Pictured Above: The school manager, Samith, checks in with a student who had recently overcome behavioral issues.

CFI provides a safe environment for at-risk children and young adults living in poverty to develop the skills necessary to succeed in life. Social skills and emotional control are an essential foundation that need to be re-built when children are growing up in situations of violence or neglect. Without these skills, children will perpetuate cycles of violence and victimization.

Particularly vulnerable children with a traumatic background (losing parents, abandonment, violence, abuse, child labor) respond to conflicts, exams, or even every-day classroom challenges with anxiety and problematic behavior. Staff need training and skills to resolve conflicts and allow for children to develop new behavior skills.

Years ago, CFI’s teachers and social workers identified behavior problems and communication problems as a serious issue preventing children and teenagers with traumatic backgrounds from learning and having positive relationships with their peers and adults around them. CFI’s education team and social workers collaborated to develop a behavior system that taught staff to use communication techniques that empowered children to learn new behavior through the relationship with their teachers, social workers and fellow students.

Recently Sreypaet and Lita* were playing at CFI’s garden in between lessons when a disagreement between the two quickly escalated into cursing and stone-throwing. One of the girls was injured when a stone hit her head. CFI’s school manager, Samith, used this conflict as a teaching moment for the girls instead of punishing them. He helped the girls see their behavior from a different perspective and understand their responsibility to keep others safe and collaborate even in moments of disagreement and disappointment.

Using the relationship as a safe place for children to develop their behavior is a trauma-sensitive method and means adults are using non-threatening body language, mirroring, and a validating attitude, but setting very clear boundaries.  

At CFI, all staff demonstrate positive behavior and make an effort to be predictable and clear with the children. At the same time we have high expectations towards everyone making their best effort and absolute non-violence. CFI believe that this approach helps students develop trust in their environment, self-confidence and a chance to speak up for themselves and collaborate.

Using positive behavior interventions and preventive tactics has drastically reduced behavior escalation among children and youth and equipped teachers and other staff to encounter challenges. CFI’s students are confident and learn to try hard, be accountable, learn lessons from their mistakes, ask for help, offer help and interact well with adults and other children.

These are the skills that will help them attain a brighter future.

*Names changed to protect students’ identities