REFLECTIONS & CONCEPTS ON PSA

Reflections on the implementation of the PSA program in Papua New Guinea
While reflecting during the coordinators meeting on the progress of the PSA program in Karkar, Daga and Gogodala, there seems some learning emerging that we felt to encapsulate.  We also appreciate the fact that knowledge is infinite and whatever we learn is a portion of that infinite body of knowledge. Another important aspect we did was to delve into understand the process within the framework for social action and reflecting on the guiding principles and the concepts in its entirety.  And began to focus on how we see the application of the concepts in reality. Here is the experience of the groups implementing the PSA program and how they feel the following concepts manifest in action.
•    Accompaniment
•    Twofold purpose
•    Promoter of community well-being  
•    The Three protagonists
•    Coherence
Accompaniment
Most are familiar with the concept of accompaniment, thus describing according to their perception of reality. I thought to describe a process whereby a PSA tutor guiding his participants which in my opinion demonstrates the concepts of accompaniment
Agai is a Tutor of the Preparation for Social Action program in Kaul village in Karkar cluster. From the beginning he enrolled 20 participants to study the first three books.  He is now left with 12 students that he closely nurtures them to find their space in the community to serve.  
During the study of the unit 1; To Describe the world, he guided the students to realise how concepts in Properties and Classification can be applied to foster the moral and intellectual growth of the children. The students even expressed their satisfaction for the new learning and how the learning is conforming to their individual life. How the tutor did guided and motivated the study of these units? Reflecting on the process of community life - beliefs, practices, events and activities - and the education system - purpose, aims and outcomes - then reflecting on the concept of transcendence, human will, nobility, truthfulness, love and justice was obscured. The concept of cooperation, solidarity and unity was in need in the community. The tutor began by igniting in the participants the fire of hope, courage and the desire and love for service by assisting them do Study Circle Book 1 and 3. He immediately organised for the participants to visit homes to share learning’s and insights. By having this ongoing conversation and deliberations on the concepts of the PSA unit and Ruhi books has enable us to set purpose for the practice component. Their qualification is their desire and dedication. The requirement for them to be consistent was to study, act and gain experience. This resulted in motivating the parents of PSA students and kindergarten children to encourage their kids to attend classes regularly. Schedules and programmes were constructed and home visits and devotional meetings, reflection meeting were systematically carried out. Kindergarten classes were in the morning hours and PSA followed. The daily level of activities had increased. Noticeably, capacity was developed; we have seen changes in the kids as well as the students who were teaching them.  Moreover, I have seen the love and desire for service in the PSA students. And the reflection seen from the kids has spoken to the community to offer their wholehearted support.
How can a tutor create and instil trust and confidence in parents, sustain the kindergarten, increase capacity and improve capabilities in the participants and also the teaching effectiveness and quality of children?
The block 2 units were studied simultaneously with Ruhi book 2. Identifying the main concepts to incorporate in our conversations while carrying out the practices for each specific unit of PSA and Ruhi book 1, 2 and 3 has spark a glitter in the students to initiate service activities and productive projects. The tutor learnt during study session of the units, that the study pace and level of comprehension is not same, but concurrently carrying out service activities and production projects and identifying specific concepts relevant to these practices, students get to understand the concepts and the content of the units exceptionally well.
The tutor observed when conducting reviews of PSA books and Ruhi books 1- 3 refreshers, the impulse has really created a new consciousness and heightened understanding which resulted in further sustenance and consolidation of practice components. The activities occurring also tremendously impacted certain individuals in the community both Baha’is and wider community to have PSA program a subject of their everyday conversation.  The group after involving in various practical components decided to choose education as a specific system to focus. This was the result after consulting and pondering on the writing: “the greatest service that can possibly be rendered by men to Almighty is the education and training of children”. And “regard men as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value, education can alone cause it to reveal its treasures and enable mankind to benefit there from”.  We learn how vital focusing on this system is enabling us to pull together concepts, skills and knowledge from both PSA and Ruhi. The tutor and participants are starting to feel the complexity of the system; thus needed more human resources to implement.  If all required practice components are implemented I feel more learning will be generated.   
