One of the reasons why I quit my corporate job and moved abroad to join the Peace Corps was because I wanted to do more meaningful work and to be of service in a way where I could directly impact the lives of others in a positive way. I especially wanted to work with youth in the area of leadership and empowerment. So when the opportunity arose to work with my fellow PCVs at the Youth Leadership Camp (YLC), I leaped at the chance.
The Youth Leadership Camp 2017: Be the Change, was a four-day camp for 54 Nicaraguan youth who have demonstrated themselves to be outstanding students and peer leaders. Kids arrived from all over the country, proudly representing their communities. It was incredible to notice how diverse they all were.
We organized the camp around the Design for Change model, which focuses on creating projects that address problems or challenges that currently exist in communities.
The majority of the kids were selected in groups based on their city or town, so the idea was to have them implement these projects back in their communities. They started out in the feeling stage where they noticed how they felt when looking at pictures of social/environmental/health/infrastructural challenges that exist in society.
They then had to imagine a world without this problem and how life would be. The idea was to have them list a few issues that they see in their community and to select one on which to focus. From there, they went through a number of exercises and activities to plan out their solution to this challenge and to develop a step-by-step action plan to bring back to their community.
The camp wasn’t all work, however. In addition to designing their projects, we did a number of fun, bonding activities like an Olympic Games, ropes course, bonfire and talent show, to name a few. I think what I loved most about the camp was seeing the transformation in all of the kids. Many of them arrived not knowing anyone and were unsure of their own strengths and abilities. By the end, solid friendships were formed, memories were created and self-confidence was developed. I think one of my highlights was hearing from another PCV how as the bus arrived back into the capital city of Managua, all of the kids were yelling out the window, “We are leaders!” They truly felt empowered.
For many, this camp was life changing. It instilled in them a feeling of empowerment and responsibility. Responsibility not just for themselves, but for their country. Nicaragua is in need of more youth leaders who can carry their country forward and bring about positive change. These kids are the catalyst to create a future full of possibility. I feel so honored to know them.