Unlocking the leadership potential in young South Africans

Let Your Light Shine!

Last week I spent the week with about 40 people considering what being a Responsible Citizen in South Africa looks like.  The intention was to encourage young people to consider growing and becoming leaders of their communities and of South Africa. I have done many camps and have lots of experience working with youth, so this was supposed to be old hat, but it was anything but!

Much of the secret of the success of the camp lay in the people who facilitated this process.  Seldom do different people come together for a common cause and then share a common heart. I saw a group of dedicated people give of themselves to this cause and saw the benefits of working with people whose hearts are united. By the time the participants arrived, they were not met by a group of people with individual agendas, but they were joining a family.

And what a group of participants with whom to share this journey!  Many had been on leadership camps and programs before and so this was never going to be an ordinary week, but what we experienced was way better than what any of us had expected.  On arrival, we saw that many had gotten used to a particular style of leadership training, but their understanding of leadership was soon gonna be blasted out of the water!

By the end of the first day, they realised that this was not what they had expected. Already they were experiencing the feeling that this was a safe environment and that here you were allowed to spread your wing – be it ever so gently – and that you were encouraged to find your own voice. Such was the intimacy of the camp, that by mid-week, participants were saying that they feel so comfortable that it felt like they had been there for a month.

The support of the team of leaders was so amazing that people started believing in themselves and in their own abilities.  It was like being at Super Hero school!  People started seeing abilities that they never imagined they had or had only felt was possible.  Now they were seeing it with their own eyes.  Participants who were known to be quiet in their own circles, suddenly were speaking out powerfully.  People who dreamed of stepping up but were too afraid to risk – for fear of being humiliated – stepped up and stepped out and discovered that they had authority and could command an audience. (Vi … Vi va vo!)  Being allowed to creatively express themselves through Songwriting, Dance, Drama and Art, participants discovered new sides to themselves and felt their abilities filling out in other areas.

I saw people being awakened to new ideas and new perspectives and was reminded of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration speech in which he quoted Marianne Williamson’s poem from her book “A Return to Love” which says:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small Does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, As children do. We were born to make manifest The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.

GOAL’s UntAPPing Leadership camp would have encouraged ntata Nelson as the dream that he has for South Africa and the World was stirred again in the hearts and minds of these brave few. They were starting to see that they have been playing small all of their short lives and that it was time to change.

As I look back at the camp, I am reminded that the work is not done.  That what was birthed needs love, nurturing, and support if we are to see it grow and realised in the lives of these participants.  The test of our work cannot be judged by how we started, but by how it is finished. We have a long journey ahead of us, but if we can stay the course, that South Africa will be changed.

Darrel Jonathan