CRP’s educational consultant is a finalist for the AidEx Humanitarian Hero of the Year Award, which celebrates individuals for their remarkable contributions to the humanitarian aid and development community. Beryl, a former teacher, spent decades developing early childhood education programs in trauma-impacted areas throughout the United States, South Africa, the Philippines and the Middle East. She has worked with CRP for about two years.
How does it feel to be a finalist for the AidEx Humanitarian Hero of the Year Award?
I don’t think about it much at all. Someone else nominated me. I’m appreciative, but my commitment is here at CRP. It’s not about getting recognition somewhere else.
You’ve dedicated your career to helping children who’ve experienced trauma. What inspired you to pursue this path?
I started out as a public-school teacher and then someone steered me toward the Head Start program. It quickly became clear to me that children who come from poverty and dislocation and violence have issues that a lot of other kids don’t. Trauma can actually change the brain physiologically. But if we can work with kids while their brains are still developing, then there is a greater chance of recovery than if we wait until they’re older. That’s why I like working with little kids because there is a chance that we can really help them get their brains back into a normal developmental pattern.
You designed the Supergirls program for CRP. Can you tell me what the program entails and how you worked to create it?
I met Amanda [CRP’s executive director] a few years ago and once she learned about my background, she asked me to put together a leadership program for girls ages 6 to 12. I decided there were three things that the program needed to include.
First, a wellness aspect, like breathing exercises and talking about emotions and feelings. Talking about how we care for other people and how we should show them that we care.
The second was games. I’m a strong believer in games. When children have experienced trauma, their minds are scattered. They have trouble concentrating because they are always thinking about so many things. But in a game, you have to think about something in an organized way. To win, you have to follow the rules and concentrate, so I think playing games can help get their minds back to a normal way of thinking.
The third was teaching kids to be proud of who they are; to be proud of their identities. To do this, we talk to them about their cultures, show them their cultural songs and dances and food and art. It’s a building process, but I think kids do better in school and in life if they have a strong sense of self.
Can you share a story about any Supergirl who you’ve seen grow or benefit from the program?
There are so many great examples. But we had one family with three daughters who were all in Supergirls. When they first started coming, their mother had to come with them, and she sat in a chair right behind them. Anytime someone asked them a question, they would look to their mother for what to say. But over time, as the girls became more confident, their mother would sit further and further back. Eventually the girls didn’t look to her for answers anymore, and their mother felt they could attend the program on their own.
Why did you want to join the CRP team? What do you enjoy about working here?
The people here are great. They’ve become old friends. I’ve been in jobs before where the boss doesn’t even really care if you are there or not. But at CRP, they really care about you. That’s very rewarding.
To vote for Beryl, please visit https://www.aid-expo.com/brussels-event/humanitarian-hero-award