Building Up Leaders

Igmin Kibe Education Center sits in the midst of large, intimidating rocks. The perimeter of stones and patches of greenery create a sort of barrier around the large, open space. On a warm day in December, teens from each home Back2Back serves gathered for a day-long leadership camp. The eight teams waited patiently to hear what the day would look like. Many of their faces appeared bored, expecting to be seated in a classroom type setting. When each team was handed a map, an excited murmur ran through the groups. Teens from different homes were put together, inviting them to get to know new people. They were also assigned an advisor (a staff member) to answer any questions and provide encouragement throughout the day.

Each map led the teams on a series of challenges. Whether they were moving heavy bags of sand from one spot to another, or doing 100 push-ups, the teens had to decide who on the team would best meet the challenge. One team tackled the 100 push-ups between only three members, while another split the push-ups evenly to accomplish it quicker. “At each challenge, you could see the wheels turning in each of the teens’ heads,” shared Matthew Gomwalk, Staff Social Worker. “They were pushed to depend on each other, and it bonded them quickly.”

Kabo, a Hope Student, had previously struggled with managing his anger. He got easily frustrated and yelled out, but Matthew saw a very different side to the teen at the Leadership Camp. “Kabo’s team was struggling,” explained Matthew. “They were physically outmatched and behind throughout the day; this would normally lead to Kabo getting angry, but instead he was his team’s biggest cheerleader. He encouraged everyone and through this, I saw him become a leader and example to those around him.”

The final challenge of the day was easily the most difficult. Each team was given yam and oil to make a meal, but they had to find pots and pans to cook in and materials to start a fire. Some teams collected wood and dried grass, others found charcoal, and one team even used dried dung. Throughout the process, many of the teams remarked they didn’t have enough materials, but they rallied quickly. They worked together to problem solve while thinking critically and strategically.

When the final test was finished, the teams gathered together for a time of discussion. “We asked them what they learned from the challenges they faced, how they overcame them, and what they would’ve done differently, if given the chance,” explained Matthew. The day drew to a close with a meal, dance competition, and prizes. “You could see the friendships forming throughout the whole day,” he shared. “The teens weren’t separating by house when we shared meals, they were sitting together, laughing and talking loudly, and have already asked when we will do this again.”

What the teens anticipated being another day of classroom learning, turned out to be a day of challenges, pushing everyone to work with each other. The goals of the Leadership Camp were to build up leadership skills, demonstrate the importance of leadership, and help develop problem solving skills. While those things were certainly accomplished, something much bigger was at play – while each offering their own strengths, together they accomplished more than on their own.