by Monica Planas, Regional Communications Manager, ChildFund Americas
During a recent visit to Bolivia, I met an amazing group of ChildFund youth group leaders from the Obispo Anaya Educational Unit in Cochabamba.
From the moment we met, it was impossible not to sense their positive vibe and energizing personalities.
Like many other developing countries, Bolivia is demographically young, with more than 44 percent of the population (4.1million) under age 17. One of ChildFund’s top priorities in Bolivia is helping this young population organize in a constructive way and explore the issues that affect them each day. Issues like violence, addiction, discrimination and a polluted environment are top concerns.
Through leadership clubs like the one in Cochabamba, youth are discovering peer-support networks and developing leadership skills to help themselves and their communities.
I wanted to hear how the youth group began and why it caught on with these young men and women. “At first,” explains Juan Elvis, 15, “I was a bit curious. On different occasions I saw the group having so much fun I decided to try it out. In my community, youth spend their time on the streets chatting or spending money playing video games — nothing productive. This free time sometimes leads to bad habits like alcoholism and gangs.”
So I asked him what he has learned since joining the group.
“Since the beginning,” Juan Elvis tells me, “we’ve been taught that leaders need to be physically, mentally and spiritually prepared. This is why we live following and practicing a group of principles that help reflect the ways of leaders. Individually, we have our favorites or feel identified with some of them more than others. For example, my favorite is ‘If we were seeds and landed on rocks instead of fertile soil, we will bloom.’ This means we should never quit, never give up or feel defeated, no matter what happens. We are convinced that no matter the circumstances, our preparation will allow us to overcome any difficulty we might encounter.”
How about you? I ask Daysi, who is also 15. “My favorite” she says, “is [that] we’re all different, but at the same time, exactly the same. In my experience here, that specific principle has allowed us all to work toward common goals.”
She explains that the youth coordinate the Communications Corners for younger children, with supervision from ChildFund’s sponsorship coordinator. The youth hold weekly meetings to plan activities they will implement with children, including creativity workshops to teach younger children how to write more colorful and detailed letters to their sponsors.
“We organize and lead lots of things around here, so you might think it’s difficult to come to an agreement,” Daysi continues. “Well, it isn’t. We’re all entitled to our opinions and ideas. We share and discuss, and following this principle has allowed us to reach important decisions and accomplish great things.”
“Very true” agrees Juan Javier, 15, “We’ve accomplished a lot and seen great changes. When I arrived at the center I was shy and quiet, I didn’t know much. After the trainings I’ve received I’m now much more secure and a great spokesperson. This has also allowed me to do better in school,” he says.
He adds that his relationships with his parents and teachers have also improved. “At first our opinions were not valid. Now adults see us in a different way, as allies in important decision making. We’re seen as important supporters,” he explains.
At the ChildFund office, Juan Javier likes to help out in the Communications Corners. “I support younger children when they write to their sponsors. I share with them techniques on how to be more creative and original with their letters.”
In addition, he and other youth leaders have embraced more challenging roles. “Only last year we were presenting to an important group of executives who wanted us to form part of a social responsibility project,” Juan Javier says.
The youth presented a sustainable gardening project at the company’s booth at the international fair, presenting visitors with an explanation of the project and its contribution to the environment.
After talking with these exuberant youth, I’m extremely excited by their level of motivation and leadership skills. They already show so much potential and promise to do great things.
As we begin the International Year of Youth, Berta, a 19-year-old Bolivian in her first year at university, describes how she found her way to a better future with support from her community and ChildFund’s after-school programs that focus on math, language, self-expression, reading, writing and computer technology. Because the Bolivian education system lacks many core components, most children miss out on important basic learning and skill-development classes. –Reported by Monica Planas, ChildFund Americas Regional Communications Manager
My name is Berta. I came to the ChildFund Avance Comunitario Community Center near La Paz when I was four. I have siblings who are also enrolled.
I was very shy and quiet, I used to sit in a corner and never participate. Growing up I discovered I wanted more, so I signed up for leadership and self-esteem courses at the ChildFund community center. They’ve helped me out so much that now I’m a totally different person. I’m open-minded. It has contributed to lots of things especially at school. Last year I ran for president of the student council and won.
Many recognized my hard work and I was able to form my own group. Because I’ve been good at what I do, I’m now working at the community center and helping younger children. I like being here because it’s fun. You have the opportunity to participate in workshops. We also receive human rights speeches. You’re able to make new friends.
I’m now studying at university and participating in the university student council as well. I have this capacity because ChildFund and the staff at Avance Comunitario offered me the opportunity to take these trainings.
Everyone at the community center has supported me in one way or another; now it’s my opportunity to guide and help the new generation.
In the Philippines, ChildFund is working with children and youth to understand their experiences of poverty and provide them with psychosocial support to build their self-confidence. In addition, youth are gaining hands-on experience and skills to help them meet the future.
Meet Regine, a youth leader with ChildFund Philippines, who has a remarkable story of achievement.
by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications
For the past week, 11 colleagues and I were immersed in building our leadership skills. It was a week of growth and getting to know each other in Bangkok, Thailand. We came from all of ChildFund’s regions, and one participant came from the ChildFund Alliance.
The Building Leaders Program (BLP) meant different things to each of us.
Billy Abimbilla of Liberia says the linkage among the Myers Brigg Type Indicator preferences, job placement and career planning was a wonderful eye opener. “BLP is a unique learning program with regard to its content and approach and offers flexible space for individual self-assessment and reflection abut the past, present and future,” he says.
“The BLP exceeded my expectations,” says Dennis O’Brien of the Philippines. “Not only did I learn more about myself and my learning style, but I got valuable and insightful feedback from the facilitators. But the impressions I leave the BLP with that are the strongest, are of the colleagues and fellow participants from around the ChildFund world. Some people I already knew, I got to know better, while some I met for the first time. Thanks to everyone for providing excellent perspective, ideas and experiences.”
And Julien Anseau of Thailand says, “For me, the BLP was about stepping out of my comfort zone, being stretched intellectually and emotionally, connecting with great people and choosing to be a leader.
“I want my leadership success to be measured by my legacy, by what I leave behind; real outcomes and the development of my people. I commit to becoming a student of leadership, being a leader in my professional and private life, and leveraging the investment made in me by developing other leaders in the organization.”
As for me, I am reenergized and recommitted to putting ChildFund on the map so that we help more children thrive. And that’s what BLP was about – helping each of us thrive so that collectively we can help the world’s children.