Involvements

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The Come Back Leader

Midway through the week, the 6 foot tall, 16 year old boy, was asked to step down from his role
as a group leader and not return to camp. Was he devastated? Was he happy? Or did he use this
setback to introspect and plan his inevitable comeback. Kol returned to Africa Camp the next
summer in the same capacity. Buoyed by a second chance, another shot at being impactful in the
lives of the campers and additional opportunity to gain the respect of those who believed in him,
he did not disappoint.
His sins the previous year encircled indiscipline, a natural proclivity to shun responsibility and
the desire to operate as a trouble maker. You can imagine the magnitude of his actions to have
brought about the decision of his termination. Some would dare say, he caused more problems
than solving them. Africa Camp needs leaders dedicated to the campers, programming and
learning experiences. His commitment to that was questionable. However, it took 12 months, 1
day and 4 minutes for Kol to amass a respectable recovery.
He was attentive in sessions, gentle with the kids, firm when disciplining, dedicated when
instructed and comfortable with his role. It was almost like looking at a different individual. He
transitioned from being the trouble maker to being one of the best leaders at camp that year. His
campers looked at him with evident admiration and how quickly they moved when he asked

them to bewildered me. What happened in that year to change him will be kept a secret for now
but one thing is sure, his behavior embodied this quote I heard some years ago from my mother:
“Every set back leaves behind a path to make your comeback”.

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The Silent Leader

 “Leadership is not a position or title, it is action and example”

Brenda is a young lady with a contagious smile, taciturn personality and such a demeanor that
gives a new definition to the term ‘humble’. This was Brenda’s 2nd year being involved with
Africa Camp. From an outsider’s vantage point, if you came to visit, you would not notice her;
not because her height mirrors that of the kids but primarily because she does not say much. This
is a rather debatable topic for leadership pundits. Does one need to be eloquent or immensely
articulate to be a good leader? Or is it possible to be verbally reserved but actionably loud?
An image I remember of Brenda is entering the arts and craft room and seeing most of the
leaders sitting on the couch chatting amongst themselves but not Brenda. She was at the table
with the kids, sitting right in the middle, doing exactly what they were doing. The best part in my
estimation, was the glee demonstrated by her phenotypic expression. She genuinely enjoyed
playing with the kids and in a conversation I had with her, she declared that its more effective to

lead by example and that’s her style. She grew to be that parent among her group of campers and
quickly grew a fan base among others. In an intense game of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissor: Leader vs
Leader’, little ol’ Brenda unexpectedly took home the trophy; and from the beginning to the end,
the campers cheered only for her with high pitched screams and shouts of “Brenda! Brenda!!
Brenda!!!”

Although Brenda’s leadership style is societally uncommon, it has significant value in inspiring
others to action, decision and cohesion.

 

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My Friend Scilla

Where does change start… significant, sustained, long lasting change… how does it happen?

While a disaster or crisis might act as catalysts they are not what make change happen. Change is always introduced and sustained by people… it begins with one and steadily grows to include increasing numbers of people… but always starts with ‘a’ person. Life Change Adventures believes this. That is why we invest in individuals. You might conclude when you look at us that we have many people involved, or it might seem like we are engaged in lots of activity, but everything we do is built around this central conviction; change is a direct result of the actions of people… not just any person, but people who possess a vision, a passion and a willingness to sacrifice. We are committed to helping develop people like this.

There is no one who better exemplifies this ambition than my friend Scilla. If you have been around any of our activities you would have undoubtedly met Scilla. You would have encountered her ever present smile and warm greeting. If you are fortunate and had a chance to watch more closely you might have witnessed her sincere love and her natural ability to put people at ease, perhaps you would have even been a beneficiary of her growing wisdom and insight.

