More than practice leaders

Jan 10, 2017
We are practicing at being leaders in the future,” says Prakash, a 16-year-old boy from Doti East. We’re sitting in a low-roofed building close to the high school campus, where Prakash is the chairperson of the “child club.”

The room is filled with close to 30 adults and youth sitting in plastic chairs. I’m on a weeklong visit to their remote community in Far West Nepal, learning about the challenges they face, along with the progress they’ve experienced so far with World Vision’s partnership.

As Prakash and his peers tell me about their experiences with the child club, I’m truly impressed by the level of determination these young people have to bring positive change.

It’s a small group—13 members at present—with six girls and seven boys. Every two weeks they meet together, devoting their energy to improving both their school and community life.

Sometimes that means planning extracurricular activities like cultural celebrations, debates, quizzes and drama presentations at school. And even though the child club is relatively small, the whole student body turns up to their events—which includes 400-500 students.

The youth also put special attention into upkeep of the school, making sure the classrooms, playground and water tap area are kept clean. If they have concerns about the learning environment, they take it up with the school monitoring committee to be addressed. They’ve even spent holiday time planting trees on the school grounds.

The group also applies their efforts in the community at large, raising awareness about important causes like promoting school enrollment among parents before school starts every year, or the push they did last year for better hygiene and sanitation. In those cases the teens are going door-to-door, talking to people and hanging posters.

I wonder aloud if they are ever intimidated to talk to adults about these kinds of issues. They seem to shrug off my question. Sometimes people don’t listen to what they have to say, but that doesn’t stop them from their mission.

In fact, when I ask which activity they’ve been most proud of, the hygiene and sanitation campaign comes up.

“It’s much cleaner now,” Prakash says, and I later learn that their area has been declared “open defecation free,” meaning everyone in their part of Doti East now uses a toilet, which has a dramatic impact on the spread of waterborne diseases.

Yogendra, 18, and Lal, 20, sit in the front row during our meeting. Both boys are blind, and attend a special school very close to the regular high school campus. I ask what they like most about being members of the club.

“I like the cultural programs because I feel comfortable and it’s enjoyable and I can develop interpersonal skills,” says Yogendra, 18. “I feel free.”

“There is no discrimination here,” Prakash adds. As chairperson, his words carry weight, especially when I learn later on that Prakash himself is also visually impaired.

I think back to what Prakash said earlier—that they are “practicing at being leaders”—and I have to disagree. These teens are already leaders. They might be a small group, but their efforts are having a real impact, and as their leadership abilities continue to grow, I’m confident that they’ll only become more effective in moving their community forward.