To promote unity and connectedness by adopting a strength-based approach to wellbeing
Odyssey, the name for this company, was chosen for a number of reasons. The name conjures up ideas of adventure and exploration, a journey, courage in the face of adversity, a spiritual quest. And this is what I am hoping to offer schools and outdoor adventure education (OAE) providers...a framework to assist learners on their own journey, both literally and figuratively. The Odyssey framework is flexible enough to incorporate the different sociocultural contexts of the learners and yet provides sufficient structure to ensure that this strength-based approach to wellbeing meets the objectives of the school or OAE provider. It is the hope that working with this strength-based framework, together we will support and encourage learners on their own personal journey while also promoting unity and connectedness to other humans and the non-human world around them.
My own journey has been a long wandering one, not necessarily in a quest for a particular goal, but rather a wonderful voyage that has led me to this point. Born and bred on a farm in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, I have since lived in Hong Kong for 25 years, working and raising my four children. My background is medical, I am a nursing sister and midwife by qualification and worked as a midwife both in London and South Africa before moving to Hong Kong, where I worked in marketing and sales for a medical publishing company. While the children were young, I completed my BSc (hons) in psychology though UK Open University. Following that, I worked in the Individual Needs department of an international school completing my PGDE in Special Ed at the University of Hong Kong, and simultaneously achieving my Masters in Applied Psychology through Liverpool University (online). My masters dissertation evaluated evaluated the impact of a South African developed social emotional learning (SEL) programme, “Cool To Be Me” on social and emotional competence within a primary school setting.
It was during this period of time, working with adolescents and dealing with my own adolescent children, that led me to appreciate the fundamental importance of social and emotional development in our youth. Circumstances saw me back in South Africa for periods of time which led me to consider doing a PhD in Psychology at Rhodes University. My thesis explored the psychosocial outcomes of Outdoor Adventure Education (OAE) in adolescents in a South African setting.
I am passionate about positive youth development and social emotional learning and have come to appreciate the place that outdoor adventure education has in fostering positive psychosocial skill development. I consult with schools and outdoor adventure providers in SA and HK, exploring areas in which we can develop a strength-based approach help learners acquire social and emotional competencies and life skills.
Ukama is an African philosophy or ethic of holism and relationality, which stems from the Shona word, ukama, implying relatedness – relatedness to the whole universe. The concept of ukama advocates that our relatedness cannot be simply reduced to our human belongingness, but rather that human wellbeing is inextricably bound with all that exists. Ukama expresses the idea of what is means to be a person in relation to other human beings and the universe; that humans, the spirit world and the biophysical world are all part of the same fabric, each needing the other to activate it. We are both dependent on, and interdependent with, one another and with the environment on which all humanity depends. Ubuntu can be seen as the tangible form of ukama. Derived from Zulu proverb ‘umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’, which translates as ‘one is a person through others’.
This worldview emphasises the interconnections and interdependence of self with others, that our full human potential can only be realised in our association and relationships with others. The emphasis is on the collective spirit, the value of community, caring and sharing with others. Ubuntu refers to the holistic interconnections of people; socially, spiritually and physically.
What it means to be a person in relation to other human beings and the universe, that there is an ‘other in the self and the self in the other’ is not dissimilar to the dynamic balance of the Taoist concepts of Yin and Yang: all living beings are dependent on the health and survival of the earth that we inhabit. Wellbeing is indicative of having a healthy relationship to yourself and your environment, particularly the cycles of nature within and without.
My education philosophy
My philosophy toward education is based upon the premise that each student discovers meaning, purpose and identity in life through connections to the community, the natural world and with social interaction with others in order to promote an intrinsic love of learning and metacognitive skills. In this holistic approach, the development of the students’ physical, psychological, social, spiritual, creative and academic potentials will be met.
My inspiration comes from many avenues, but it is these two quotes, written by two outstanding educators of their age, separated by a period of 2000 years, that essentially underpins my philosophy to education.
“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” – Plato (c. 428 BCE–c. 348 BCE)
“The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” - Sir Ken Robinson (1950 - )
Learners flourish when they are engaged and intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is enhanced when a learner feels that his/her basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are being met, thus optimizing his/her learning and engagement.
Dr. J. Blaine: Research Associate, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University
- PhD in Psychology, Rhodes University 2020
- MSc Applied Psychology – Liverpool University
- 2015 PGDE in Special Education – University of Hong Kong (Distinction, included on Dean’s Honours List)
- 2011 BSc (hons) in Psychology – The Open University, UK (First Class Honours)
- 1989 Diploma in Midwifery – Mowbray Maternity Hospital, South Africa
- 1988 Diploma in General Nursing – Grey’s Hospital, South Africa
- 2015 Emotional Literacy Support Assistant – English Schools Foundation
- 2013 Certificate for Advanced Orton-Gillingham/Morphology coursework
- 2012 Certificate of Psychometric Testing, Assessment and Access Arrangements, Dyslexia Association U.K.
- 2012 Certificate for Orton-Gillingham Training for Dyslexia, Hong Kong
- 1994 Certificate for AIDS Counselling and Training Course, South Africa
- Hong Kong Psychological Society: Graduate Member
- British Psychological Society: Register for Qualifications in Test Use
- Hong Kong Registered Teacher