Life Change Stories

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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.

 

3

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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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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How They Do It

Throughout our time in Ghana, Nikki and TK have shown us the realities of their communities and country, whether hopeful or challenging. They have shown us their work in the streets with children and youth, they’ve shown us their work in the village of Lolito, and the work they do mentoring university students. Through their time leading us here it has become apparent to me that commitment and consistency are what change and transform people as well as communities.

In Nikki and TK’s work, this commitment and consistency come out of a deep love they have for the people they work with. Each child they interact with on the streets or in Lolito, each university student they invest in, they acknowledge the importance and value of each one of them and make it a point for them to know that they are loved and that they too can make a difference in their own community.

1

Waterloo to Accra

Back home in Canada, if a police officer identified a child to be homeless, they would likely be taken to shelter and provided for and through our child services system eventually  placed into some kind of home. But here in Ghana the government does not intervene and the police are probably your enemy.

As we set out this evening into the streets, our guide Desmond, a young and dedicated Future of Africa leader took us through a modern shopping mall that wouldn’t have looked much different from the mall back home. Yet just a short walk from what looks like a developed and modern area you can find many children who struggle to survive on the streets. In this case, the children we met literally slept on the street atop a 3 ft tall median dividing a highway with fast moving traffic.

Desmond said to us “ok were going to do something kind of dangerous now” so we jumped onto the median and stood on top of it where the kids sleeping arrangements were sprawled out. Unbelievably this was where these children slept. Only a few rolls in one’s sleep and a child could be rolling off the median and into oncoming traffic, never mind trying to sleep with the noise. As if that wasn’t hard enough, two young girls, both under 15, told me how police would come and tell them to move, and beat them. But where are they to go? I had to wonder.

Yet despite these horrendous circumstances there were still smiling faces and mine was one of them. After we moved off the median and onto the side of the highway, we joined the kids in some games. Many of these games involved singing and dancing, of which I did not know the words or the moves. All the same, I was inspired by the way the kids joined together and found joy in the middle of a highway that is their home here in Ghana.

The children were happy to teach us their games and we somewhat awkwardly became their students. But I can honestly say being with this group of Ghanaian children was probably the most fun I’ve had with a group of people for a while. I mean the mission immersion team is alright but these kids were a blast. I don’t dance for just anyone.

Also along for the fun was team member Harry, who got himself into a bit of a “hairy” situation.  Having longer hair that is different from most Africans hair, the kids naturally wanted to touch it. His nicely styled hair was soon messed up by half a dozen pairs of little hands. Harry also brought his ukulele which helped us to engage with the kids.

All in all, the evening was such a mix of emotions and experiences from the sadness of hearing about the circumstances of their lives to being inspired by the joy they still have and shared with us. But I would say I feel richer and privileged to have spent time with these kids.

-Roland Fleming

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.

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David Marshall

We seldom hear from them. They provide immense insight, vision, effective strategies, investment and even perspectives from all angles. Who are these people? They are simply the ones who work behind the scenes. In other cultures, their name varies but in our context, their title is board director.

In this Championing Change entry, we will focus on David Marshall, CEO of MarshallZehr Real Estate Capital and also a member of the Board for Life Change Adventures (LCA).

David, a man of Faith, alluded to the fact that he is fortunate to not only be able to incite change on the economic foundational landscape at both the micro and macro levels but also in the lives of people, students in particular. “The change I am focus on is using my abilities to work with students and developing a personal faith in Jesus Christ while learning how to use their faith in whatever field they choose. We live in a time where students from diverse backgrounds come to Canada to study and we can meet, interact and build relationships with these people.” A part from his work with Life Change Adventures, David also invests his time, knowledge, and wisdom in providing mentorship as he believes that mentorship can significantly aid character development especially when centered on scripture and its teachings. A recipient of high quality mentorship himself, Dave admitted that he does not see people as projects, “I just want to be their friends. It’s all about relationships.”

In response to the question about his views on what LCA has accomplished and could do going forward, Dave did not hold back. He noted that the selfless approach of the volunteers and staff can be attributed to the Christian faith roots of LCA which are taken from scripture; to serve others and care for the needy is commendable and has replicable qualities. He feels that the efforts of the organization could be maximized if more funding was possible and so, acknowledged the operational need for the division of LCA into two facets which would improve funding access.

