Part 2 – Running the workshop – The Memory Project Workshop

A 4-hour workshop for parents, carers and community members to help them understand what children need to know and how to make a personal Memory Book.

Before the day.

  • Organise any display materials and have paperwork ready to give to workshop members for two activities described further on in these notes. Please see information in box below with ideas for the paperwork you will need to have ready in advance.
  • If possible send a note or a message to each person who is coming to the workshop to say:
    • Looking forward to seeing you and hearing your ideas and experiences.
    • Don’t forget to bring a notebook and biro.
    • Be aware that personal information will be discussed – so think about what you feel comfortable to share with other people – and what you will NOT share.
    • Ground rules will be agreed at the start, covering confidentiality, respect for each other and doing your best to take a full part in the work in small groups.
    • Please arrive in good time. The workshop will start promptly at ………… time.

Paperwork to have ready for the two group activities.

  1. For warm up activity working in pairs, print out a few copies of the following instructions to help people remember the questions they are working on:

    Warm Up Activity Instructions

    Think about a situation where you need to talk to your child about something very serious that will affect you and the child. (this doesn’t need to be about sickness. It could be about moving house, financial crisis, family breakdown or any other big problem that your family has to deal with )

    1. How will you tell the child? What words will you use? Are there some things you wont go into?
    2. How will you help the child to understand the information and face up to it?
    3. How could a Memory Book help in this process?

  2. For the small group activity, people will be working together on making pages for a collective Memory Book. Each group will be given a number of page headings (all taken from the Memory Book for Africa.) They can choose which topics to work on. IF there are enough men, you may want to run a separate Men’s group. Here are some ideas for page headings:

    About your father:

    Father’s childhood
    Father’s growing up and adult life
    Father’s special memories
    Father’s beliefs and thoughts on life
    Father’s health
    Father’s life today
    Names and addresses of people important to the family
    where to find documents and records
    Any other information that will be useful to the child.

    The story of our family.

    Our family home
    Our faith, the things we believe in
    Family traditions and special events
    Your birthplace
    How you got your name
    When you were a baby…..
    The first time you …..
    Your school days and growing up…..
    Your interests and activities
    My favourite memories of you…
    My hopes for your future
    Important people in your life
    Information about family health.

    About your mother:

    Mother’s childhood
    Mother’s growing up and adult life
    Mother’s interests and activities
    Mother’s special memories
    Mother’s beliefs and thoughts on life
    Mother’s health
    Mother’s life today

On the day.

Workshop leaders need to arrive early to:

  • Check on toilets and water supply.
  • Set up table for refreshments and/or cold drinks
  • Arrange chairs or mats in a circle
  • Set up laptop or projector so that its all ready to show the short film.
  • Make sure all paperwork is ready.
  • Be ready to welcome workshop members as they arrive and look out for any who are shy
  • Start on time even if some members are running late.

Welcome and introductions by workshop leader.

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Invite other workshop leaders and helpers to introduce themselves – briefly!
  • Invite members of the group to introduce each other. This will give everyone the chance to speak out loud right from the beginning. Use your own idea, or here is a suggestion which is quick and easy to do:
    • Ask everyone to talk for 2 minutes with someone they don’t already know. They each need to discover three important facts about the other, which they can use to introduce this person to the whole group. Each person has only one minute to talk!
  • Explain your objectives for the workshop – that everyone will go away understanding the basic ideas of Memory Book and having had a practical experience of writing some pages for a collective Memory Book. Say you will give outline of Memory Book in a few minutes.
  • Explain housekeeping rules. Here are some ideas:
    • Good timekeeping is essential because the workshop is short. Every minute counts.
    • The programme won’t be interrupted for late-comers
    • Mobile phones off! If phone has to be on for emergencies, call must be taken away from the main group.
      image requesting that mobile phones are switched off during workshop
    • There will be a 15 minute break half way through for drinks (and refreshments if being provided.)
    • Give information about toilets and drinking water.
    • Explain arrangements for anyone who feels unwell or overwhelmed by events.
    • And finally tell the group that this workshop is being run on a shoestring. So please remember to leave felt tips, scissors and any other resources behind at the end of the day!
  • Discuss ground rules. You may have prepared a written list (view sample ground rules) Or you may decide to talk through the main points:
    • Warn workshop members that they will be discussing topics which are emotional and personal. Each person has to decide what they are ready to share.
    • In the small groups, when an individual is sharing their personal story, other people in the group should simply listen and not ask questions except for clarification.
    • Outside the workshop only share your own experience. Never talk about other people’s personal information.
    • Be respectful of each other. Give everyone time to join in.

