Consultancy on the provision of quality and appropriate mental health support to staff and marginalised young people served by local non-profits in East and Southeast Asia
EMpower - The Emerging Markets Foundation (Hong Kong)
Apply by: January 4, 2022
Challenges to provide quality and appropriate mental health support to marginalised young people
1. Purpose of the Consultancy
EMpower Hong Kong seeks the support of a consultant to conceptualise and run a series of virtual capacity enhancement offerings on “the provision of mental health support to staff and marginalised young people served by local non-profits”. The capacity strengthening offerings are with and for our grantee partners in East and Southeast Asia implementing programmes for marginalised young people 10-24 years old in Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Its overall objective is for our grantee partners in the region to have increased knowledge, skill and confidence on understanding the impact of trauma caused by the protracted COVID-19 pandemic on our mental health and wellbeing and what “first aid”, self-care and integrated programme support can be provided prior to referring for specialised support. The consultancy should capitalise on partners’ experiences, grounded in their specific needs, their local context and across their different programme areas (Economic Well-being, Safe and Healthy Lives, Inclusive Learning; for definitions, please check https://empowerweb.org/areas-of-focus).
2. About Us
EMpower – The Emerging Markets Foundation (EMpower), a global philanthropic organisation and grant-making foundation, is dedicated to improving the lives of marginalised young people aged 10-24, in 15 emerging market countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Russia and Turkey. Through grants and non-financial capacity strengthening support, EMpower partners with local organisations in emerging market countries, and other change-makers, to enable marginalised young people to transform their lives and communities. Our vision is to build a world where all young people at the margins, especially girls and young women, have the skills, opportunities and power to live their full potential.
EMpower has offices in Delhi, Hong Kong,London, New York and Singapore, as well as programme staff in Cape Town, Istanbul and Mexico City. The EMpower Hong Kong office with which the consultant will collaborate is managing grants and capacity strengthening work for 20 grantee partners in East and Southeast Asia (China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam). To learn more, check out our website at www.empowerweb.org.
3. EMpower’s Commitment to Young People Safeguarding
EMpower is committed to safeguarding young people, to prevent abuse, violence or exploitation and promote the safety, protection, wellbeing and development of all children and young people involved in the programmes we support. We believe that all children and young people, no matter their life circumstances, deserve the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives to fulfil their human rights.
4. Background of the Consultancy
Whilst every one of us feels the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic as it ravages the world, it has in no way been an equaliser. EMpower’s grantee partners and the communities they serve are some of those who have been impacted the most. For young people from resource poor settings; the closure of schools and shift to online learning, loss of jobs and having to take on more undesirable and unsafe jobs, financial pressures of the family, confinement and lack of interaction with friends, taking on more household responsibilities (greater for girls and women), an unforeseeable future and at times dealing with violence / abuse has negatively impacted their physical and mental wellbeing.
For our grantee partners, apart from having to deal with lock downs and expanding the scope of their programmes to offer emergency relief, they have had to make significant shifts in organisational and programme priorities. As all partners directly work with children and young people, changing the engagement to non-face-to-face mode, adapting their programmes, feeling incompetent to carry out their work, feeling inadequate to support their participants with a myriad of unprecedented challenges and their own personal struggles through the pandemic has impacted them deeply.
Earlier in the year, EMpower conducted a global survey on the impact of COVID-19 with grantee partners and young people served by them. This was followed up by an East and South East Asia Regional sense making survey, where grantee partners prioritised the top four pressing needs. Challenges in the provision of mental health support was a key area prioritised for support. The prioritisation of topics was followed by a series of focus group discussions that gave us a good sense of what our grantee partners in the region require.
None of our grantee partners’ core offering is in mental health support. However, the majority of our partners are sensitive to the mental wellbeing of the young people they serve, as these participants come from resource poor settings, face multiple forms of marginalisation and may have also experienced abuse. They address this in their programmes. They act as a sounding board, especially linked to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights concerns (one of the pillars of EMpower’s programme in the region), offer topics such as self-love and self-confidence and run activities such as sports, yoga, meditation, dog walking and periodic one-on-one mentor check-ins amongst others. The delivery is often covered by the education team and occasionally social workers when they are available in the staff team. COVID-19 however exacerbated this to a magnitude beyond the grantee partners’ capacity and they have struggled to provide meaningful support.
