Meet Makenzy Voltaire, one of our Haiti-based supervisors and trainers

Meet Makenzy Voltaire, one of our Haiti-based supervisors and trainers, working with the Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child (GC-DWC)  Haiti’s SEL and parent training programs! 

Makenzy has collaborated with the GC-DWC on a number of our projects. He is an integral member of the parent workshop and social emotional development role out program. Recently, he contributed as a voice actor for one of our family radio programs focused on building pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills, resiliency, and parental involvement. He spends most of his time working in our parent training program, leading sessions and training other facilitators. This week, we invite you to take a look “behind the scenes” of our parent training program through Makenzy’s perspective.

What are the greatest joys of your job? Conversely, what are your work’s greatest challenges?

The greatest joys of my job are found in every success story shared by parents, teachers, or principals about the change our work has made in their families and schools. I feel great joy that I can contribute, in some small way, to the happiness of others and our local community. As for the challenges, the greatest ones are the daily limitations and difficulties we encounter when working in a low-resource context. For example, often, we are unable to reach parents and children through our programming due to limited infrastructure or other obstacles. We saw this a lot when we piloted our radio-distance learning programming during COVID-19 and had to troubleshoot the low reach of the radio stations. It can be challenging and frustrating to know that you have something that can help people, but you just aren’t able to get it to them.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Haitian families today?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge Haitian families face today is daily stress, especially in the midst of the current socio-political situation. Adding to this stress is the always present cloud poverty, leaving many families unable to provide for their children. 

How does your day-to-day work seek to address this challenge?

My daily job seeks to address this challenge through providing parents with training sessions and activities on stress management. By equipping parents with the appropriate techniques and strategies as well as friendly guidance and advice, we believe we can help mitigate and manage their stress.

What role have you played in Notre Dame’s parent training workshops? What is the purpose of these workshops?

In parent training workshops, I play a dual role as both a trainer and a supervisor. This means I lead training sessions for other facilitators and babysitters who then train parents on how to  play and engage with their children, leveraging positive parenting techniques. As a supervisor, during each of the parent training sessions, I supervise the work of the facilitators and coach them based on pre-defined objectives for the workshop. When I can, I offer tips for how they could improve their leading of the sessions or connect better with the parents. Overall the aim of the workshops is to engage parents in topics related to the social, emotional, and cognitive development of their children as well as on a variety of other topics that will support them in cultivating their overall well-being as well as their family’s well-being. 

What does a typical session look like?

Each session always begins with an icebreaker activity that is familiar to the parents. Then, we do a review of the last session while collecting testimonies on how the parents applied at home what they learned in the previous sessions. After this short review, we start with the new session’s theme. Each session is structured around a specific theme on which participants are invited to offer their point of view, to exchange openly with one another, and to try out some practical exercises under the guidance of the facilitator. Group work is prioritized during the session, and parents are invited to take part in short, animated activities, in order to create a conducive atmosphere for learning and dialogue. The sessions always end with a practical activity related to the theme of the day to be tried out at home that week. While all of this is happening, the participants’ children are having a great time playing together with a babysitter.

What are some of the challenges you face when running a workshop? How do you address these challenges?

One of the most obvious challenges of running a workshop is the lack of involvement from fathers. In general, mothers are much more able and available to participate in workshops than fathers. To address this challenge, I work with a number of contacts at both the local parishes and schools to understand what will best motivate parents from their communities to equally participate. 

What are the most fun or rewarding aspects of running a training session?

The funniest part of a training session is, without a doubt, seeing adults acting like kids and having fun during the icebreakers and practical exercise simulations.

What impact have you seen these workshops have on the parents with whom you work?

The impact is extremely positive. Throughout the workshops, parents testify to the benefits of our training sessions. They share with us positive changes in their behavior and the positive impact the workshops have had on their lives and their families. Some of them even go out into their communities and share the different topics and lessons from our sessions with their neighbors!

What do you hope parents will take away from their time with you?

I hope parents remember that the time they spend with us is a time rich in learning and an opportunity to share their familial experiences with one another. 

Makenzy joined the GC-DWC in 2020 and has since been a constant source of energy and positivity on the team! Before joining us, he worked with our implementation partner as a social emotional coach for our school based interventions. Makenzy has a certificate in Social Work from Université d'Etat d'Haïti and a Social Emotional Development continuing education certificate from InnovEd-Uniq. Currently, he’s completing a Master of Education at the Haitian Institute for Training in Educational Sciences.