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Be humble

29 Apr 2019

Always teaching, always learning-Adapting baby massage to teach different communities

Always teaching, always learning-The challenge and joy of adapting baby massage to teach different cultures and communities

So I have been teaching baby massage for over 17 years now so you might think I got this thing down?

But no.

I am as much of a student as I have ever been. It’s only as you teach more, you learn more.

Today I learnt about the challenges of connecting with the Roma community and how baby massage is a tool that can help to connect and educate a younger generation of mothers through the power of touch. To empower them with more education around early childhood development and the powerful influence of parenting to shape children’s lives. I had my teaching plans ready and my usual teaching structure but in the face of cultural complexity, respecting traditions and being fully inclusive, those plans went firmly out of the window. Instead I found myself really thinking about what would be the best way to serve that community on their terms in the simplest way possible. To have the biggest impact in the most empowering and respectful way.

The challenge became the delight as I realised that what was needed was to really connect with the core message at the heart of baby massage-LOVE. Regardless of culture, parents love their babies in their own way and in the best way they can. Love comes in all forms but it is shaped by culture and tradition as well as freedom and joy. Baby massage is transformational as it offers a way to teach new parents how to communicate love in it’s simplest form so that babies feel respected, accepted and belong. There can never be a blueprint or teaching plan for this. It’s about really listening to the experiences of parents, of how they were parented, offering education on what we know about babies and how love makes a difference. It’s about offering classes and allowing parents to take what they need. There can be no such thing as a cookie cutter approach to parenting or teaching as everyone within every culture is different and cultures are then different on top. Difference on difference but the key connection is creating change through love and giving every child the best start in life.

I also learnt this through my work in Africa. In Botswana, the challenge working with mothers and babies was different to working in Malawi. Not so far in miles but a world apart in culture. Botswana being a developed and rich country in diamonds, education, tourism and beauty had issues with new mothers and shame around HIV, around child neglect and about not always being able to talk about important issues such as mental health and parenting. Malawi by contrast is one of the poorest countries in the world and the communities I work with often have no water, sanitation, or food security but the people I have meet have an incredible spirit, warm hearts and a deep desire to learn and grow. I started my work there with the fear of being a patronising white girl who was coming to change the world with love where there was extreme poverty everywhere; the reality is that the project was so well accepted by the women in Malawi that is no longer my project, it is whole heartedly theirs and I am now just an observer. This is what I dreamed of and only happened by the women themselves taking ownership of it in their way.

Teaching is learning. Challenges present growth. Growth equals change and change is the natural flow of everything. It cannot be resisted. Knowing that you know nothing is vital to grow and appreciating that everyday offers a new opportunity to expand.

I am so grateful for the students I have spent the day with from the Roma community. I feel richer for it. More inspired and even more dedicated to change the world with love.

Much love

Gayle xx

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