Whilst none have in-house mental health expertise, the pandemic forced them to think about it more critically and also utilise the activities that were widely shared online. Commonly used approaches to boost mental wellness that partners found successful included encouragement to pursue hobbies, creativity workshops, fun thematic activities (costume parties, cultural celebrations) that were celebrated online with participantsand staff which shifted the focus away from their stressful realities, photography workshops which sometimes had a finale of a photo exhibition open to parents, which also doubled as a communication bridge between the participants and their families, letter writing and journaling. These also provided an angle for the staff to engage with the participants.
Partners have struggled with deeper engagement activities using forum theatre techniques, getting students to open up and share their inner feelings and problems and know how to respond when they did.
A negligible minority of organisations have collaborated with external organisations to provide a limited number of sessions to their participants and / or staff. They were often focused on themes like loneliness, remote working, coping with stress, engagement with qualified art, music and dance therapists, training on mindfulness etc.
There are very few service providers who can support with mental health in general, even fewer in the locations of our programme and when they are available, they are expensive. So, staff and marginalised young people served by our grantee partners rarely access it. Some partners have also been able to access resource persons in bigger cities due to the sudden and exponential transition to online engagements. Whilst this unexpected opportunity has broadened possibilities for future work, they are currently one-off engagements as opposed to programmes.
Partners have also observed the negative impact of COVID-19 on girls, women and sexual minorities, as documented globally. Many countries we work in have reported an increase in unwanted pregnancies.
There is wide realisation amongst grantee partners that what they are doing is inadequate for the actual challenge at hand and that mental health support has to be integral to their work in the coming years.
One silver lining in this dark cloud is that participants and staff are more aware and willing to talk about their mental health as the topic has been spotlighted in the media during the pandemic.
There is also realisation that staff are completely burnt out providing support well beyond their capacities for such a protracted time, more so at a time when their own psychosocial balance had been severely impacted due to the pandemic. Many were said to be facing low levels of (undiagnosed) anxiety and depression. Some organisations are also operating with a smaller staff base, as they have had to shrink due to loss of funding.One partner had an external trainer offer sessions to staff on grit and resilience over a period of 8 months, which also included one-on-one sessions, found it to be very powerful.
5. Scope of the Consultancy
Equip participants from different grantee partners who are not core mental health experts, with the knowledge, skills and confidence to:
Underlying principle for the offerings: We acknowledge the need to strengthen practice of our grantee partners by encouraging peer-to-peer learning through valuing and supporting existing good practice. This should be taken into account during “Planning and Content Development” as well as “Implementation”.
Planning and Content Development:
Learning and Evaluation:
6. Estimated timeframe of the consultancy
The timeframe for this consultancy is estimated to be approximately 8 - 10 days over the period of 1st February 2022 to 30th April 2022. We are happy to work with consultants from any time zone; however, the meetings will be scheduled to work for the partners in the East and South East Asia region.
7. Qualification Requirements
Qualities and Values:
8. Submission Instructions
Interested applicants shall submit their application by January 4, 2022 to Kundhavi Balachandran (email@example.com) and April Yip (firstname.lastname@example.org) comprised of the following documents:
Questions can be also directed to Kundhavi (email@example.com). We will only be able to acknowledge and respond to candidates identified as most suitable who will be invited to a virtual interview.
9. DEI Statement
EMpower is a public foundation that makes grants globally to benefit at-risk youth, with a strong focus on adolescent girls. We are committed to attracting, developing, motivating, and retaining exceptional talent and to a work environment that recognizes contribution, fosters respect and teamwork, and facilitates strong performance. We encourage applicants from diverse backgrounds, recognizing that diversity enriches all staff and our work globally. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or faith, or physical ability.View All Career Postings
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