Everything has a starting point, and every life has a beginning but our beginnings are never the same. Though everyone has the potential to create their own life story and carve their path, we must always remember that the tools we have been handed are not the same. Some people are handed fully fuelled tractors while others are given shovels that don’t have handles, and the range from one end to another is very wide and subject to interpretation.
This is what we have to consider when we work with a community. Trying to help people work with what they. It became apparent to me as I was reflecting on the progress that we have made in the Future Leaders psychosocial program that without being aware, I had pre evaluated the Future Leaders onto Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. That being the basis of the rest of the counselling and psychosocial process.
Having started the sessions on family history and values, it helped us all reflect on the choices we have made and their vices and virtues. The implication of being fatherless or raising your mother’s children after she passes away or while she drowns herself in alcohol. What can that do to a developing human being? The deprivation of love and security while fighting for food and shelter, how can that hinder or enhance growth in different areas? More importantly, however, how does is it shape your self-worth and what toxic behaviour does it normalize?
We (facilitators and Future Leaders) then went into a series of sessions on relationships. We all wrote anonymous letters to our ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. This was to survey the landmines we might get ourselves into. The letters were shuffled and each one was read out loud in turn. Horror quickly turned into laughter and laughter into tears as we all repeatedly listened to stories that appeared to belong on some TV true crime channel. These stories should not have been authored by the dear the people in this room yet everyone could relate somehow to every letter.
For the second session we prepared case studies on a few letters that carried reoccurring themes from the other 50 letters we had read. The rooms were often thick with mixed emotions in the beginning but with everyone having enough time to express their opinion and relate to the letter in their personal experience, disagreements simmered, judgment lowered and there was a sense of perception widening.
We as facilitators did not come to save the Future Leaders, we did not come to tell them what is wrong or right in their lives. We came to listen, ask reflective questions and share our experiences and how we viewed certain behaviours fabricating certain outcomes. We considered family histories once more in an attempt to find inherent relationships between upbringing and current beliefs. When sessions were concluding, we all spoke about what we took from the session and it seemed like people reflected during the sessions and wanted to improve their own circumstances and not let life happen to them or let their children ever go through the same victimization and think it’s acceptable.
Saying no to physical and verbal abuse or testing for HIV was among the top reflective outcomes. We all know that this is a journey and not a destination and it is easier to fall backwards than it is to push forward hence we promote peer accountability and our phones are constantly on standby.
It also occurred to me that some Future Leaders had no idea there was something such as family planning. They thought there was no way around having children you did not plan for. We had discussions about the various methods to prevent undesired pregnancies. There is nothing to “obvious” or too basic to discuss when we come from such diverse upbringings.
There is no one hierarchy, nor can there be. The concept is universal but the hierarchies are personalized. We can’t look at people and rate them according to our expectations, then when the shoes we put before them does not fit we ridicule them and make them feel incompetent.
NAG gives all it has to the Future Leaders. NAG gives them a volunteering opportunity to improve certain life skills while assisting their communities. It gives them stipends to assist on living costs and gives them constant trainings which are a tremendous growth experience. On top of that, the future leaders can rely on each other and have psychosocial for emotional support and a safe haven to express what they are going through. Holistic growth gives our future leaders a chance to reach their own self-actualization.