Explaining the Memory Book Project.

  • Give a brief outline of the Memory Project, how it began and what it’s for. (you can read about the Memory Project here.
  • Show the short extract from the film “Memory Books” You can download the film from the homepage of Its about 12 minutes long. Explain that it shows parents and children working together on their Memory Books and will help everyone to understand how it works.
  • Or if its not possible to show the film you can give more details about the Memory Project. You can find plenty of information in the first few pages of the The Memory Book for Africa.
  • Explain that the Memory book is for everyone. Although it was first written for parents living with HIV/Aids it has turned out to be helpful for all families who want their children to know the family history and understand the beliefs and values that the parents live by.
  • Whatever their situation, families and children really love their Memory Books – and it often helps parents and children to get started on talking openly about the things that matter most in their lives.
  • Its important for parents to be prepared for questions their children might ask. For instance if one parent has died from Aids related illness, this might lead to their child asking how it was transmitted and how to protect him or herself. In fact for many families this has been the start of talking much more openly about sexual matters including relationships and family planning.
  • Taking part in this workshop will help parents, carers and community members to make records for children which will help them to grow up confident about who they are and where they belong. This is all the more important for children who are already orphaned or separated from their parents.
  • Legal information.
    illustration of child sheltering from the rain under a giant leaf child

    Many parents use The Memory Book as a good place to write down legal information about property and their wishes about who should take care of the children if one or both parents die before the child is independent. (However, writing this information in the Memory Book is not enough. Parents need to know that its important to put this information into a simple will. A useful leaflet about wills is available on the website.

  • IF time allows this may be a good moment for 5 minutes for questions…….

So that’s the introductions and explanations, now on to the real work!

Warming up activity in pairs.

The purpose of this activity is to get everyone thinking about their own family situation and how they might feel about explaining the facts in a Memory Book for their children.


  • This activity will last for 45 minutes.
  • People will work in pairs with each person having 10 minutes to talk with their partner about the topic which will be explained in a minute.
  • At the end of 20 minutes everyone will come back into the big group and people who are willing to do so will be invited to share their experience and ideas.
  • Feedback and discussion will last for 25 minutes.

Now here is the topic to discuss:

  • Think about a situation where you need to talk to your child about something very serious that will affect you and the child. (this doesn’t need to be about sickness. It could be about moving house, financial crisis, family breakdown – something “real” works best.)
    • How will you tell the child?
    • What words will you use?
    • Are there some things you wont go into?
    • How will you help the child to understand the information and face up to it?
    • How could a Memory Book help in this process?
  • Don’t forget to pin up copies of these instructions to remind everyone what to do.

Handling the feedback. Bring everyone back to the big group and be prepared for some lively discussion! Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

  • The discussion can be lively and its important to say clearly that there are no absolutely right answers or opinions.
  • There will often be comments about how hard it is to find the right words to use in talking to a child and knowing how much information to give. (This is where reading up some of the information from AVERT and other organisations can be very helpful. Avert in Help section.)
  • Ask for examples of what is the most difficult subject to discuss or the most difficult question to answer. Its worth writing these issues on the flip chart as a reminder that most of us have things we would find very hard to discuss or we simply don’t know the answer.
  • Stress the fact that children generally don’t take in difficult information all at one go, so its important to go over it several times.
  • Also make clear how important it is for all of us, parents, carers, teachers, community members, to listen out for questions or hints from children and make the time to talk about whatever is important to them, at the time they feel ready to ask or listen.
  • Remind workshop members that it is OK to say if they don’t know the answer to a child’s question, but that they will try to find out and come back with the answer.
  • Explain that this activity and feedback often lead to members of the group saying they are going home and starting on a Memory Book straight away. This really shows that whatever their situation, many people see the Memory Book as a very helpful way to face up to what their children need to know and open up communications in the family.

TIME FOR A BREAK??? After the lively feedback its probably a good time to relax for a few minutes before starting the small group activity. (During this break the workshop leaders can re-arrange chairs or mats so that 4 or 5 people can work together in a small group, get the printed page headings ready to hand out to the groups and put out felt tip pens, glue sticks, scissors and pix from newspapers and magazines in a central spot so people can help themselves when needed and return at the end!)

Introduction to Group Activity: Making a Memory Book.