How could an environment conducive to Learning be created and how would it affect an effective learning?
Focusing on education as the broader system and identifying and selecting kindergarten as a specific system to focus, we created lessons, devise daily lesson plans and improvised teaching materials in order to sustain the daily regularity of classes. Relevant concepts of both Ruhi and PSA were woven into help us to administrate and manage classes. While we were learning we saw a need for a classroom.  We consulted and came up with a building plan, design, quotation for materials, estimated budget plans, who and when to construct. Before the work commence, the PSA group with certain individuals had to raise funds to meet the cost of sago leaves for roofing, hire truck to carry post and sago leaves, buy nails and blackboards. Bamboo for walling and timber was offered generously by an individual. Labour was required so the students and tutor had to sacrifice, commit, dedicate time and effort, physically, intellectually and materially as their contribution. The tutor would encourage them that, it is not study alone but service contributes to the development of capabilities and its elements manifesting in us that teaches more effectively than theoretical learning.
Who identifies teachers and other human resources to sustain various specific activities?
All students were encouraged to partake in the various seminars and trainings in both PSA and training institute. They attended institute process- children class teachers seminar, animators training. The tutor at all times is considerate, sensitive and attentive to the needs of the participants. Naturally it is the zeal and love for that activity that builds in the participants the desire and commitment to thrive to serve in that specific path of service. The tutor guides, assist and encourages them in the destiny they decided to tread. Initially I had 20 students but now left with 12 students. Of these twelve, five students are now being engaged in teaching in community school we initially started as a practice of -To Describe the World.  Three students are animating junior youths in our community. The rest of the participants decided they will assist but focus will be on agriculture. They have agreed to mutually assist each other in their services activities. The tutor is now observing and focusing on a potential and capable person among the ones now teaching and animating to be trained as a tutor for PSA and Ruhi study circle. There is already one of the teacher volunteering to conduct study circle after the intensive institute process and the tutor wish one animator will also evolve so two human resources can be trained for PSA and Ruhi. While some of the activities we did – agriculture, environmental awareness and visiting forest ecosystem - now remain domain; we see the kindergarten, community school, PSA and Ruhi integration results in high receptivity for consolidation and expansion. We now confronted with numerous questions on human resources. How is the strength of the human resources, and will it commensurate with the activities? Do we have the capacity to respond to this growing receptivity? Who will revive all the domain activities and accompany the participants through the process of study- action and reflection to help them find their potentials to serve in the life of the society more meaningfully?
Twofold purpose
A unit coordinator in Gogodala shared this experience. In Kimama village in Gogodala cluster, the PSA students after studying a text titled “Nurturing young mind” did a practice component that ask the participants to informally teach a group of children from ages 3 - 5 years for two years.
Can the magnitude of change in behaviour, attitude and consciousness be measured? Well, let’s see a short account of two people in their 30s that have decided to enrol in the PSA program. The short anecdote of the two seems gratifying. They have not decided to do the practice activities of Nurturing Young Minds in the wider community and confided to their own kids in their own homes. Why they didn’t want to do in the wider community? They consulted with the tutor and agreed to do the activities every Saturday. The tutor would eagerly visits them on Saturday in the morning and assist them with their groups. Sometime later they began to notice some remarkable changes from the kids. Gradually the neighbours became interested and sent their children to attend. The significant change in the life of the two is commendable from being a drug addicts to offering humble constructive service in the community. They attended study circle book one conducted by Charles. “Change a gnat into an eagle and a drop into a boundless ocean”.  It is the power of the sacred word that will change the gnat into an eagle and a drop into a boundless ocean.
The two drug addicts realise their identity as potential people that can offer meritorious service by nurturing the young kids to grow physically, intellectually and spiritually. “Children are the most precious treasure a community can posses, for in them is the promise and guarantee of the future…”
During one of my visit to this community, the tutor decided for us to visit them. From a distance I noticed they started their class. I felt quite joking to see two elderly people with the kids but eventually my mind clicks to this phrase; “Change in mind is change in deeds. Change in deeds is change society”. We could have a glimpse from the two people how their perception of society and relationship with others in the community had changed. They became conscious of their high calling. We cannot measure the magnitude of change but can perceive by the indication of change in behaviour, attitudes and habits.
