, Last week I volunteered to be a part of LEAP Africa’s Easter summer camp: Lead the way 2017, It wasn’t my first experience volunteering at an event like this as I had been a part of summer residential camps organized by Eagles HOPE Foundation in 2015 & 2016, but this experience was different for two reasons, it was with a different organization – LEAP Africa – one of the prominent NGOs in Africa and the participants were from a different background, previous camps I’d being a part of were targeted towards lower class or middle class but this was for the upper class.
It started on Monday, I arrived about 2 hours earlier than the resumption time because the venue was new to me, it was on Lagos Island and I was coming from the mainland. The staffs at LEAP Africa were very nice and helpful throughout the program. As the participants came in, I welcomed them and immediately tried to connect with them by talking to them. Most of them were withdrawn, that was understandable as it was still the first day, I got the basic information ( name, age, school, class…) I was hoping to get, Good enough talking points for the next time we meet. We began the first session at 9 am with Simon says Game, the participants were afterward introduced to the organization and the program, I decided to sit down in between the participants to listen in and to get to know the participants more. I picked that up from my previous camp experiences where the volunteers were encouraged to sit amongst participants to encourage engagement rate.
Daily, we had one session in the morning before breakfast then 2 sessions before lunch and the last session was a challenge where the different groups worked on an activity with the aim to produce the best result. My primary role was to be a Group Mentor, I was to guide my group members in group activities and ensure that no one feels left out. The first day we had Photo challenge, they were to come up with a picture idea that depicted Teamwork, the next day it was Marshmallow challenge, using marshmallow and spaghetti to build a structure that is tall and stands. My group was named LEO: Leadership, Excellence, Optimism. A member of my group came up with that acronym. There were five participants in my group, two pre-teens who were playful and loved to eat chicken and three teenagers who weren’t so outspoken at first. When it was time for activities, despite their differences they all displayed that they were smart and even surpassed my expectations. I had the duty of making the ones who spoke/ played too much to be serious, the ones who were reserved to speak up and contribute as they most times wanted to draw back, the part of managing the group was quite challenging as I had to appeal to different personality types while maintaining cohesion in the group. I always thought I knew a lot about relating with people but then relating with children and teenagers is an area that I have a lot to learn.
The main sessions were taken by some LEAP Africa Staffs and external experts in the areas, the different sessions were filled with games, videos, breakout discussion sessions. We had many discussions where the participants spoke about their pressures they faced, their source of confidence, how they felt about themselves…We had promised the participant 100% confidentiality on issues discussed, the participants were quite open and amongst many issues discussed I got to know that for most of the participants what was right or wrong (ethics) was defined by their parents, they did or didn’t do many things because their parents said so and when they were asked what they’d do if their parents weren’t around they couldn’t imagine or better still they hadn’t considered any other option. It was more like this is what to do because my mom says so. When asked who knows the true you? Most said their friends, some said their parents but then their parent knew only part of them. What I learned from this was many parents in their bid to be disciplined make themselves unapproachable.
There was also a session on creativity- robotics ( I was unavoidably absent, so I can’t say anything about this session but it was fun from the feedback heard), Patriotism was discussed and the participants got to defined what it means to be a Nigerian, whether they could die for Nigeria, what they can do to help Nigeria become great. On Thursday, we took a field trip to Dustbin Estate at Ajegunle, Dustbin Estate is a collection of shanties on refuse dump where a very poor set of people live in Ajegunle. This field trip was to expose the participants as most of them hadn’t been to mainland, they didn’t know popular places like Oshodi or Agege – it wasn’t that they didn’t know how to get there, they couldn’t identify those places as places in Lagos- so this trip was necessary for them to keep in touch with the realities of Nigeria. After the tour around the estate, they had 45 minutes – 1-hour discussion with the founder of LOTS Charity Foundation Tolu Sangosanya, where she spoke about her experience and answered their numerous questions. I liked the way this visit came towards the end of the program as they had been prepped to be confident, identify problems and solve them, now they get to hear someone’s story and see how she’s tackling problems. On Friday which was the last day, the different groups made a presentation based on Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) which they had been working since the first day, explaining the situation and stating the action steps they’d take towards achieving it, their parents were around to witness this presentation. The parents later had a private discussion with the facilitators where they were given general feedbacks on the issues we felt they needed to address or watch out for. We had promised the participant 100% confidentiality on issues discussed during the program so it wasn’t a window to tell on them.
It was a fun experience working with fellow volunteers and staffs of LEAP Africa at this event. In retrospect, working with young people from different classes has revealed that they all need to be inspired to believe in themselves and to take the initiative to solve problems in the society.
The little you think you know or can do means a lot when you share it with others