In recent days necessity has invited Scilla to step up into some very challenging leader roles. She has demonstrated a tenacious and skillful commitment. When I watch Scilla I am reminded why Life Change exists: it is to provide people with the opportunity to discover their contribution.  People like Scilla are the ones who make a difference. She cares deeply, treats everyone with dignity, works tirelessly, promotes others ahead of herself and at her request people rally together around a common cause.

Life Change has many people who financially support our efforts, others get directly involved, some pray, many encourage through words and actions.  Please be assured that your belief in us is not in vain… we aim to see a wave of young men and women, just like Scilla.

 

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Africa Camp: Your Life, Your Story

I truly do not like being sick. This week it has meant that I have had to miss out on one of the highlights of year: Africa Camp: “Your Life, Your Story”. I could not be sadder.
But … it is has also provided me with no choice but to watch from afar – and what I have seen is truly a source of deep encouragement.
Our overriding passion at Life Change Adventures is to see a wave of people catch a vision and acquire the skills necessary to contribute to the promise of change… for a life time!
Let me tell you about Gang and his commitment to the kitchen, or Daniel doing 100’s of dishes, or Scilla tenderly caring for a child one moment and demanding attention from entire camp of 90 people the next, or Meena sitting quietly encouraging a child and speaking truth, or Mana who leaves camp to work until midnight in a fast food restaurant, or Huda who goes about her day encouraging everyone… outstanding! These leaders are willing to do whatever it takes for the good of the entire group. We often say that our youth are easily left behind or ignored, they may not sparkle with the usual trappings of success… but to overlook them is a huge mistake. These youth and young adults will unquestionably be people who will change their world… our world! And we are only just at the beginning.
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Going to Ghana was not just about what I could do in Ghana but really it was more about learning from the work that is already being done there and seeing what I can do here in my community. In Ghana we saw the grave injustices of kids who are forced to live on the street. I experienced first-hand children who slept on a hard concrete median in the middle of a highway, kids who lacked basic nourishment, shelter and healthcare.
The kid in the picture, Patrick, used to be one of those kids. Today thanks to Future of Africa he has a home and is going to school and is working hard to make a better life for himself and those around him. Some stranger’s choice to walk alongside him when no one else would has dramatically impacted his life.
Yet I find there are those in similar situations who live amongst us in Canada but often go unnoticed. I have friends who have been homeless and slept in tents or truck trailers who have also lacked basic nourishment and healthcare. I have seen those who simply due to a mental illness beyond their control are left without support and ignored by society, much like these street children were.
I wonder what might happen if more of us were to come alongside the forgotten and ignored people in our communities. I hope that by what I learned from the examples of those working in Ghana I might start to impact the lives of the forgotten in my own community.
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Five Fun Days 2017 is here!

A yearly week long dynamic day camp for children ages 5-12 from the North Waterloo community. Created and led by the Sunnydale Connect youth.

August 21st – 25th 2017

1pm – 4pm

Church in the Woods – 209 Bearinger Rd, Waterloo ON

Cost: $12 a child up to a maximum of $30 per family.

To volunteer or register, please contact Scilla at priscilla@lifechangeadventures.org

Five Fun Days 2015

2

A Small Closed Wooden Box

 

It was the last place I wanted to be.

Whenever it had come up in conversation, I would always tell people that I had never had to spend a night in the hospital. I would say it with that false sense of pride that comes with believing it had more to do with some exaggerated inner strength than just simple luck.

And yet there I was, in a hospital bed with an I.V drip in my arm, right where I had been for the past four nights. That false sense of pride finally, and rightfully, shattered.

Read More

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Running and Reading meets The Korirs

23327022886_ce7df209ec_oThe people involved with Life Change work hard to help others establish greater hope and vitality in their lives.  Along the way, we encounter a wide variety of significant challenges, so it is always an immense encouragement when we encounter others seeking to invest in this process of change.

Last week Tara and Wesley Korir joined us for the launch of one of our after school programs. First, we sat in the gym and they encouraged our kids to take seriously the importance of running and literacy. After, everyone went out on the field and ran together. What a thrill to watch our kids gallop beside this very neat couple.

