I was first introduced with ten beneficiaries that would be under my care on Monday. There were 7 boys and 3 girls altogether, which seemed to be a bit imbalanced considering that my team only had one male facilitator and 3 female facilitators including myself. That was not the major problem here because as it turned out, none of my kids ever had the experience of talking to a huge crowd in English! They were not communicating with either one of the facilitators and to top it all up, they entirely refused to take the opportunity to speak at the front, all mainly because they felt that their English was so bad and that they thought they would be making fool of themselves for using ‘broken English’. They had this idea that only those who could speak fluent English deserve the attention of the crowd. The facilitators even brought up the point system with hope that it could at least spark the bravery inside these kids to volunteer and share their thoughts to the crowd. Apparently, the sense of competitiveness was not enough to combat the feeling of shame these kids had within themselves and by the end of Day 1, the team and I realised that we were up against a challenge bigger than what we expected before coming to the camp.
However, it didn’t take us long to witness positive changes within this group. One kid in particular, (let’s call him Alan) was observed to exhibit remarkable change from Day 1 as he began to raise his hand up to volunteer during module’s reflection session in Day 2. All the facilitators in my group were so happy for this change and from there, we began planning our next moves on how to get everyone to follow Alan. We decided to unofficially appoint Alan as the group leader for the next two days, trying our very best to boost his confidence to lead the group as well as to keep volunteering during reflection. We even told Alan that during those two days, he got the privilege to choose one of his teammates to speak during the reflection session, to which he accepted the task with great pleasure. However, the other kids seemed to find it hard to follow Alan’s instructions, especially when it came to activities involving each one of them to speak English as a group. Throughout the morning session of Day 2, we noticed that these kids kept on looking at us facilitators and not paying attention to Alan’s instructions, as if they were hoping to get correct answers from either one of us. At first, we thought that by standing near them during their discussion, we could at least provide them with support, letting them know that we were close if they required our help. As it turned out, by doing so, we prevented them from being dependent on and supportive towards each other as a group.
Hence, during the Speaking module, we facilitators decided to ‘abandon’ our kids by standing as far away from the group as possible, but within the range of which we could still hear their discussion. We also pretended not to pay full attention to them, forcing them to interpret the module’s instructions on their own without the need to check on their understanding with us every single time. To our surprise, the method actually worked! Not only each one of the kids managed to help each other understanding the instructions correctly, they also managed to come up with lots of interesting ideas for the speaking presentation, some of them were even out of the facilitators’ imagination! At the end of that module, we facilitators witnessed a different atmosphere amongst them. They were more talkative even in English, they conversed with each other, and most important of all, they were no longer feeling tensed, which was the starting point for many of them to start volunteering during reflection session throughout the camp.
There are situations where these kids require as many attentions as possible from the facilitators to obtain sense of comfort and safety in new environment. After all, that is indeed the main reason why the camp has facilitators in the first place; to guide the beneficiaries. However, I did learn an important lesson of this snippet of experience from the Kalsom camp. The facilitators are more like scaffoldings; we support our kids, stand close to them so that we could catch them if they fall, and we show them the correct ways to grow. But when they are already strong enough to stand on their own feet, it’s time for us to step back and watch them show to the world their own ideas and opinions.