International Community Programs
Starting in the early 1990’s, Touchstones programming expanded to reach communities in developing countries. Touchstones’ community programs provide a range of educational opportunities for all participants–building adult literacy, workforce readiness skills, social justice initiatives, community engagement, and psycho-social programming that restores dignity and a sense of control over one’s life.
Touchstones in Haiti
In 1997, Touchstones was brought to Haiti to empower participants in rural areas where there has been minimal access to education. Through Touchstones, participants develop essential communication and cooperation skills–the tools they need to improve their workforce readiness. The word “Touchstones” has no direct translation in Haitian Kreyol. Therefore, Touchstones in Haiti is known as “Wonn Refleksyon” which translates as Circles of Reflection. Over time, Touchstones was also introduced to educators. Through Touchstones’ partner organizations–such as Limye Lavi, Haiti Partners, and Beyond Borders–Touchstones programming has involved and supported many tens of thousands of adults. More than 60,000 volumes of Touchstones materials are in print in Haiti, with at least 50,000 in regular circulation and use.
In 2011, USAID funded Haiti Partners’ use Touchstones in their work with 1,000 people in the Port au Prince area and another 100 participants in Haiti’s Northeast province. An estimated additional 600 community members in the camps funded by Sean Penn in Petionville have also participated in Touchstones discussions as part of building healthier and more collaborative communities.
In 2012, Malya Villard-Apolon was nominated as one of CNN Top Ten Heroes of the Year. Malya Villard-Appolon is the co-founder of KOFAVIV, an organization that helps victims of sexual violence in Haiti to regain their dignity and their voice. As a survivor, Malya uses her own experience and leadership to support some of Haiti’s most vulnerable women and children in seeking justice and security and in re-building their lives. In this short video that describes the crucial work that KOFAVIV does in providing assistance, you will see Malya handing out the Wonn Refleksyon booklets containing the Touchstones texts for discussion.
Touchstones in Myanmar
Touchstones has also been used in Myanmar for adult literacy programming. First introduced at the Diplomatic School in Yangon more than a decade ago, Touchstones programs have been used with students of all ages, specifically to prepare participants to engage successfully in an increasingly open society.
In 2013, Aung Phone Myint, then a junior at Bates College in Maine, and Ei Phyu Theint, then a junior at Scripps College, received a Davis Project for Peace Award and a Strauss Foundation Award for Public Service, respectively, to run a summer Touchstones program in Yangon. Reaching out to engage college-age adults in civic discourse, Myint and Theint involved several hundreds of participants in their education project. Their work in Yangon continues now that they have graduated from college and returned to Myanmar.