I watched Wesley’s feet flow effortlessly over the blades of grass. This man who won the 2012 Boston Marathon and last week finished 6th in Chicago, demonstrated for me a chief characteristic of a leader; he slowed his pace so that he stayed a few paces ahead of the kids, all the time smiling and encouraging them to push harder and to stay in touch with him.  It is a good picture of what LCA attempts to do; enable those we serve to go a little further, believe more and strive for a better future.

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Beyond the Fun: How LCA is transforming lives and communities

The summer sun hangs overhead, mercilessly beating down upon plant and pavement alike. The thermometer reads somewhere in the high 20s, but it feels twice that. In the open parking lot, it’s swelteringly hot, but no one seems to mind. All around, kids are running with paper airplanes, playing tug-of-war, getting sprayed with water guns and carefully tie-dying t-shirts. It’s the first day of Life Change Adventures’ 5 Fun Days camp, and this eighth annual iteration is already living up to its name.
article cover picture From August 17-21, Life Change Adventures, a project of the Navigators dedicated to transforming communities by helping individuals discover their potential, brought 25 youth leaders and nearly 100 kids together for a week of fun activities in Waterloo, ON. These participants come from LCA’s area of focus, which includes the Sunnydale community as well as residential complexes near and on Albert and High streets.

In putting on this camp, however, the goal is more than simply having a fun time. “It directs children into the idea that you can do more than you think you can,” says Courtney Curzon, a senior youth leader who has been involved with LCA for the past nine years. “When they see us, the leaders and youth leaders, the kids look up to us as role models and sometimes that can change their whole idea of who they are and what they want to do.”

The youth leaders she mentions come from a group called Sunnydale Connect, an LCA program that runs out of the Sunnydale Community Centre for those in Grade 7 to 12 who want to get more involved in the community. This was where Jeremy Horne, LCA’s founder, first started his involvement in Sunnydale and is also how Courtney and Meaghan Sheppard, another senior youth leader, first became involved with the 5 Fun Days camp.
Having the Sunnydale Connect youth take on leadership roles in the camp has a dual purpose. In addition to teaching them valuable leadership skills, they develop relationships with the younger children that serve to strengthen the bond of community within their neighbourhoods. “If [the children] see [the youth leaders] walking down the street, they can go up to them and talk about issues they’re having at home or other things like that,” says Meaghan.

Priscilla Owusu-Amoah, an LCA team member, echoes this sentiment, saying she’s noticed the kids realizing that “this program is not available just so they can bring all their friends to make the group bigger. It’s available so the youth volunteers can spend time with each kid and get to know them. They know they are not just another number in the LCA books, but they are a person worth getting to know.”second within article

Meaghan and Courtney are both youth who have experienced LCA as campers and as leaders. Meaghan says that as a result of the love she was shown and the value she was given, “you go through it and you want to help the leaders who helped you and help the kids you’ve seen grow up with you.”

Speaking from what she has seen, Priscilla says that “when the kids come through all these programs, it doesn’t just end there. They take on responsibility and then give back to their community, so it’s this same investment in youth and youth development, which you don’t usually see. What we have is a kind of recycling of people, where our kids are coming back and leading the things that they went through.”

As an example of this, Priscilla and Meaghan both point to Courtney. “She has about five or six siblings,” says Priscilla, “and she started out doing things like Running and Reading and doing 5 Fun Days [as a participant] with us. Now she has the opportunity to lead her little siblings through that same thing. She has spent countless hours coming up with little outlines of pictures and themes to go into our programming so that it’s the best experience for her and her siblings as well.”

