Every program The Ota Initiative hires five local youth to serve as “group leaders”, each of whom is assigned a cadre of five students that they oversee and perform activities with throughout the program. These group leaders are critical to our program’s success as they allow our students to conduct many experiments, art projects, and games in small group settings that provide more hands-on experience and individualized attention. We highly value our group leaders’ contributions so we continue to invest in their skills and professional development by running a leadership training seminar for them before each program.
The leadership training seminars serve three main purposes: to introduce our group leaders to the program’s syllabus; to build a cohesive team unit; and to build leadership skills.
The head teacher leads the seminars and spends a significant amount of time walking the leaders through each program’s syllabus. The teacher usually starts by introducing the current program’s theme – for example, the importance of water – and discussing it with the leaders. Local experts, when available, may also be called in to discuss the theme and how it relates to life in Karagwe. The teacher then goes through the syllabus day-by-day to present each activity, its learning goals, and the group leaders’ roles in executing the activity. The group leaders have time to practice the science experiments, art projects, and games they will teach to students, and they also create their own stories, songs, and that they will use during the program.
As the group leaders collaborate to create aspects of the program during the seminar, they begin to meld into a cohesive team that can effectively work together to execute the program. We help accelerate this process by engaging them in discussions about good leadership, motivational techniques, and teamwork. Teambuilding games focused on building trust and camaraderie also help the leaders bond.
Various activities throughout the training seminar – group discussions, teamwork activities, story writing – help develop the participants’ leadership skills as they work both individually and together on projects that challenge them to think outside of their comfort zone and really evaluate their roles in their community. We capitalize upon this at the end of the seminar by guiding the group leaders through the process of writing Personal Mission Statements. We ask them to consider their strengths and weaknesses, values, skills, and goals and to then write a statement detailing their plans for the immediate, middle, and long-term future. The first time new group leaders are asked to do this, they are often confused as they have never been asked similar questions before; however, in the end they are always inspired by their new personal roadmap and eager to pursue it.
In the end, the group leaders who emerge from our training seminars are well-versed in creative teaching methods, able to effectively work as a member of our team, and confident in their leadership potential and inspired to pursue their goals. Not only do these qualities help them to more effectively run Ota's program, but they will also help them to perform better at school and to obtain other jobs in the future.
The Ota Initiative staff poses with Amizade volunteers after engaging in English-language training during a Leadership Seminar.