Open mindsets and full engagement

Caroline Abels, portfolio manager of our Skilful Parenting program, recently traveled to Ivory Coast. Together with colleague Maureen from Kenya she resided in the West-African country for ten days to educate new trainers on how to deliver our training that aims to support parents in raising their children, thereby reducing child maltreatment and child labor. Dive into her experiences below!


Abidjan, a colorful, busy, international and friendly city where you feel safe to walk around. Whilst we are searching for a stationery store, a friendly lady notices us and points us in the right direction. As soon as it becomes clear to her that we are planning on walking there, she intervenes. Not because it isn’t safe, but because she thinks its too long a walk. She makes sure we get a taxi, then gets in to the car with us. Upon arrival I get out my wallet but she refuses. What nonsense, she proclaims: she is paying. Hospitable, friendly and safe, that is how she wants us to get to know her country. Pleasantly surprised, we wave her goodbye and enter the store to gather the still needed supplies for the training that we will be providing in order to educate our local trainers.

Farmer field schools

Early the next day our partner from the cocoa sector is coming to pick us up. We drive to the cocoa fields. The cocoa company has a couple of local farmer field schools in which groups of cocoa farmers are educated on the cocoa they grow. During these meetings, farmers learn how to obtain more cocoa from the trees and how to improve sustainability of the harvest. Simultaneously, they learn about the negative effects of child labor in this sector. The aim is that the farmers enrolled in these schools who have children themselves, will in the future additionally be offered our Skilful Parenting program. The more parents that will become knowledgeable on child development and develop skills with regards to their own children, the more will be prone to change their behavior towards them. We want to use this trip to gain insight into the composition of the groups and the organization of the current trainings in order to most successfully adapt our program accordingly.

The car comes to a halt at the edge of a forest. From afar I hear people cheering, laughing and singing. I hear joy. After a five minutes walk through the plantation we arrive at the group. We are welcomed with dance and singing. Though I would rather enjoy what I hear and see from a safe distance, my colleagues and I cannot escape, from every side we are invited to join. My stiff Dutch hips completely unaccustomed to the African rhythm and dance.


Open mindsets and full engagement 

Two days later the training takes off, a training meant to educate the local trainers to become full fledged Skilful Parenting field trainers. A group of no less than 26 men and women. Within the group are several trainers that have already been working in the child protection sector, but the larger part of the trainers has thus far solely worked as agricultural trainers. They make up a diverse group. Moreover, they present us with a challenge as both of us do not speak French that well. Luckily we have two translators with us. Six fantastic training days follow. The level of engagement and joy within the group amazes me. We often make use of role-plays, which everyone openly joins. We witness the shyest participant unfold as top actor/actress, the most cynical participant change into a children rights advocate. We see men and women engage in open, sometimes heated, sometimes hilarious discussions about sexuality and the women’s rights. While we educate the participants to become trainers of the program, we often hear the same message repeated: if only they would have had this training themselves a long time ago. Some of their children have already grown up, but with their youngest children they will do things completely different from now on!

On Saturday afternoon we say goodbye to the group and drive directly to the airport, straight on our way back to Kenya and the Netherlands. On the airport we quickly plan the follow-up training before entering the airplane. Tired, but satisfied. What a week it has been and what a reassurance of what great and honorable work we do!