Dan Hughes has been to visit our project in Kenya! That is simply huge and I can’t quite believe it has happened! Dan is the guy who developed Dyadic Developmental Practice and travel the world as a prolific and entertaining speaker. He has written many books and has changed the concept of how to support traumatized children. I love and have studied his work for years.
Our whole project is built on the DDP model and we have 61 deeply traumatized children living with us. We had our own DDP therapist from the UK who worked with our amazing staff to develop therapeutic homes, using loving, playful accepting, curious and empathic model of parenting. And the results are mind-blowing.
Dan – or Dr. Dan as the children and staff call him arrived to a real Rafiki welcome. They girls sang their welcome song and greeted him one by one – the boys challenged him to chequers and thrashed him! They were all happy to meet him and had lots of chats and showed him their dancing skills – I think he’s pretty impressed!
The biggest impact was to our staff. They were just amazing – they were in awe of this great man who had come to meet them, but the stepped up! They asked brilliant questions and really picked his brains on how they can support the children even more. They managed their anxieties and showed Dan that they are some of the best staff in the world. They were open and curious and willing to learn more. Was I proud – only loads!
I don’t think we recognize publically the impact on having the right staff at our houses. They are often the unsung and unseen hero’s and heroines. The people who must change so much of their thinking when they come to us. To leave behind the ways they may have been parented and learn to accept that big feelings drive big behaviours. They accept that if you can help with that feeling then the behavior goes – not easy when teenage boys comes at you with whatever they can reach in a moment of dysregulation. To do that against a backdrop of their own experience of harsh and punitive parenting is a great big ask. To continue to be loving and kind and repair the relationship as the adult is magic! Have I told you that I love our staff!
Dan has left a footprint in the heart of Rafiki. He has given them a want to know more and become even more amazing.
One of the mornings we took Dan on safari and one of our boys is an apprentice to become a safari guide. I know that Dan was so impressed with his humour and knowledge and really enjoyed him being there. When I later shared some of this young man’s story I could see the impact it had on Dan. To know that your model recreates a life narrative for children that society rejects – and then you meet them and experience the person they are becoming must be pretty mind-blowing.
We had some great times. Dan and our own Sarah met their match! To see them both ‘discuss’ the merits of a hug was just poetry in motion – I’m still not sure who had the final word on that one! (*edit from Sarah. of course Sarah had the final word)
On a personal level to have the person that inspired you to set up something and fueled your belief that change can come to the children who have never been parented; children who have walked a life of violence and abuse on such a scale that it feels they cannot ever reconnect to society; children who are isolated and scared and then to build a community of these children. I never thought that Dan Hughes would come to Kenya – I hoped he would and of course I have nagged him over the years – but to actually stand and experience him experiencing the Rafiki way was almost too much.
Our general manager Eric summed it up when he said that Dan had more impact on his own personal and professional life than he could imagine. He parented his own child totally differently because of the way he has been taught at work. He is more accepting of others and he strives to improve more. Relationship is at the centre of everything we do as humans
Powerful, reflective and heart-warming words that prove the ripple effect of our little corner of Africa. Changing generations to come.
Thanks for coming Dan – it was a blast!