arvind Bhartwaj, are hopeful about using the learnings and the model on a larger scale. In fact, the government of Tamil Nadu State will use ASSA’s Early Intervention Program as a model for the state of Tamil Nadu and include two of our team members in the process. As such, we are optimistic that the experience of our Train the Trainer project will have a wider impact and be applied both in future training programs at ASSA and replicated in other parts of Tamil Nadu.

As we wrap up this Edith Strauss Foundation-funded train-the-trainer program, we look forward to sustaining and expanding the strong collaborative partnership among ASSA, Handi-care International, and SPOT.

Previous blogs in this series:  

Training the Trainers in India - Part 1

Training the Trainers in India - Part 2

Training the Trainers in India - Part 3 

Matthew Hunt, Ramasubramanian Ponnusamy, Anik Goulet, Chamila Anthonypillai, Sankar Sahayaraj Muthukaruppan, Aravind Bharathwaj, Aliki Thomas, Philippe S. Archambault, Crystal Garnett, Caroline Storr & Dinesh Krishna. An integrated knowledge translation project to develop, implement, and evaluate a train-the-trainer program at a community rehabilitation program in Tamil Nadu, India. May 2020, Disability and RehabilitationDOI: 10.1080/09638288.2020.1752823 

Header image includes author Chamila Anthonypillai during her clinical fieldwork (2017 ) and photos taken during various train the trainer workshops.

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