Monday, 21 October 2013

Guest Blog: Sophia Khalid - Young Leaders Exchange 2013

Hello, my name is Sophia, I participated in the Youth Leadership Exchange program (UK and North Africa) 2013 as a participant of the UK. That’s where I met Jess and other like-minded youth from both the UK and countries in the North African region. Although we all came from different parts of the world, we all shared a common vision and that is to work with and empower civil society with the aim of making the world a better place for everyone. In this guest blog I wish to share with you a bit about my experience on the program, and give you an insight into some of the interesting and significant things I took away with me.
The workshop and discussions during the first day made me question my interpretation of what a leader is. When thinking of a leader visions of someone with authority and perhaps even an autocratic, controlling nature, firing orders at others, usually cloud the mind. This interpretation is inaccurate especially when considering the best leaders. In our sub-group we came up with our definition of a leader –

“A leader empowers, inspires and unifies a group of individuals towards a shared vision, sharing knowledge and utilising skills.”

When further discussing leadership it become apparent that although we may not know it we have all been leaders at some point, whether that’s at work, amongst friends or at home with family. Learning and knowing about the traits of a good leader are therefore important to each one of us.

We visited the young Mayor of Lewisham, he is the perfect example of not only a leader but a role model. I found that initiative so inspiring and so empowering for the youth, it’s a great way to get them involved and get them interested and thinking about politics and civil society from a younger age. It is important for young people to be given a voice and this initiative not only gave them a voice but changed the dynamics of politics from something rigid and boring ‘only for adults’ to something interesting, important and approachable.

Without a doubt one of the biggest things I took away with me was what I learnt during the Leap – Confronting Conflict Workshop. It’s all to do with something called a Red Flag, we all have those moments when someone says something that may annoy us or make us angry, the blood starts to rush to our heads and the next thing we know we can’t take it anymore and the result is a negative outburst. The impact of this uncontrollable outburst, whether it was with a friend, a work colleague or a family member, can be detrimental and lead to negative consequences. Therefore it is important to know your red flag, identify what makes the blood rush to your head, makes your heart pound and your face burn. The next time you feel a red flag situation arising take control, mentally prepare your response and turn the potentially explosive situation around. This is definitely something I will be implementing in my everyday life and something I will be sharing with others.   


These are just a few of my highlights, there are so many more (maybe I can guest blog again sometime Jess! J) And among all this THE BEST THING about the program was getting to know all the other participants and being able to call them my colleagues and friends. Each one of them had a story, and I learnt something fascinating from every single one of them. It was a truly valuable experience to hear first-hand about the situation in Libya, about the history of Algeria and about some of the amazing work being done in Egypt. My new friends taught me so much about their countries, cultures, music and food. We posed with Clive, ate Bens Cookies, made up our own Bollywood lyrics, ran to Nando’s, drank Jasmine tea, laughed so much it hurt, had the best massage ever, and too too many deep conversations. I even managed to pick up some French and Arabic (Rah-ih-ha-koreeya) and have been inspired to pursue a language further. I am so grateful to have been selected to participate in this exchange and I look forward to working with the other participants in the future. Thank you also to NCVO and the British Council for making all this happen.

Please comment below if you would like to contact Sophia - I look forward to having her feature again for my blog and as she clearly has a talent for 'blogging' start her own blog! 

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