Promoter of Community well-being
The concept of a promoter of community well being for some time challenges us to think of when a person becomes a promoter of community well being. Initially, the thinking was for a person to earn the designation “promoter of a community well being” is after the completion of the study of all the units in the Preparation for Social Action education program. However, gradually our understanding has shifted to thinking of this concept as a process. A process that is not static but a process which evolves and refines through study, action, consultation and reflection on action. Now we understand the concept of a promoter of community well being in the context of a PSA student begins from the first units of block one – To describe the World when study is concurrent with practice.            
The example of Agai’s PSA group emulates the concepts of a promoter of a community well-being. He began by engaging everyone to involve in the practice component. He planned for the participants to nurturing the children every morning for two hours before they continue to study. He pulled together concepts from Properties, Classification and Children class materials. He assisted them to improvised teaching materials and constructed lessons plans and daily schedules. From the beginning he knew not everyone will become effective teachers for children. Therefore he carefully observed each participant and identified five potential people. He again continues to observe the whims and wishes of the other students and realized that three were interested in animating junior youth groups. So he sent them to the animator training in the cluster. One element of the whole process is the tutor – student consultation. This space has enabled them to interact in sharing insights, ideas, learning’s, suggestions, how each one wants to do, and the practices they can do either collectively or individually but ultimate focus is more about learning. For a tutor, the space was very important to gaze the level of consciousness and the desire in every individual person. For Agai this space was helpful in determining the specific areas that he can be able to assist the students.
 Initially I had 20 students but now left with 12 students. Of these twelve, five students are now being engaged in teaching in community school we initially started as a practice of the unit - To Describe the World.  Three students are animating junior youths in our community. The rest of the participants decided they will assist but focus will be on agriculture. They have agreed to mutually assist each other in their service activities.
The three protagonists
Two PSA tutors from Daga cluster shared their experiences of the support they received from the community and the institution. In this case we see two scenarios: the support of the Local Spiritual Assembly and the Women’s group.
They describe the educational process in this community is unique. It is the plan of the Local Spiritual Assembly to encourage everyone to take ownership in supporting the education process unfolding in the community. The Local Spiritual Assembly prioritizes “development of human resources for the community” as a key element and is often consulted in their regular meeting.
What means ownership? When the PSA program was implemented in the community, the Local Spiritual Assembly became the immediate custodian of the program. An astounding aspect of ownership seen in this community has to schedule for each nine members of the spiritual assembly to visit the PSA group meeting twice a week. For the tutors and students the visit from an institution has greater impact and they feel empowered. There is a feeling of constant stream of guidance and encouragements that the group are drawing on to energize them in their path of service. A popular cliché given to the PSA group “you are here for a purpose and you must fulfil the purpose. This is not your cry… it is our cry…wipe our tears gently”.
Another indispensible aspect of community life was the role of women fellowship in this community. Every Wednesday the women would meet in the local Baha’i centre for devotion early hours of the morning. One thing they often consult is their support towards the educational process in the community. Often on Wednesdays, certain groups were schedule to prepare lunch for the PSA tutors and students, the kindergarten and elementary teachers and students.  One day, another tutor was sent from another PSA group to come and assist in tutoring. Every Wednesday the PSA group would work in their Diversified High Efficiency plots. So one day after working, a mother came by and informed the group that their food was ready. The tutor didn’t know much on the new pattern evolving in the community and so came the next Wednesday. Again, after work another mother came and informed the group that their food was ready, this time the tutor was curious so began to ask the other tutor. He was so enticed by this spirit of ultimate love and generosity shown by mothers. He then made this comment. “As a tutor of the program it is an amazing experience for me to witness the tremendous support of the community. What more do we need? Such incredible support bespeaks the concept of ownership and the concept of protagonist. Living my home and biological parents to come and serve here and being part of the community is an incredible overwhelming experience ever witness”.
Coherence
The unit coordinator in Gogodala cluster shared this experience. The concept of coherence can take other meanings, for in this case is related to developing the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of society.  He describes “the two inseparable process of knowledge (PSA and Study circle) for the progress of Humanity".
