Monday, 19 October 2009

Beijing and Hong Kong trip report

August 2008 The SFBT Group was formed with a tall order of bringing the SFBT discourse into the ‘Central Kingdom’ – China.

8 months went by, we found ourselves standing on her soil.

First evening in HK. Eva, Sai, Bash, Greg, Hank and Mamoun

The team outside HK Shu Yan University
At Beijing Normal University with postgraduate students

From the 5th to 17th of April, we fulfilled our engagements in two destinations, first at the Hong Kong Shue Yan University, then we travelled 1222 miles up north to Beijing Normal University in the capital city.

Four members, Greg Vinnicombe, Dr Mamoun Mobayed, Bashrat Hussaine and myself arrived at Hong Kong Airport to be greeted by two young smiley excited faces, Hank Chan (our Hong Kong member) and Sai Tarrot (the Beijing member). This was a symbolic moment for the group as this was our first time all together and it was our first joined assignment.

The following morning, we found ourselves greeted by a group of friendly, helpful staff at the conference room of the Hong Kong Shue Yan University where we were about to embark on a two-day workshop for local counsellors and social workers. The two days were more of a collective sharing-experience; participants brought with them own familiar ways and ideas of therapeutic practice which informed their individual bases of enquiry into SFBT, we in turn learned from their responses.

           Some of the HK participants                                                                                      

HK participants

  Mamoun with his student team, Beijing.  
The presentation at the Beijing Normal University was similar to that in Hong Kong except it was modified to accommodate a larger group of post-graduate participants who were volunteering in the Sichuan Earthquake Relief work. This four-day workshop was delivered with the specific intention of applying SFBT to this specific area of trauma and stress work.

On each occasion, we used various modes of delivery where we saw fit for these two very different groups of audiences. Aside from the differences in regional cultures, the Hong Kong participants were established counsellors and social workers, whilst the Beijing participants were bubbly graduates who were about to embark on their seemingly first altruistic assignment.

Responding to their differences, we adapted and modified our ways of delivering the topics and unwittingly adjusted our ways of interacting with each group. From their responses and feedback, both groups commonly expressed how happy they were being introduced to SFBT, and their interests in using the approach in their practice and inclination to pursue it further.

This success was due to the combination of many variables, one of which is human resources. Among us, we had:

Dr Mamoun Mobayed who has involved globally in trauma and stress relief work in disaster regions. His specialism had naturally become our point of reference whenever the given topic was discussed. He had appropriately given an informative presentation on trauma relief work that brought home to all of us the fundamental needs of sufferers. In addition to Mamoun's professionalism and specialism he demonstrated sensitivity to cultural differences, with good skills in utilising local resources. He interacted sympathetically with the locals, using his learn-in-real-time Chinese phrases, characters, proverbs and cultural etiquettes. With his Zen-like sense of humour, he encapsulated the immediacies and relevancies in his style of presentation, capturing the response of his audiences...

By our unwritten agreement, Greg Vinnicombe was seen as the task leader due to his on-going experiences in giving SFBT workshop presentations. Greg played a main part in structuring and implementing ways of delivering the workshops. His pragmatism and organisational skills had guided us through the entire process and as a result, the 2 presentations were run seamlessly and were delivered on schedule. Furthermore, Greg's graceful style and manner as a trainer injected a sense of credibility and stability to the group. Thus it was felt by participants that it was Greg they turned to by default for most of their queries.

The presence of Bashrat Hussaine dispelled the commonly perceived seriousness of presentations. Bash's spontaneity and congruity in his interaction with participants and in delivering the workshop helped to ease any inhibitions between participants and trainers, creating an atmosphere of togetherness which developed into a sense of belongingness. Consequently, learning became an interesting process and interacting became enjoyable.

Our two young members, Hank Chan and Sai Tarrot, together played a major part in facilitating the two presentations, from the concept stage to the realisation of presentations, orchestrating the logistics of the whole venture in both venues. As a result of their preparation the running of the two presentations was both efficient and culturally appropriate. Furthermore, our excursions with Hank and Sai in their respective home territories freed us from the usual anxieties in an unfamiliar country i.e. getting to places; what to look out for; where and what! - to eat etc. In their enthusiasm for life, their creative attitude in dealing with things, their devotion to tasks and their loyalty to friends I saw two accomplished young ambassadors for the modern day China.

I could go on; there were many more people who played a very significant part in making this trip possible for us. They are professor Catherine Sun and colleagues from the Hong Kong Shue Yan University, professor Huo and colleagues from the Beijing Normal University. Also, Dr John Chan in Hong Kong was untiring in his efforts to raise fund for our trip and eventually secured hotel accommodations for all of us sponsored by the Hui Yeung Shing Foundation in Hong Kong.

I myself was in the midst of all that happened, observing, learning, comprehending, bewildering.....

We were treated a lovely dinner by professor Catherine Sun and colleagues on my left (HK)

 Were were taken to the 'Imperial Kitchen', HK
One of many eating experiences treated by the university in Beijing. professor Huo and Dr Zhang are on my left and right.

Happily we had time to enjoy the experience of marvelling at the intricate architecture of the Forbidden City and climbing the majestic Great Wall of China. These world famous land marks are there to remind us of a civilisation that has stood through a long and tortuous history of change and evolution. We, by chance, choice, fate or predestination happened to be in this particular nano-moment of its history, tentatively trying to exert our particle of influence on its people’s way of thinking and doing. The thought of the disproportionate scale crushed me. We had hardly scratched the surface. However, we thought we may have made a tiny step forward from where we stood, and felt very brave that we had tried.

In our suitcases, we stored up jewellery, gadgets, books, sweets, tea leafs.... our evidence of having been to China.
Eva, Summer 09

 Inside the Forbidden City

 What else

'One is not a hero unless he has climbed the Great Wall', Said Mao Zedong.