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South Africa Dissemination Activities 2014

I would like to thank all those who made it possible for me to have the opportunity to attend Worldcon in Minneapolis. Although I have managed to attend before and have been practising ACT for sometime, my relocation to South Africa and the accompanying financial constraints would have made attendance at this particular Worldcon impossible; yet I felt that precisely because of my relocation it was imperative to attend to focus on what can be done in South Africa to disseminate ACT.
During the buildup to Worldcon I had the privilege of meeting Bertus Swanepoel in an introduction to ACT workshop that I facilitated over a few days in my hometown. He lives in Gauteng and specifically in the most densely populated area in South Africa, where he can have the greatest influence in the mental health professional community. I will leave it to him to tell you of the great work he has been doing there.

I live in a very small town which also happens to have the most diverse population group – from the very rich, multiple home-owner holiday-makers and retirees to the very poorest unemployed and homeless. I have chosen to focus on the latter, although in my private practice I have had the opportunity to promote ACT within the local medical community: for example with report back especially with chronic pain patients.

In my work within the poor community, I am developing a protocol that I hope to be able to provide a simple model for dissemination amongst the disadvantaged and sometimes illiterate communities. Some years ago I studied the success rates of ‘foreign’ models that are brought into Africa by both religious and secular groups and discovered a high rate of failure. This was mainly due to a lack of consideration of the structures already in place, mainly leadership structures and ‘natural’ sources of healing. These are often older members of the society who, in contrast to some other societies, gain respect and reverential treatment as they age; also some influential younger persons who are considered to have ‘special’ powers who may, or may not agree to consider what is being offered.

As a result of my previous studies I decided to become a ‘participant observer’ and to this end have been part of a group of about 30-40 people in a church in the poorest area, and have been attending their meetings for three years now. I am accepted by most now, and sometimes (increasingly) asked to speak. I have identified the natural leaders and done two one-day workshops with them this year, and another two with any members of the community who care to attend. These were well attended, and the idea of willingness has been very well received. The cycle of poverty requires a great deal of stoic endurance for some, and especially for most of this group who are economic refugees (and some political). Families and support systems are often far away, and it has been a privilege to watch the transformation from stoicism to willingness as values have been brought into the picture.
The wonderful work in Sierra Leone has inspired me to prepare the ground here should we ever have to tackle that epidemic. The practice of handling, kissing and being present with the dead during lengthy repatriation is similar to Sierra Leone. It is, however, topical as we already have an epidemic of note, namely HIV. As this is mainly a church group, although others are attracted to come and listen by the great drumming and singing (!), it has been a welcome relief, I believe, to be introduced to a view that is based on compassion and yet moving towards health, as opposed to rules and judgement. The discussion of sex or anything approaching such a discussion is taboo in this community and a very delicate issue as I am a ‘foreigner’ but we get around this also with careful wording around values.

We had some wonderful discussions at Worldcon around different possibilities for dissemination and we are trying them out. We came home to the advent of spring, summer, holidays and end of year exams and deadlines and so it has been a different dynamic from what would be experienced in the northern hemisphere. I am confident that early 2015 will provide more opportunities for professional workshops and other opportunities as people will be more focussed on work and less distracted by immediate necessities.
Thank you to Jenn Gregg for her continued help in getting my training videos ‘up to speed’ so that I can finally hand in my portfolio to apply for peer recognition as a trainer. This will go a long way toward establishing my credibility in the professional arena in South Africa – and also toward providing videos that can be used in our sprawling and transport challenged count.

Ingrid Ord, South Africa

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