The Local Spiritual Assembly of Kimama in Gogodala Cluster had a meeting and came up with a goal which they will work towards this last two years of the 5 year plan, and this plan was that the PSA program was their portal to growth in this community.  The institutions would work closely with the tutors systematically in sustaining this program, so that whenever there is new enrolment in the program, then the local spiritual assembly would step into introducing the study circle. The tutors of the PSA and study circle work side by side with the institutions and the community, so they came up with an inspiring story in May.
During the Expansion phase, a study circle tutor by the name of Charles Emiabo visited a female PSA student Mary Waike for an individual teaching in her home. He took Baha’u’llah’s Teachings on Intellectual and Spiritual Education which integrates to form a real human being, which is when he introduced the study circle and PSA, should go hand in hand. Mary Waike was also running kindergarten class when she studied the unit ‘To Describe the World’ so Charles encouraged her to identify whether she had some children class age group involved and that she sit for Ruhi book 3, and  have separate class for these groups. She was so impressed by the teachings Charles offered and asked immediately to gain this new spiritual knowledge and to put into action the skills she will learn.  The next day Mary and cousin sister who too was registered to PSA sat for book one (Reflection on the Life of the Spirit). After the completion of the book with Charles, they both went around telling the other PSA students to sit for the spiritual school (study circle) and also convinced the friends of the wonderment and the beautiful teachings of Baha’u’llah from Charles teachings and the book one itself. Everybody showed favourable about the study circle.
The local spiritual assembly sat together, discussed and consulted on the matter and fortunately came up with a plan of intensive for the community itself. The intensive started on the five May and ended on the 8th that took them 5 days. Mary and few other friends continued to do book 3 while the rest of the fiends did book 1. There were three groups – two groups of book 1 and one group of book 3 – all consist of the PSA students. The presence of the study circle coordinator for the cluster and her devoted time has greatly motivated these groups.
On the last day at 2pm all of the participants came with a dish of food. Nobody was seen without a food. Everybody contributed and cooperated to celebrate the close-up of this intensive programme.
Participants were chosen from book 1 on the three units and book 3 to share what they have learnt and how they felt when going through the books. This part of the program made everyone to smile and laugh to the end of the programme because the participants shared their inmost realities and the new discoveries which they have never learnt before. Two of the participants respectively made these comments.
“We thought only Pastors have to say prayers, but now we see in these learning that everybody has to say prayers for the nourishment of our own soul”.
“Mary thought in her life striking children was the best way to teach those lessons but book 3 forbids her and prefers her consoling of Baha’u’llah’s teaching and Abdul-Abha’s examples are the best”.
The program ended with a movie on Building Momentum which confirmed their new learning’s and the comments they made was PSA should go hand in hand with study circle to enhance their capacities for the transformation of individuals and the transformation of the society they live in.
To conclude, a challenge for any instance of social action is to ensure consistency—among the explicit and implicit convictions which underpin an initiative, the values promoted by it, the attitudes adopted by its participants, the methods they employ, and the ends they seek. Our attempts to encapsulate the learning in relation to the concepts of accompaniment, twofold purpose, promoters of community well-being, three protagonists and coherence is not definite. Rather it is an attempt for evaluation and reflection for the PSA groups. Thus, it is anticipated that the reflection will guide the students and tutors to continue reading their own realities, formulating vision, devising lines of action and implementing them consciously. In addition, we continue to strive and align our actions in a learning mode. In the Ridvan 2010 message, the Universal House of Justice mentioned that, “all social action seeks to apply the teachings and principles of the faith to improve some aspects of social or economic life of a population however modestly”. In another message the Universal House of Justice reiterated, “The work advancing in every corner of the globe today represents the latest stage of the ongoing Baha’i endeavour to create the nucleus of the glorious civilization enshrined in His teachings, the building of which is an enterprise of infinite complexity and scale, one that will demand centuries of exertion by humanity to bring to fruition. There are no shortcuts, no formulas. Only as effort is made to draw on insights from His Revelation, to tap into the accumulating knowledge of the human race, to apply His teachings intelligently to the life of humanity, and to consult on the questions that arise will the necessary learning occur and capacity be developed”.