Youth Rise to Challenge of Leadership

by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, Americas Regional Office, and Ron Wolfe, Business Development Specialist

Turmalina, an agricultural area in the northeastern part of Minas Gerais, Brazil, is the site of ChildFund’s second pilot project using netbooks.

We are preparing our local partner staff and volunteers to hold small community events where youth, children and infants with their caregivers will be invited to participate in educational activities. We’ll also be attending to various child sponsorship activities such as enrolling children in programs, helping them write letters to sponsors and updating child photos. The goal is to join our educational programming and child sponsorship efforts so that they are more efficient and engaging. To plan these events, we have used netbooks to train staff and young volunteers.

Roberta, Nathany and Thais (l to r) are gaining leadership skills.

Thais, 16, Roberta, 16, and Nathany, 15, gather nervously to discuss the upcoming community activities. They are all members of the local youth group but have not held leadership positions. Soon they will stand before 25 of their peers for one hour and lead group discussions, activities and workgroups. They are evolving from participants into leaders.

We chatted briefly with the trio, who preferred to give their collective feedback on the training and their expectations for the days ahead.

Did you enjoy training on the netbooks?
Yes! They are so cool. They are so small and we loved learning on them. We have done trainings before, but never like this. We love it. We have a small computer lab, but they are all old and some are broken. There aren’t enough for us to use so we mostly don’t know much about the computers at all. But these were so fun. We moved things all around, followed the training and learned a lot. We can use these in so many different ways.

What opportunities will you gain from this experience (past training and future activity leadership)?
Courage. We will conquer our fears of public speaking and be leaders. We will know how to interact with our peers, prepare presentations and have a better understanding of our friends’ feelings about our community.

There are so few opportunities for youth in our community to meet, discuss important things and even lead these discussions. This is a great opportunity for us individually and as a group. We will speak up and be heard.

What are your concerns?
We are nervous about standing up in front of our friends and other youth. We often discuss things with our friends in small groups, but never in front of 20 or more people. What if we say the wrong things? What if our friends laugh at us? What if no one shows up to the activity? What if they do not like we do? We are nervous. But we are also excited. We think it will get easier the more we do.

The young leaders apply themselves diligently in training sessions.

The lesson plans you selected are about how education is important in making healthy life decisions and about setting future goals. What other topics do you think would be important or interesting to discuss among the youth?
There are lots of topics that we don’t usually have the opportunity to talk about among ourselves in an informed way. Important topics would be drugs, environment, healthy bodies, violence and so many others.

Sometimes we have adults who will talk to us about these things, but sometimes it is hard to be honest with them because we are not comfortable telling them our personal thoughts or experiences. Sometimes we just get too nervous and never say anything at all.

And then sometimes we talk about these things among ourselves, but we don’t always have the right information we need or don’t know how to say things.

So it would be good to have the right information that we can talk about in these activities like we are doing next week. In the future, we can lead discussions and activities on these different kinds of topics. Or other youth can lead and we can participate. It will be good either way.

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