LiA Project Outline: A Comedy-Based Psychosocial Intervention for Teenagers Experiencing Adversity

I will work with SOS Children's Villages in Cape Town, South Africa to deliver a comedic improvisation curriculum that I have developed for their community. This NGO specifically houses orphaned, abandoned, and precariously housed children, and I look forward to meeting them throughout my stay.
LiA Project Outline: A Comedy-Based Psychosocial Intervention for Teenagers Experiencing Adversity
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Full Name and University of Affiliation

Full name: Youness Robert-Tahiri
University: University of Toronto

University Contact

Full name: Tyler Thom
Department: Centre for International Experience
Email address: laidlaw.scholars@utoronto.ca

Title of LiA Project

A Comedy-Based Psychosocial Intervention for Teenagers Experiencing Adversity

Organization/Charity Partner

SOS Children’s Villages – South Africa (Cape Town
location)

Organization/Charity Contact

Full name: Zama Mbele

Email address: info@sos.org.za 

Need or Cause that will be Supported

This NGO oversees a centre that houses orphaned, abandoned, and precariously housed children. I will design and implement a psychosocial intervention for these children. This will involve an arts-based curriculum that focuses on comedic improvisation exercises. The target population will specifically be teenagers living within the centre.

The organization has specific Sustainable Development Goals that they are targeting, which can be found here. For my situation, I will be helping out with 1) No Poverty, 2) Good Health and Well-Being, 3) Reduced Inequalities, and 4) Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. A psychosocial intervention has the potential to increase social skills among participants—this could then a) increase their chances of securing employment and avoiding poverty, b) increase their mental health and well-being due to an enhanced quality of relationships, c) buffer the structural disadvantages associated with being orphaned, abandoned, or precariously housed as a child, and d) potentially strengthen the ability of these children to foster stronger family institutions in their future.

Goal

The goal is for me to donate my curriculum to the centre upon completion. While implementing my intervention throughout my stay, I will simultaneously be training SOS Children’s Villages staff on how to deliver the curriculum without me. The hope is that they would continue delivering these comedic improvisation sessions to the children at the centre without the burden of having to a) find a partner organization to do it, or b) pay a provider to deliver this service.

Since January, I have been meeting on a monthly basis with my contact at this NGO to assess their community's needs. As such, my comedy classes will be designed to promote self-regulation, resilience, collaboration, kindness, and generosity among the centre's teenagers. It is anticipated that my 6-week stay would lead to enhanced mental health for all the children involved in the intervention. This would hopefully increase the sense of community within the centre by allowing the participating teenagers to become better leaders due to their enhanced sense of self-mastery. Ideally, this would minimize any potential stigma experienced by the children at the centre associated with being orphaned, abandoned, or precariously housed.

Objectives

1. Assess the specific needs of the centre’s children by regularly meeting with the centre’s youth coordinator every month leading up to my departure.
2. Develop a comedic improvisation curriculum that incorporates the centre’s needs predeparture.
3. Conduct a literature review of past and current approaches to mental health in South Africa predeparture.
4. Due to the emotionally heavy nature of this work, engage in at least one act of self-care everyday throughout my Leadership-in-Action project.
5. Qualitatively compare the children’s behaviour in the first week of the psychosocial intervention to the final week of it. Note any changes and make adjustments, if needed, prior to donating the curriculum to the centre.

Challenges, Barriers, or Risks

1. I would be a White-passing individual in a mostly Black community—this might be distracting for some children and hinder my ability to deliver the comedy curriculum efficiently.
2. Almost all the children speak English, but some may not (there are 11 official languages in South Africa). This may impact their ability to enjoy the comedy classes.
3. My inability to understand potential cultural references while playing with some of the children. This may hinder their trust in me and pose challenges in delivering the comedy intervention.

Ideas to Overcome Barriers or Challenges

1. I could educate myself more on the colonial history of South Africa—especially in relation to White and Black individuals. This cultural sensitivity may improve my understanding of any potential reactions that I witness from some of the children. My hope is that, by being informed, I would be better able to defuse situations and maintain their attention throughout my programming.
2. I could arrange with the centre’s youth coordinator that another staff member be present during the comedy classes so that they could translate, if needed. I could also focus on more non-verbal comedic improv exercises. Lastly, I could learn a base level of words in 1-2 South African languages to demonstrate an effort to understanding local languages.
3. I could engage in a literature review beforehand to understand South African culture within various domains, such as mental health, pop culture, and politics. By doing so, I hope to assimilate within the local culture more easily.

Milestones per Week

Week

Start Date

Milestones

Details

1 May 6, 2024

- Acclimation

- Complete designing my psychosocial intervention’s curriculum.
- Tour the facilities completely and get familiar with it.
- Gain the trust of the majority of the children in my care.
2 May 13, 2024

- Assessment

- Acclimation

- Deepen sense of trust with the majority of the children in my care.
- Start delivering comedy-based psychosocial intervention with the use of comedic improvisation
exercises.
- Qualitatively assess the children’s baseline behaviour throughout this first week of the
intervention. Make notes without including identifying information.
3 May 20, 2024

- Revision

- Adaptation

- Deepen sense of trust with all of the children in my care.
- Continue delivering comedy-based psychosocial intervention with the use of comedic
improvisation exercises.
- Revise curriculum, if necessary, based off first few weeks of delivery.
4 May 27, 2024

- Extension

- Staff Training

- Start focusing on engaging more with children not directly in my care (i.e., younger age groups
who are not part of the teenager psychosocial intervention that I will be running).
- Continue delivering comedy-based psychosocial intervention with the use of comedic
improvisation exercises.
- Start training staff on curriculum delivery.
5 June 3, 2024

- Final Revisions

- Curriculum Publication

- Continue engaging more with children not directly in my care.
- Continue delivering comedy-based psychosocial intervention with the use of comedic
improvisation exercises.
- Complete any staff training for curriculum delivery.
- Finalize final format of curriculum for donation to centre.
6 June 10, 2024

- Transition

- Showcase

- Final delivery of comedy-based psychosocial intervention with the use of comedic improvisation
exercises. Focus on reflection and growth from Week 1 to now for all of the teenagers involved.
- Potentially organize an end-of-term class comedy show for participants of the intervention.
- Provide final format of curriculum to staff so that they can implement the classes without my
presence.
- Engage in a goodbye ritual of sorts with the children that I have connected with to enable
closure.

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Go to the profile of Shraddha Prasad
about 2 months ago

Good luck with the LiA experience, Youness! Really looking forward to seeing the impact you will have as part of this project and beyond! 

Go to the profile of Youness Robert-Tahiri
about 2 months ago

Thank you, Shraddha!