Photo by Tony Cece

Monday, May 21, 2012

Alumna Recruits Volunteers to Support Leaders Around the Globe

By Rachel Judy
May 21, 2012
Linda Philpot '07 and Lee Penman '98 with refugees in Malaysia
School of Psychology & Counseling alumnae
Linda Philpot '07 and Lee Penman '98 with
Myanmarese refugees in the jungle
outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When the language barrier is too difficult to overcome during training sessions, Dr. Evelyn Biles '02 (Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship and Psychology & Counseling) has been known to use banana leaves, farm implements or even pea pods to illustrate her point. Biles frequently encounters language barriers in her work with Global Mosaic International (GMI), a nonprofit organization she founded that is dedicated to providing training in leadership, counseling, conflict management, crisis management and discipleship.
Biles' vision for GMI began 12 years ago while she was still a student at Regent University. "I just couldn't believe that here in America we were sitting on all of this," she said, recalling the leadership and counseling concepts she learned in the classroom. "[Our goal is] to deliver training in five different areas, specifically to places where they wouldn't otherwise get it."

Since its inception, Biles and teams of volunteers have provided training in a number of countries including the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Jamaica, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Singapore.

GMI has recruited nearly 120 students, faculty and alumni from the Regent community to volunteer their time and expertise over 188 trips. The opportunity to apply what they have learned and impact another community is invaluable, particularly when it's clear that the impact can be far reaching. Biles, who also serves as an adjunct professor in the School of Psychology & Counseing, loves providing students with the opportunity to apply what they've learned in the classroom.

"Students are anxious to share their knowledge and skills through training of both believer and nonbeliever populations," she said. "They are challenged to define better their own understanding of the principles of helping so that they can adapt to the variety of perceptions unique to each culture."

Besides the language, one of the biggest barriers Biles and her teams encounter is cultural perspective. "The challenges of culture are huge," she said. "We're not only talking about people culture and racial culture, but we're also talking about religious culture."

Biles has also found that in order to adapt teaching to a culture, she has also had to adapt her own Western perspective of the world. For example, Biles explained, a "crisis" in the United States often refers to car accidents or a natural disaster, and training in crisis management centers around these things. However, in nations like Uganda, the definition revolves around rape, war, HIV and other issues not usually found in the American perspective. To work with these populations, Biles and her teams of volunteers must adapt their perspective to their audience.

"[The key is] not imposing our Western thinking and our Western culture on them," Biles said.

Ultimately, she explained, the goal is to train leaders to meet the needs of their communities—whatever those may be. But, GMI doesn't just focus on community leaders; it also supports other nonprofit workers devoting time and energy to those communities.

Biles and her group also offer training and support for workers dealing with burnout and compassion fatigue, a common problem among church and non-profit workers. "Just understanding what's going on is huge," she said. "Stress is a reaction—most of the time negative—to a life event, and the burnout comes when your coping mechanisms aren't enough."

As Biles prepares for several trips over the next six months, she is confident in GMI's mission and excited for the impact her teams will have. "We are always striving to prepare and transition identified people into leadership and directing roles so that our work can expand even farther," she said. "It is not always necessary to travel to other countries but to be available virtually to stand along beside others through the wired world.

The unique thing about their training efforts, Biles explained, is that they are designed to be shared. "Many times the people we teach, the people we train, are what I call the sandwiched people because they might have people under them and they might have people over them," she said. "It's all geared toward passing it on."

Mindy Hughes, Public Relations

Phone: 757.352.4095 Fax: 757.352.4888

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