Volunteering as a Children Mentor has been one of my most fulfilling volunteer programs because it gives me the rare privilege of directly positively impacting the lives of our Next Minute Leaders™
Playing with and being around children is one of the things I do for fun. children are my favorite people on earth. No matter how stressful my school work and what’s going on in my personal life, I am always waiting for 3:45 pm to go meet with these super talented, brilliant & highly gifted children. Their quest for knowledge, leadership and athletic skills, and dedication/strong desire to contribute to the community in practical ways are overwhelmingly motivating.
For those who don’t know, “CanU is a Winnipeg-based charitable organisation that inspires hope and confidence in the leaders of tomorrow through its out-of-school mentorship and educational enrichment program for youth in Grades 5-12. Throughout the year, CanU Kids participate in a wide range of educational experiences on post-secondary campuses and develop their nutrition, health, academic, social, and leadership skills. CanU programs are designed and led by university student volunteers who are honing their leadership and community service skills. With a goal of inspiring hope and confidence, and empowering our kids to see possibilities and seize opportunities.” ( http://www.canucanada.org).
I started volunteering with CanU Canada in October 2014 (the program runs from October to March in each academic calendar). I had the privilege of mentoring kids from different ages, socio-economic, family and ethnic backgrounds. I also worked with CanU during Summer 2015 for the special program that was a partnership with Israel Idonije Foundation, Imagine Summer Leadership Program, in which I served as a role model to the kids in an ethical, professional, social and interpersonal relationship. picking up, travelling with and dropping off to The Price Companies, Red River College, University of Manitoba College of Pharmacy, Manitoba Museum, Get Out Of The Basement (GOTB), etc for professional training, skills acquisition and to widen their career choices.
And because I personally experienced the importance of having a humble & exemplary role model, I carry out my responsibilities with zeal, passion, enthusiasm and love. My ultimate goal every volunteer day is to make sure that they are at least a 1000 times better youths/young adults than myself.
One of the major ways of carrying out these responsibilities is by using positive reinforcement: appreciating/celebrating the kids for every act of kindness, humility, leadership role, heroic acts such as giving up personal comfort to make the group as a whole more comfortable, taking initiatives, etc. Examples include: celebrating a child that opens the door for others; say THANK YOU to a caregiver cleaning the floor; say THANK YOU to an invested guest/instructor on behalf of the group, etc.
Also, I don’t focus on their mistakes or errors but rather empower them to do greater and more excellent things. Don’t allow them to settle for anything less but rather guide them to think that there are no heights that they can’t attain. Oh yeah, this is exactly where the organization name comes in CANU (the University of CAN), a place where U CAN achieve anything you want with passion, dedication, discipline, diligence, hard work and God’s help, irrespective of your family, socio-economic background). We see possibilities for every seemingly impossible situation, excellence in every mistake, and greatness in every weakness.
In addition, it is commonly said that “experience is the best teacher” and so I tell them my story of how though being born without a silver spoon, achieving mediocre grade, walking around without specific goal and ambition other than to become a local fisherman and floating around with “high ranking mediocre” become an award winning student. My life was transformed due to an excellent mentor (my elder brother PRINCE GOGOGWUTE), discipline, focus, hard work and God’s Grace. Now I have to be a little careful here because my life and all that I may think I have accomplished are much of God’s Grace, Love and Mercy than my personal efforts because I have been to places, interacted with people that ordinary personal efforts wouldn’t have qualified me. And so saying that my hard work earned me these will be equivalent to using someone’s work (in this case, God’s Grace) without acknowledging it. That’s PLAGIARISM at its peak. I don’t even want to start thinking about the punishment.
Finally, haven known from personal experience, observation and words of elders that children learn more by imitation. I strive for excellence in conducting myself within and outside the program, in my conversation with fellows and even social life (because these kids are smarter and can find you anywhere (wont be surprised that they’re reading this).
Over time, I get to see many of these children display these characteristics consciously and unconsciously. This is why I refer to Children as Next Minute Leaders™ because they learn, adapt and improve so quickly and smartly that they manifest what is being thought a few minutes after. Therefore, calling them leaders of Tomorrow is underestimating their learning and leadership abilities.
It is quite impressive seeing some of the children who were part of the Grade 5&6 program grow up to take up the responsibility of Junior Mentors, mentoring the younger ones (the current Grade 5&6 kids), working alongside university student mentors like myself by “introducing kids to the dream of post-secondary education” and volunteering at other schools.
One of my favourite days was the day that one of the children (now a Junior Mentor) said that she wants to take over the leadership/management of CanU Canada after Mr Roger Berrington (the Owner/Founder). So Mr Roger in his characteristic manner: always eager to see the kids take great initiatives, very motivating and passionately supportive, asked her to write him a letter explaining her intentions and what she plans to do. And to our immense surprise, she came back a few days later with the letter. Although I don’t have access to the content of the letter (which really doesn’t matter for this article), her passion and willingness to give back to the community and serve others are praiseworthy.
The Children are our Next Minute Leaders™ because they can learn, adapt and improve so quickly and smartly that they manifest what is being thought a few minutes after. Therefore, calling them leaders of Tomorrow is underestimating their learning and leadership abilities.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING OUT TIME TO READ.
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TILL NEXT NOTE: JESUS BLESS!
CHRISTIAN G. OKWUDIWA
Twitter & Instagram: @ChrisloveCGO