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Mosaic training in Slovakia
Mosaic training in Slovakia
Mosaic training in Slovakia


After around a year in the planning, I spent a week in late September training in Slovakia.

Catherine Hennessy, from Revolving Doors, got in touch in the late summer of 2009. She had been asked to get a team together to provide some training in Slovakia for Depaul International, after successfully organising and delivering some similar work in Lithuania. She and John O'Neil (Training Manager / Supporting People Service Manager at South London & Maudsley NHS Trust) would be involved. Would I like to be too? I've worked with them both on different ventures and thought it would be great fun, so said yes immediately.

Very hard work, as it turned out, but, yes, great fun  too!

John is part of Mosaic's pool of trainers, but was there more in his 'official' capacity. On different floors of the Siemens building in Bratislava, he and Catherine did sessions on Mental Health, while, with a separate group, I trained on Drugs & Alcohol Awareness, then Managing Aggression. Halfway through the week we swapped groups and did it all again.

On the Monday, before the training started, we were given a tour of the two main projects Depaul Slovakia runs. They offer low-threshold services, supporting rough-sleepers and those which other organisations refuse to help. The Nightshelter offers a bed and evening meal to upwards of 120 people per night, and also assists people in accessing support from medical, addiction and employment services. The 30 bed hostel, St Louise de Marillac, provides care and stability for, mainly, homeless people released from hospital with nowhere to go, but still with high and complex support needs.

On being shown round the projects my feelings were largely of a very poignant nostalgia, as they were very reminiscent of the kinds of place I used to work in in Glasgow more than 20 years ago. Staff to client ratios in the projects are, by British standards, very low, so those who work and volunteer there are under great pressure, and show tremendous dedication. 

Then we picked up our translated material. I had decided to make my training slides bilingual, so slotted the Slovak translations into their spaces beside the English versions, bullet by bullet. We needed to be able to be as responsive and flexible as possible so I wanted to make sure that if I had to change the running order on the fly things would still make sense to both me and the participants.

On Tuesday, the first day of the training proper, I was introduced to Jana, my interpreter, without whom the whole venture would have fallen flat. She did a marvellous job throughout, especially with some of the technical terminology that, try as one might, can't be avoided altogether.

The group sizes were bigger than we'd normally have in the UK (20-22) with Depaul having invited staff from partner organisations and other services. The training rooms didn't naturally lend themselves to much small group work, and we had been told that people would be used to a much more didactic style of teaching than we'd normally do, but everything seemed to work very well, thanks to the enthusiasm and good nature of the participants. With the time needed for translation in both directions I'd budgeted for about 1/3 of the content of a 'normal' training day at home. This turned out to be about right, but the two groups wanted to focus on quite different aspects as we proceeded, in both the Drugs & Alcohol, and Managing Aggression courses. But this just made it more interesting. 

Both groups were very interested in Wernickes-Korsakoffs, as alcohol was  their clients' main drug of choice, and were particularly interested in signs that Wernickes may be 'progressing' to Korsakoffs. After doing my level best to avoid jargon I heard Jana say what sounded very like 'confabulation' in the translation, so used that term myself from there on, and everyone was fine with it. Not so fine when I dropped my guard later and referred to 'a hair of the dog' – cue much confusion, not least on my part when people asked, "Ok now we know what it means, but why is it called that?"

We also tried some warm-up exercises  in the 'graveyard' slots in the afternoon, as the rooms were very warm due to the unexpectedly fine weather.  After having looked up some Famous Slovaks (Andy Warhol; Mr Hertz, of car-rental fame; Lubomir Moravcik, twinkle-toed footbaling legend, etc) and asked the groups to name as many famous Scots as they could, John and I both being of that heritage. John's group turned out to have a secret weapon, someone who had lived in Scotland for 18 months, and got 11. My group had no secret weapons, and got 4. (Since you ask: Sean Connery, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and the Loch Ness Monster!) They did better on famous Irish people, for Catherine's benefit.

All in all a very involving, tiring enjoyable week in Slovakia.

If you'd like to know more about the work of Depaul International their website is at Clicking on the Slovakia tab will give you more information on their work in Bratislava.

Stephen McCaig
Mosaic Co-ordinator


Mosaic. Training for Social Care Professionals.