Courtney says her experience with LCA has also helped shape her career path, guiding her towards studying Early Childhood Education, which she will begin this September. She says her experiences working with kids in the 5 Fun Days camps helped to affirm this direction and gave her the confidence to know this was what she wanted to do.
third within article In Meaghan’s case, leadership and learning to be a leader among those her own age have been two significant areas of growth. Especially because she was born with a condition that has left her without fully developed limbs. She says her experiences with LCA have “given me the ability to talk to kids about it a little easier. It used to be a lot harder for me because I couldn’t wrap my brain around why kids wouldn’t understand when I said I was born this way. They just kind of looked at me like, ‘what does that mean?’ Having those leadership opportunities has given me a little bit of an easier time to explain to kids and [helping them] to understand it a bit better.”

Over the years, LCA has had a significant impact on the communities these kids live in. It’s to a point now, says Courtney, where the kids and youth leaders are asking in January about when the next 5 Fun Days will be. The answer, as always, is late August. Based on what she has seen, she also says that “when the kids in that community make friends at the camp, they’ll go home and hang out with each other, and the parents will see and you won’t have to worry as much whether it’s an unsafe community. It feels more welcoming.”

Courtney says her experience with LCA has also helped shape her career path, guiding her towards studying Early Childhood Education, which she will begin this September. She says her experiences working with kids in the 5 Fun Days camps helped to affirm this direction and gave her the confidence to know this was what she wanted to do.

“They know they are not just another number in the LCA books, but they are a person worth getting to know.”

In Meaghan’s case, leadership and learning to be a leader among those her own age have been two significant areas of growth. Especially because she was born with a condition that has left her without fully developed limbs. She says her experiences with LCA have “given me the ability to talk to kids about it a little easier. It used to be a lot harder for me because I couldn’t wrap my brain around why kids wouldn’t understand when I said I was born this way. They just kind of looked at me like, ‘what does that mean?’ Having those leadership opportunities has given me a little bit of an easier time to explain to kids and [helping them] to understand it a bit better.”

Over the years, LCA has had a significant impact on the communities these kids live in. It’s to a point now, says Courtney, where the kids and youth leaders are asking in January about when the next 5 Fun Days will be. The answer, as always, is late August. Based on what she has seen, she also says that “when the kids in that community make friends at the camp, they’ll go home and hang out with each other, and the parents will see and you won’t have to worry as much whether it’s an unsafe community. It feels more welcoming.”
fourth within article In addition, 5 Fun Days also provides opportunities for LCA team members to provide support to the families in the neighbourhoods they focus on. Priscilla says this can be in a variety of ways, such as running programs like 5 Fun Days, meeting people in their struggles and helping immigrant families, most of who are refugees from North Africa, adapt to Canadian society. “I think that’s what really makes a difference,” she says, “We go beyond what is expected and really get to know people and really get to do life with them.”

Ultimately though, in everything they do, Life Change Adventures works to be exactly what their name implies. “It gives us the opportunity to have those adventures that can change anybody’s life, for the better,” Meaghan says. “Everything we do in LCA strives to change children’s lives, in order to help them have a better family life and a better life overall and give them the opportunities they need to succeed in life.”

5 Fun Days 2015

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Day 15: Born equal, grown to be unequal

They say all good things must come to an end and indeed it is true. One would be led to believe that sight seeing primarily involves viewing illustrious buildings, environments and to some extent people. However, today being the penultimate day, we journeyed through Sodom and Gomorrah and Chokor- two places immensely punctuated by abject poverty, promiscuity, a high crime rate and an inadequate sewage system.

The smell was unbearable, houses were crammed together and the smoke from burning garbage persisted incessantly. The entire community was located within the heart of land solely designated for sewage and garbage. How people manage to live there remains a mystery. The grim image was very disheartening and a profound contrast was soon created when we saw visited one of the richest estates in Ghana shortly after. This area was well decorated with affluence and to some of the persons on the team, it appeared as if the estate was independent of the nation.

The portrait of black and white, riches versus poverty, aroma versus stench, perfection versus imperfection clearly showed the contrast.

The experience left the team reflecting on the quotation, “We were all born equal but grew to be unequal” and wondering how we could truly be agents of change…