By TAMARA JAYNE
When I signed up for SPARK Leadership Programme as a camp facilitator last month, I thought, “Great. I can help teens become a better version of themselves even if it is a small part to play as a facilitator.”
Little did I know, how much I would gain.
Flashback to when I was 16, I remember looking at other ‘older’ people I respected with eagerness to be ‘as confident’ and ‘assured of myself’ as they seemed to the young naïve me.
I thought that once I reached that stage in life, I’d know more, be more, and possibly give more.
It now seems silly thinking how gullible I was and how I’ve learnt that age doesn’t determine how much you know if you don’t actively search for knowledge.
More about SPARK: Ignite Your Potential
Gain more when you give
The first day of camp, I felt we were like blocks of ice that had never seen the light of day and had now been extracted from a freezer to thaw.
I sat with a group of 14- to 16-year-olds from different backgrounds who were awkward and shy with each other.
The ice began to melt as we bonded over game conversations and what we liked doing in our spare time.
Over the following days, the sessions were impactful and practical. The friendships created were fostered over meal times and while working as a group.
As the Leaderonomics Youth team ran activities, I watched each nervous teen who spoke up on the first day with a shaky voice slowly transformed into a budding individual gaining confidence.
It was humbling to watch the more vocal ones help the shyer participants, and to witness people from different walks of life across Malaysia, come together for one purpose – to become better leaders.
Sara (name changed for privacy), one of the girls I met, is a bubbly and observant individual who started to open up to her team.
During one of the sessions, with watery eyes, she shared with the group about the struggles she faces.
Watching her fellow teammates reach out to her and support her left me teary. These kids were amazing.
Through struggles of their own, they learnt to look out for someone else and be there for others, no matter the race, status or background.
And it wasn’t an experience specific to me as I discovered during our facilitators’ debriefing sessions later on.
The teams were asked to plan a project to visit the elderly and children’s homes alike, and to make a difference in their communities. Some cooked, some cleaned, and some sang and danced.
It was fascinating to watch them giving their time, love, and effort to brighten someone else’s day.
My team, in particular, made pisang goreng (banana fritters) and teh tarik (milk tea) for the senior folk, who polished it off and wanted seconds.
Spending one week with this bunch of kids left us all closer than ever. There were lots of laughter and tears, but the best of all, I believe each person’s world opened up just that little bit more.
On the final day, as we were preparing to go our separate ways, the facilitators were given the opportunity to highlight and share the strengths of each person in our teams.
We were able to share about what we had observed and learnt about each of them in the past seven days spent together.
As we packed to leave, one of the participants came up to me and said: “Thank you for facilitating and making me a better person.”
No. Thank you for making me a better person.
SPARK Leadership Programme is a partnership between ECM Libra Foundation, AirAsia, Leaderonomics and Epsom College in Malaysia. SPARK aims to help 80 deserving participants carefully selected from all across Malaysia to develop their leadership attitude, self-awareness, critical and creative thinking, communication, and self-confidence.
The participants are required to execute a live community project during the duration of the programme. This challenge is specially designed to ensure that participants can confidently apply the things they have learnt throughout the programme, and are able to integrate these skills and principles into their personal leadership journey.
To find out more about the programme, email our Leaderonomics Youth team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tamara was previously an assistant editor and writer with Leaderonomics. She loves thought-provoking conversations over cups of tea. If she is not writing, you might find her hiking up a mountain in search of a new waterfall to explore.