‘In our minds we have a vision;
it’s in our hearts that we make it happen’
Dreams & Teams Course Books – Youth Sports Trust, UK
‘To inspire the desire to lead, to create one team, one dream, one world’ is a quote on the cover of the Dreams & Teams Young Leader’s Learning Log Book. So, this has got to be a special programme and it is.
As I sit here in the make shift Dreams & Teams secretariat at the Chipasula Secondary School in Lillongwe, Malawi, there are nineteen enthusiastic Young Leaders setting up for their maiden sports and arts festival for sixty young children from two local primary schools.
It’s a cloudy, cool day and the Young Leaders are swinging to the music blaring out of the PA system as they help erect the tent, move chairs, set up cones and demarcate areas for the games – the positive energy and the vibes are palpable.
These Young Leaders, ranging from ages 12-17 have gone through a two-day session where they learned about leadership, teamwork, communication skills and values. Their assignment at the end of the training is to organize and manage this festival for younger children. They pass with flying colours if at the end of the festival, the children leave happy and smiling.
Their trainers are six teachers who have been taught to be facilitators of this programme. I conducted the training as an International Trainer for Dreams & Teams to take the teachers out of their comfort zone from their normal ‘chalk and talk’ process to a more interactive and experiential learning method as facilitators. The most difficult part is managing the shift in the power relationship from ‘adult-child’ to ‘adult-adult’. The process begins with respecting the Young Leaders as significant individuals, expecting them to rise to the occasion required of responsible learners and leaders.
The programme is sponsored by the British Council and designed by the Youth Sports Trust of United Kingdom and happens in over forty countries around the world.
I went through a five-day facilitation skills training programme at British Council in Oxford followed up by a supervised practical session in Sri Lanka in 2013 to gain the skills to run the programme. The focus then was leadership through sports. The Dreams & Teams programme was re-designed in 2016 to include culture and arts and I went through a re-orientation in India with a Youth Sports Trust trainer. I have run over 20 training programmes in Sri Lanka, India and now in Africa and every one of them has been a learning experience for me.
I have also adapted this model of training for cricket in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. For instance, I have worked with both country under 19 and 17 national pools where they organize a cricket festival at the end of the leadership training programmes.
The Dreams & Teams Charter
The aim of Dreams & Teams is to develop Young Leaders and global citizens through sport and cross-cultural awareness. Through the programme these young leaders get an opportunity to be constantly challenged in their assumptions, beliefs and behaviour relating to sport and arts leadership and cross-cultural awareness. It will also help them to think about other cultures and different ways of doing things and, particularly, how to become open to people who are not the same.
Dreams & Teams has a distinct feature because of its international linking and cross-cultural dimension. Sport and the arts provide a platform for these young leaders in different countries to explore together issues relating to fair play, equity, mutuality, cultural diversity, inclusion, religion, ethics, global communication and many others. By establishing international links, these young people will join other Young Leaders in each participating country and form a global team, working towards periodic celebration events, perhaps a global sport and arts festival to be held every year.
Taking from my own experiences as an entrepreneur, trainer, researcher and community leader, I add value to the training of teachers by dwelling deeper into topics such as emotional intelligence, self-esteem, values and behavior. Esteem, beginning with self leading to the collective social esteem is especially an issue in the developing world for many reasons. Poverty, lack of access to opportunities and information as well as issues related to justice and human rights in emerging nations makes this extra dimension important for us in Asia and Africa. High self and social esteem makes for strong and confident individuals and societies. The only way to ensure stewardship in this area is through the positive use of power as leaders in the way we speak and act. We have to create a new leadership ethos for the world, if we are to change the destructive direction it is taking at the moment in social and environmental terms. Values, behaviors and the use of power become important considerations as the models we see in politics, business and even sports with its corruptions is not worthy of emulation.
Therefore, Dreams & Teams provides a wonderful platform to enter into this important dialogue and to provoke thought in changing towards a more compassionate way of leading for the next generation.
A Happy Ending
As the festival is ending, the music is blaring, children and adults from all over the Chipasula community are dancing, laughing and enjoying. The festival has touched not only the young children who participated, but even younger children and adults from the community around the school. The Young Leaders did extremely well to organize the event in such a short time – to work as a team, with good leadership, design and manage the games and activities, decorate the grounds, manage the funds, entertain the crowd – there was music, mini dramas, folk tales in the African tradition – and to experience taking responsibility for themselves and their actions.
“I have learned so much in the last few days about myself, my friends and about leadership – I feel proud that we got together and did an event like this”, said, Mervis Liwonde, one the older Young Leaders.
The six teachers were thrilled with their achievement in getting out of their comfort zones to empower the Young Leaders to take responsibility. George Makande, the Local Tutor from the host school, Chipasula said “I think I have changed as a teacher through this programme. I learned something interesting about self esteem and how my way of speaking to students effect their esteem. So, I will be much more aware about the way I speak to my students”.
For me, I enjoyed the wonderful energy in the “heart of Africa”. The more I work with these kinds of programmes around the world, the more reassured I am that there is hope for the world. Dreams & Teams is one of the most important gifts the British Council and the Youth Sports Trust of UK has given the world and its new generation, so we can indeed realize the dream someday of a more loving, compassionate and a contented world.