By Mark Johnson (YES 2011-2012, Liberia, placed by Ayusa in West Hartford, CT)
My name is Mark M. Johnson and I am a disabled YES alumnus from Buchanan, Liberia. From March 6-11th, 2022, I attended the Training of Trainers workshop on the topic, "Designing For Inclusion". The workshop was held in Alexandria, Virginia with participants from 18 YES countries. The workshop was originally planned for 2020 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This workshop aimed to provide YES alumni with disabilities and allies with an interest in disability rights, training, leadership and team building skills and tools to design and implement inclusive and impactful trainings on disability-related topics.
During the workshop, I learned how to conduct my own training. We gathered in groups of four to work on developing our training and implementing the skills and knowledge we learned from the workshop. I developed a project on inclusive accessibility for people with disabilities. Each person in my group presented our training idea, and we gave each other feedback on how to improve our training.
The training that I developed is called the “Train Back Project.” It aims to train youth to advocate for government and private entities to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. In this project, I plan to host a radio talk show in which vulnerable youth can share the difficulties they have faced when encountering places that are not accessible. Then, I will train 50 young people to carry out an awareness campaign about accessibility targeted toward a government or private institution.
My favorite part of the workshop was when the trainers explained the recipe for a successful training. They highlighted that the formula includes: Problem (Perceived Need) - Topic (Perceived Interest) - Assessment (Actual need/interest) - Goals (Purpose) - Objectives (Behavior/Results) - Content (What) - Methodology (How) - Practice (Try/Do) - Evaluation (Measure Achievement) - Applications (Implementation) - Follow up (Retention/integration).
The workshop changed my perspective, and gave me more confidence to step out of my comfort zone. I learned skills and tools to design and implement an accessible, inclusive and impactful training, and also to empower YES alumni to become stronger advocates for people with disabilities and for disabilities rights in their home, community and country.
Thank you so much to the YES Program, the U.S. Department of State, iEARN-Liberia, and the sponsoring organization AFS for this great and impactful experience.