"Symbolism is the act of thinking in images, an act that civilized people are losing."
A wealth of culture and history is found in the oral tradition of poems, stories, parables,- and proverbs. African cultures are especially rich and thriving in their continued use of traditional proverbs and their wisdom in coining new ones. Proverbs are sometimes profoundly philosophical, sometimes clearly mischievous, sometimes painfully poignant, but almost always direct and efficient in their ability to situate contemporary events into a respected traditional context.
Proverbs are considered a convincing traditional style of communicating messages that are often difficult to express by the speaker and perhaps awkward to accept by the listener. Those who speak in proverbs are considered to be wise and rich with life experience and often looked to by others to help clarify a complicated situation. Their knowledge of appropriate proverbs reveals a command and respect of the culture, something that is appreciated tremendously in an age of great and rapid change.
When proverbs are translated and circulated from culture to culture, we have the opportunity to discover valuable insight to other world views and the universality of ideas and values that link us all to the same human family.
The potential uses of proverbs by Volunteers are limitless. Seek them out to better understand the communities in which you work. Share ones from your own background that convey similar messages. Incorporate them into any training experience. A proverb can serve as the central idea of an exercise or simply be posted in the room to reinforce the desired message. Let your imagination be your guide.
"If it gets any better, I may go jump over the moon."
It would be best to consult with a host country national to identify proverbs that are specific to the area. The collection included in this lesson plan comes mostly from visits made to five West African countries during the guinea worm Africa tour (1996-97). The proverbs listed can be used as presented or as a guide in your search for their appropriate cultural equivalents. Take time to understand the proverbs known in your communities and learn to use them correctly.
Choose at least 10 proverbs that will be appropriate for your subject matter and the message you wish to convey. Prepare a handout of the chosen proverbs for distribution in small group work. If possible, write proverbs in English, French, and/or the local language. It is best to give Trainees the opportunity to practice in the local language.
• To provide Trainees an opportunity to appreciate and use local proverbs in their work as Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs).
• Trainees will be able to identify at least three proverbs that can be used in future work as PCVs.
For this lesson we will use proverbs that can speak to awareness of danger, prevention of disease, looking to the future, and taking control of one's life. This lesson concentrates on guinea worm disease, but you will see that the proverbs could be used in many other situations.
1. Begin by reviewing basic knowledge concerning guinea worm disease. (Trainees should have read the guinea worm fact sheet by now.)
Ask all Trainees to stand. Explain that you will pose a series of questions about guinea worm and as they answer correctly they may sit down. (Refer to list of prepared questions in the User's Guide, page 13.) Continue with questions until everyone has had a chance to respond and is seated. Be sure to include questions that address all of the following aspects of guinea worm disease:
• Causes of guinea worm
2. Introduce the concept of using proverbs in their work as Peace Corps Volunteers. If possible, solicit the participation of a host-country national training staff member or cross-cultural spokesperson to make a statement about the value of proverbs in the culture.
• Proverbs are the daughters of experience. (Sierra Leone)
Recite a few proverbs having to do with the learning process Trainees are currently experiencing. Ask Trainees to add others they are familiar with.
• Little by little, the bird builds its nest/Petit à petit, l'oiseau fait son nid.
Explain to Trainees that they will work in small groups to develop short educational messages (infomercials) about a particular aspect of guinea worm disease, integrating one of the proverbs from a prepared list. Messages should contain one proverb and one central idea about guinea worm, according to small group concentration.
Presentations for each message should be no longer than 2 minutes.
3. Divide Trainees into four or five small groups (It would be great to have a host-country national in each group to facilitate understanding of the proverbs.). Provide each group with copies of the guinea worm fact sheet, copies of the list of proverbs, and a concentration for their small group work (i.e., cause of guinea worm, prevention of guinea worm, transmission of guinea worm, life cycle of guinea worm, or impact of guinea worm). Also provide each group with flip chart paper cut into three pieces horizontally, and color markers, to write their chosen proverbs for display after the exercise.
During the allotted time, each small group develops at least three two minute messages to present to the large group.
4. Representatives from each group, displaying a proverb written on strips of flip chart paper, present their two-minute messages to the large group. Have them briefly explain, if necessary, their interpretation of the proverb and its relation to the guinea worm message.
At the end of the exercise, display all proverbs on the wall to easily refer back to them during subsequent training sessions.
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