Explain that by the end of the session the aim is for workshop members to produce a collective Memory Book. Everyone will have the real-life experience of writing about one of the topics from the Memory Book and, when these different pages are put together, they will turn into an example of a Memory Book. Everyone will see how this Memory Book has been built up page by page, including different ideas about what is important to include. This is an experience which each member of the workshop can carry home and try out when they are ready to start on their own Memory Book. It’s also a way of showing other groups in the community how the Memory Book works.

Explaining how the session will work. (guidelines for workshop leaders.)

  • Divide the group into three smaller groups and explain that each small group will work on 4 or 5 pages with headings taken from The Memory Book for Africa.
  • If there are enough men invite them to work together on page headings from the list “about your father.” Otherwise have mixed groups or all-women groups and explain that they will work on page headings from the lists “about your mother” and “the story of our family.”
  • Give the appropriate pages with the printed headings to each group. Explain that there will not be enough time to cover all the topics, so its important for each group to spend a few minutes to choosing which topics they will work on.
  • Each person will have 10 minutes to talk about what she or he wants to include on “her” or “his” page. Other members of the small group should listen, ask questions about anything that isn’t clear, make suggestions for what to include, but should NOT probe for more details on family situations.
  • Explain that when parents start making their Memory Books at home, their children often get involved because they see their parents writing and want to know “what is it” and want to join in. Its something they love doing and, being involved, often leads to talking about difficult subjects that parents haven’t discussed before.
  • Children also naturally start to draw pictures and find other oddments to include on the pages. So it will make these pages look much more “real” if group members add drawings and stick in pictures from newspapers to illustrate different situations.
    picture  of child in old yellowing newspaper

    (Its also important to mention that in some families there are no photos and a good alternative is to use pictures from newspapers or magazines, for instance using a picture of a young boy and saying “you used to look like the boy in the picture when you were 9.”)

  • When the small groups start working on their pages, move around the room to make sure everyone has understood the task and that they are keeping to time.
  • When group members they need to put ideas for each page heading on to flip chart paper.
  • Remind the scribes to write clearly and large enough for everyone to read!
    pages making up a dummy Memory  Book by workshop group
  • Explain again that at the end, all the pages will be brought together to make a sort of patchwork Memory Book consisting of different stories, traditions and backgrounds of the families represented in the group.
  • Also stress that ideas written on the flip chart paper should not identify a specific person, so no-one needs to worry about their personal information being recognised..
  • By the end everyone will have had a real life experience of how it feels to write something for a Memory Book – so they will feel more confident to go home and start work on their own Memory Book.
  • When time is up (around an hour, depending how many people/pages in the groups.) bring everyone back together and pin up the pages from all the groups, so that together they make a sample of a Memory Book.
  • Ask someone from each group to explain their contributions (2- 3 minutes each)
  • Then its time for the whole group to share and discuss the results of their work.
  • At the end remind everyone that the personal information shared in this activity must NOT be talked about outside the room.
  • Total time for this activity should be at least 1 ¼ hours.
  • If there is enough time, its useful for the feedback session to be followed by a short Q and A and comment session. This gives workshop members a chance to ask their questions and leaders will have an opportunity to mention anything important observed while the work was going on. (Allow 20 – 30 minutes.)

Closing Circle.

There are many ways of doing this but you want to close in a way that sends everyone home feeling encouraged and confident to start writing their own Memory Book and spreading the ideas to other people. Here are some ideas and questions to raise with members of the group:

  • You could start by asking each person to say one thing they have learned from the workshop and one thing that they intend to do with this new information.
  • You could ask each person to say one good thing they realised about themselves during the workshop and how they are going to remember that when they go home.
  • You could ask members of the group to show their hand if they intend to write a Memory Book at home and if they are going to share what they have learned with their family members, including children..
  • You could also ask if some of the workshop members feel they now have the knowledge and confidence to organise a Memory Book workshop for other people in their community? And have they met someone here today that they could work with, sharing responsibility for running a Memory book workshop?

And finally…..

  • Remind everyone that there is a lot more useful information on the two websites. has more detailed information  on  topics like communicating with children, legal matters etc. is shorter and simpler to understand.
  • Both websites include the Memory Book text in six Ugandan languages and a link to the short film called “Memory Books.” This is ideal to explain the Memory Book to people who are new to the ideas – including children.
  • New information is being added to the website, including reports on how other groups have worked.
  • And the last word is to say that the members of today’s workshop are among the Memory Book pioneers who will help to carry the ideas on to the next generation.
  • The website team would love to hear news from people who are making their own Books or running workshops. There is a contact link on both websites.
  • Thank everyone for taking part and committing to spreading the Memory Book ideas.