I could not resist but ask what was unique about the way LCA does things. There are thousands of charitable organizations which share similar principles so what makes this one special? I thought. “I think it is the people that have brought LCA together; it’s a very grass-root. There is a unique theme is a very specific community and they truly care for everyone in that community. Despite the facts that the leaders have Christian based principles, they are well respected and everyone knows that there is deep care. It’s different from other organizations that jump in, do an event then leave. It’s that this organization has become a part of the DNA of the Sunnydale community. Schools see tremendous value. It’s not about money. You know something is successful when so many people wanting to volunteer. Another thing, it’s not about the leadership which is unique. It’s there to train and equip youth leaders and just provide help when they need it. That’s how you let a leader lead.

Introspectively, Dave went on to state, “As a student, I was mentored by the leadership of LCA. I believe so much of what they are doing to now. It’s a part of my life. The whole DNA of equipping youth people in their own context is what happened to me. I am still mentored by Jeremy and I value him. That mentorship allowed me to mentor others which is like the passing of the torch per se.

As it is my natural proclivity, I inquired about his thoughts, ideas and advice to youth with potential. He made it concise, digestible and lucid. Go to people doing a very good job and ask how you can be involved, learn, be equipped and find your vision.”

David Marshall, member of the LCA Board and a firm proponent of mentorship.

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Nikki Horne

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good and simple honesty. When people are lucky enough to hear stories of inspiration and/or meet individuals who are creating a beneficial pathway for others; one of the pivotal points of curiosity is, “How did you start doing this?” I do not know about you but I want unfiltered, unpurified and uncontaminated probity. Is it that you were born with the intrinsic desire to help others or is there something else?

I was greatly appreciative when she said how she started out which confirmed my theory, that she is human like you and I. She was told that after graduation, the best way to get a good paying job in her developed country is to go to a developing nation, get some experience and then return. That was the original, untouched intent and so she did. However, there was a twist to her story; a factor she never considered and as a consequence, there was a clear shift in motive, perspectives and life direction.

In this Championing Change Series, we will see mission through the eyes of Nikki Horne. To sweeten the pot, her experience took place in the Spanish corner of the Caribbean, Ecuador where she spent over 8 years.

The factor which flipped her world is what we call, “relationships”. She summed it up perfectly while at the same time acknowledging the selfishness in her original intent. “If you go into a context to sincerely try to serve the people and meet their needs, it becomes hard to leave. It’s terrible to think that I could go there, ride on their back and return to get a great job! When you develop relationships with people, you then really want to cheer for them and before long you become part of their family.”

In Ecuador, Nikki walked along side people in marginalized contexts. These people are usually under very oppressive systems. Kids cannot go to school, health care is limited, food is in short supply and the lure of criminal activities becomes more enticing with each passing day. “I worked in a school which offered free education and learnt that free education has to be coupled with other opportunities to be of any help. I got into health care, counseling and soon found myself acting as a bridge so they can access basic human rights.” Nikki said her job was identifying individual needs and tackling them. This individual based approach is effective but its reach debatable which she consciously acknowledged. People are made up differently and as a result, their situations and requirements are unique. This is the basis of the approach of the Onzole River Project Co-Founder.

I do not know about you, but I want unfiltered, unpurified and uncontaminated probity. Is it that you were born with the intrinsic desire to help others or is there something else?

It is Nikki’s belief that it is our responsibility as humanity to look at other people, share our time, resources and efforts. She spoke passionately about not wanting to be the center of her efforts, as it’s not supposed to benefit her. “To see people step into their true potential, children graduating, and parents finally being able to provide for their families are the only benefits I will accept as I find seeing all these things extremely fulfilling. I believe I am privileged as I get the opportunity to go serve in these communities.”

With regards to amplifying her efforts, Nikki noted skill sharing as being the most valuable resource to development. “People are hungry for skills. We set up vocational training centers so we can professionally develop our community leaders and in turn they can teach others. To give skills require you to give of your time, sacrifice leaving your family, and find funds to travel. People are sadly not willing to embark on this journey of selflessness,” she lamented.

Nikki concurred that change can only happen if we all start working in our own communities and as long as we are working diligently in our own corners of the world, change will happen. Nikki had advice for two audiences. To the adults she insists that a greater mentorship role of the youth has to be played and to the youth she stated so beautifully,

“There will always be pressure from society but it’s important you find pleasure in abandoning everything and pursuing what makes you happy.”

Nikki Horne, the Ecuadorian in her own right, now sets her sights on transitioning to the continent of Africa where she is hoping to contribute.