Young people that were known to us, from across Aston, were invited, and in the end, nine young people took part in the six week programme. The group came from a variety of backgrounds and faiths, and was a good representation of the people who make up the community of Aston.
Starting in January, we met on a Thursday evening, over the course of six weeks, and explored the following:
o What is leadership
o Personality types and leadership styles
o Community Cohesion, addressing stereotypes and prejudice (led by The Feast)
o Team building challenges
o Poverty and injustice, with an overview of the work of Rejuvenate Worldwide
o Dragons Den challenge, with potential to develop ideas into a fundraising event.
As the programme was relatively short, we were not expecting huge amounts of change in each young person. What we were hoping for, was a raising awareness of and confidence in their own leadership skills and qualities, and for them to begin to look at ways to improve and build on them. It was also an opportunity to engage these young people in volunteering opportunities in Aston and with Rejuvenate (potentially being members of the next expedition team). In short, the programme was the first step along a longer journey that these young people will be travelling with us.
Over the six weeks, the young people were challenged by the activities and discussions, and by each other. The fact that they were such a diverse group gave a great deal of scope for broadening each participant’s experiences and ideas, and fostering cohesion and positive awareness of difference.
By looking at individual skills and personality types (using a Myers Briggs questionnaire) we were able to recognise the type of leader each young person would be, and in what arena they would work best. This was a huge confidence boost for some, who have previously been negatively labelled by authority figures. As a result, some young people are now looking very positively to how they would like to utilise their leadership skills, and are making plans for training and education that will further their chances. For example, two of the group are keen footballers, but also have very good practical and problem-solving skills. They would both like to be football coaches, so are hoping to get on a coaching course in the near future.
For others, the programme has been an opportunity to engage with Rejuvenate Worldwide, and to see what they have to offer both in Aston, and internationally. All members of the group have expressed a desire to be members of the next expedition team.
On the whole, the programme worked very well, as a first step. We want to build on that work, by engaging young people either in Rejuvenate, or in local community work. Then we will see these young leaders emerge and make a difference in their community and in the communities we as a charity support.
So what did the young people think of the programme… We chatted to Sarah, 17.
Q: What were your impressions of the course?
Overall, it really opened my eyes up to a lot of different things. For example, I wouldn’t have really called myself a leader, I didn’t have much confidence in myself, but the programme helped me to identify the leadership within me.
The poverty presentation was really interesting, I knew poverty wasn’t just in Africa but I didn’t realise that here in the UK, it’s on our doorstep as well. I think it has really challenged me to do something about it, both here and abroad. This is why I like the ‘dragon’s den’ style pitch looking at how we can understand the issues and eliminate poverty. I think our team came up with the best ideas; I can’t wait to put them into practise.
I think I have definitely grown as person, I can articulate myself in a way without feeling shy or intimidated by what others may think. I feel more confident to lead and be part of a team. I’ve had fun while doing the programme, ‘people give me jokes’ …. But I enjoyed meeting new people and learning how to embrace different leadership styles and how they can work for the greater.
For me, I think the highlight is knowing that people believe in me. I know I need to believe more in myself, but this is the first step in being a leader. Having the knowledge that others believe in you, because they’ve seen you work hard gives you a real boost and sense of achievement.
My plan is to become a volunteer leader at the youth centre and give something back to the young children. I also hope to be able to go to Uganda next year with the team and build the school while working with other young people similar to myself.