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  • “We are all leaders now!”

    Rotary Youth Leadership Award at Hebden Hey 2016

    This is the quote that epitomised RYLA for me.

    Last week end was my first hands on experience. I went with Donald, who has been transporting Bradford West’s RYLA students for many years, to collect Shivani and Daniel (4th and 5th on back row in photo) at the end of their week at the remarkable Hebden Hey Scout Centre.

    Donald told me that six days previously our students, in common with all the others before them, had been shy and quiet on the outward journey, not knowing what to expect from the forthcoming week, thrust together with 30 or 40 strangers in the middle of nowhere with only basic facilities. “But”, he confidently predicted, “we shall see a huge difference in them on the return journey!”

    When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by Shivani and Daniel who happily offered and made us coffee, chatting confidently as they did so. Cups in hand, we went outside and lost our students amongst the throng of young people obviously enjoying themselves, spontaneously breaking out into song and interacting together, all wearing the same RYLA 2016 polo shirts.

    I innocently asked the person next to me how I could tell the leaders from the students.

    His immediate response was,

    “We are all leaders now...…...But we couldn’t have said that a week ago”.

    What an insightful summary of the life-changing week they had just experienced!

    On the homeward journey, Shivani and Daniel had indeed changed. They spent the whole journey recounting in great detail the events of the week, the bonding with the group, the support given and obtained from each other and how they learned about their own strengths and weaknesses, discussing them with their mentors and building on them always in a positive manner.

    They both felt they had changed in ways they had never imagined and about which they will tell us when they visit our club in October.

    This description of positive change was reinforced during our visit when one young lady recognised Donald - she herself had been our student two years ago. Leanne told us that she had benefitted so much from RYLA that she volunteered to help at future courses because she wanted to help other young people attain the confidence, leadership and team building skills she had taken with her to University.

    She even persuaded Donald to have his photo taken with her for our website - a remarkable achievement in itself!

    So this is RYLA - difficult to describe and, I believe, has to be experienced to fully appreciate what it is and how much it means to everyone involved.


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