I could hardly wait to conduct the workshop at the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). Prior to this day I reached out to Lina del Pilar Bocanegra – an Atlas Corps Fellow from Colombia serving at this organization about designing and facilitating a workshop. It was intended to help the kids from the marginalized community get a new perspective by meeting me – someone from a different country and by hearing my life’s story. It was also very appealing to me as it would give me a new perspective about how this organization worked and understand how the children from this community were supported by United States of America through this organization. Thanks to Lina as she was absolutely supportive while designing and conducting the workshop!
On the day of the workshop as soon as I arrived at LAYC, I was mesmerized by the enthusiasm of the youth while they were making the jewelry. I started to reminisce on my childhood years when I made crafts and used to paint. As Lina and I were re-organizing the room before we could begin I took the opportunity to see how passionately they were crafting their work. LAYC was a wonderful place located at the heart of Washington DC filled with children who resided in the US. They came from the marginalized communities across the US. LAYC is an ideal institution to empower these children to have a better transition to the adulthood through Arts and Recreation, Job Readiness Program, Safe Housing, etc.
I began the workshop with my story of my childhood – the challenges and opportunities that I got at that time. I shared about the inspiration by the people all around me and how I gradually learned to learn from the challenges. I shared stories of my friends and about their struggles. They listened with awe. Their gleaming eyes told me a lot about their lives, and seeing their responses and admiration, I could relate their lives with my stories. At one point they shared what they admired about their peers. It was great to know that there was the practice of appreciation and gratitude for the positive things that were present among the group.
This session helped me to understand the perspectives of these young people and I wanted to help them get the idea of some new ones by sharing my experiences on youth leadership development in Bangladesh. I revisited why it is important to nurture the creativity of young people and build their leadership skills from a very young age. If we look at our schools we do not work hard enough to understand the children. There is no room for emotional growth and learning about emotional intelligence which is reflected later on in the child’s life through her personal, academic and professional lives!
I utilized my skills of teacher training in Bangladesh and youth empowerment initiatives in both USA and Bangladesh to help the youth at the center understand their emotional awareness and develop confidence. For this reason, we as adults should pursue the goal of understanding the kids around us, their needs and learn to empathize with them all the time to make them future leaders.
You can try out the following to help the younger ones build self-confidence:
1. Share your stories of childhood with them to let them know what you did and what interested you. Help them relate them to their lives in a way to help them try out new things.
2. Talk about dealing with different type of people. Teach them to empathize with other children and share things despite differences in color, race or religion.
3. Help them understand the importance of hardships and that putting efforts themselves are rewarding. Also, it is alright not to come first in everything every time.
4. Understand what excites them. Learn about their learning styles and teach them things accordingly. For example, if a child is a visual learner, facilitate his learning visually the same thing that another child who is a kinesthetic learner and learning it by doing.
5. Understand the learning needs of the children – they can be both behavioral or academic. All children are not the same.