Following the leader with eyes closed
In May, we took our CATALYST scholars on a study visit where they were given leadership training. One month before the trip, we asked all 44 CATALYST scholars who wished to be leaders during the study visit to nominate themselves for a vote. Nine ran for the election and seven students were elected to lead small groups of six members each.
The group leaders were given a budget to take care of their member's food and transportation. Group members were from different provinces. They first had to come to Phnom Penh, the capital city, and then the following day, travel by bus from Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri Province.
The leaders had to keep receipts of their members' transportation costs and get each member to sign on a form whenever they were given money for food. Additionally, each group was tasked with a main responsibility:
- Group 1: Prepare snacks for everyone for morning of the first day as we didn't have time to stop for breakfast on the way, and handing t-shirts & scarfs to year one students
- Group 2: Make sure there's water for everyone
- Group 3: Maintain hygiene and hand out study visit pass to everyone
- Group 4: Count members when getting back on the bus
- Group 5: Prepare study visit banner for group photo shoot and for tying to the front of the bus
- Group 6: Take care of the study materials to be given to primary school students
- Group 7: Take care of materials for leadership training
In the evening of the second day, all the CATALYSTAS were led to play some leadership games such as:
- Pass the Hoop:This game involves having a group stand in a circle and hold hands. One of the people in the circle has a hula hoop around their arm. The idea is to pass the hula hoop all the way around the circle. This strengthens teamwork and problem solving skills, crucial for any leader, as they’re not working in a vacuum. Most importantly it teaches communication, which might be the most fundamental skill for any successful leader.
- Blind-lead v.s. Sight-lead: For this game, a leader or "head of the line" is chosen and the members all line up behind the leader. At first all the members are asked to close their eyes and follow the leader when she moves around. After that all the members follow the leader with their eyes open. The followers must decide whether or not to follow the leader when they can and cannot see. This activity involves leadership and building trust.
- Building the Highest, Strongest and Most Beautiful Building: Students are divided into three groups and are given five minutes to build the highest, strongest and most beautiful building out of whatever they can find at the spot.
After playing these games, the students were asked to reflect on what they had learned.
Sophin gave her take on 'Pass the Hoop' game: "The game required us to work collaboratively to pass the hoop and to come up with creative problem-solving strategies to move the hoop around the group. It also trained us be quick but cautious."
Sarik reflected on Building the Highest, Strongest and Most Beautiful Building: "To achieve the goal, someone had to take the lead and assign tasks, including watching the time, to all the members. It required creativity, teamwork and good communication."
Samnang expressed her feelings regarding the Blind Lead game: "I first found the game very difficult because I couldn't see, I didn't know where the leader led us to and I was worried that I would step on something or trip, so I didn't want to follow my leader. However, after a while I decided to put my trust in the leader and just followed her steps then I become less anxious and everything went well."
Another leader, Sreynich, interjected: "As a leader, we cannot just choose the smooth and easy roads; otherwise, there won't be improvement/development. We have to challenge our team so they become stronger and can deal with all sorts of obstacles, that's why after leading them through easy path for a while, I decided to take some rough roads."
The trip wrapped up with electing the best leader among the seven. Gifts, as well as certificates of appreciation, were given to all the leaders. The girls found the training very useful and interesting and could not thank the program and all the donors enough for making it happen. They hope there will be more training opportunities in the future!
Following the leader with eyes closed
Pass the hoop
The team leaders