ICOC YOUTH CORPS 2011 – Setting a great example…
Sept 4th 2011 marked the first ever ICOC Youth Corps in Nigeria. The group of 250 pre-teens and teens took off from Surulere Lagos to Ajebo Ogun State on Sunday immediately following a church-wide service of the ICOC. The group included a collection of 25 counselors. Each counselor found their group of campers and jumped on their respective buses. Counselors and campers got acquainted with their groups and ate lunch aboard the buses for the two-hour trip to camp.
The goals of camp were many. Of utmost importance was to train the children in the way of God, raising them to become disciples. Other goals included training the corpers to grow in self-awareness, to develop godly values and learn to prioritize them, to learn drug-awareness – and ultimately to be great leaders of tomorrow.
The week officially kicked off with an opening ceremony attended by HOPE Worldwide CEO Ola Clement, ICOC evangelist Chris Ogbonaya, Elder Isreal Ereola and Evangelist Laolu Karanunwi who along with his wife Abiodun were the official camp leaders. Local government leaders were also in attendance.
First on the schedule was HOPE’s Folake Matuluko who led a self-awareness exercise for the corpers. The exercise took them through a series of 14 questions designed to make the campers examine themselves, their personalities and character traits. They answered questions like “The five adjectives that best describe me”, “When I was growing up I dreamed I would be an adult who…”, “I am at my best when…” and even questions that reminded them of their mortality and leaving a legacy, such as “When I die I would like to be remembered for…”
Overall, the activity got the youths thinking about their strengths and weaknesses, their role models, the types of people they want to be when they grow up, as well as their dreams for the future.
The ICOC Corpers assembled by their house colors blue, white, red, orange and yellow. The houses selected male and female leaders for each group, then the leaders picked value-based names for each team out of a box. By the end of the exercise each team had new names. Orange house became the House of Patience, Blue house – the House of Integrity. White became the House of Kindness. Yellow house became the House of Obedience and Red house became the House of Joy.
The first full day of ICOC Youth Corps ended with a movie night with the corpers watching the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Tuesday morning had the corpers waking up at 5am for their quiet times and by 6am they had their first sports drill of the week. The corpers worked out intensely with soldier Umaru Mohammed, for an hour. It was a great way to start the day!
The Value conversation was led by Niyi Osilaja. He took the corpers through an exercise to identify their most important values, but it didn’t end there. The corpers were assembled in groups of 10 to have roundtable discussions in which they were asked to share their values. Finally, each group had to report to the entire group of Youth Corpers which three values were most important to their group. Answering the question “which values did most people in your group have in common? The most common values reported – by far – were God, Family, Education and Money.
Arts and Crafts/Do it Yourself Activities:
The campers had a chance to get their hands dirty and get involved. There were able to choose from four activities; arts and crafts during which they made fashionable brooches with Vera Akpan. A beauty and make-up workshop with Funmi Erikitola, Car Mechanics with Ifeanyi Okara and a computer workshop led by Sunday Awolowo. The goal was for each group to gain practical experience in one of these areas and be able to leave camp with a hands-on newly acquired skill.
Each house was charged with coming up with a presentation that represented their house. Two houses were given 24-hours to come up with a performance which meant they needed to perform on Tuesday night. One house performed on Wednesday and the final two houses performed on Friday night. The performances included fashion shows, dance numbers, songs and raps representing the talent of the children in each house.
Wednesday saw the corpers heading out of town on an all-day excursion in Ogun state. One group of campers went to the Olowu of Owu’s Palace while the other group went to meet with Ogun State’s Commissioner of Youth and Sports.
The first group went to the MKO Abiola Stadium for an audience with the Commissioner of Youth and Sports. After the corpers were taught the ‘locomotive clap’, Evangelist Chris Obgonaya introduced them to the Honorable Commissioner Odutola
The commissioner welcomed the corpers and discussed how important he and the governor of Ogun State believe today’s youth are to the future of Nigeria. The commissioner even mentioned that the governor’s slogan is “Catch them Young.”
Commissioner Odutola recognized the Youth Corps as part of the solution to the problems facing youth today. He called them ‘Ambassadors of the Future’ – saying programs like these are much needed and to his knowledge, have not been widely in existence, since as far back as the days of British rule.
The youth corpers were invited to ask questions of the commissioner which lead to a richer conversation. The first question posed was “Did you dream of being a commissioner?” The commissioner answered by saying no, but that he always knew he would be great. He took the corpers through his troubled upbringing, through his school and career path, what led him to be a commissioner was the desire to get involved so he could be a part of the change he wanted to see in his community. He encouraged the Youth Corpers to remain focused and always maintain a vision – because that was the way to become successful.
The commissioner also discussed the challenges of his new role in government after spending many years in the private sector. He talked about how he works hard to earn a good ‘score sheet’ from the constituents he serves as a civil servant. He also talked about the difficulties of government – how the bureaucracy makes things attempted through government take much longer than they usually would in the private sector.
Lastly, Commissioner Odutola talked about the importance of sports and how it’s a “unifier of all the tribes” as he revealed plans for a future Millineum Youth Summit.
Both groups ended up at Olumo Rock for a historic tour. They were taken through the history of the rock and crawled into spaces that Yoruba forefathers and foremothers crawled into for shelter during the war.
For a taste of adventure, some corpers got the option of climbing on hands and knees up to the top of the rock, while others decided to talk the stairs instead.
Thursday was Community Service day. The corpers had a field trip to four of the neighbouring villages close to the campsite. Each of the four groups marched along to their assigned village singing all the way. Upon arriving at each village, the corpers introduced themselves and jumped right into action meeting whatever needs they saw to meet. They sang songs, danced and played with the young children and even the adults in the village! Some grabbed brooms and started to sweep surrounding areas, some cut grass, and others played spirited games of football with the children.
Afterwards, the corpers and counselors gave clothes and food to the women, children and men in the village.
In one of the villages, the eldest woman took the corpers through the history of the settlement, telling how she came to live in that village. She took the corpers through some of her history even sharing her former Muslim background. She also discussed how life is for her now that she has lost her sight. She was overjoyed at the visitors and the gifts. A group of female corpers took initiative and swept her home.
After lunch, everyone sat down to drug-free presentation which educated the corpers about the major drugs on the streets and the damaging effects drugs have on health and lives. Then through a discussion that included movie clips, questions and prizes the corpers were trained to become ambassadors – people who take a stand against drugs and alcohol abuse in their lives and the lives of everyone around them.
Thursday ended with a heart felt Indian film entitled Like Stars on Earth which highlighted the inherent and unique value in every child. The campers confessed to being moved to tears as they watched the movie.
The last full day of camp came much too early for most of the corpers. After the usual morning of devotionals and morning drills the day began with a brief spiritual talk by —- and his wife ———about how special each one of us is to God and how he has a plan for our lives and has known us since being in our mother’s wombs. They also shared their inspiring life stories with the youth. The sister spoke about how God protected her and saved her from herself and kept her pure until marriage at the age of 34. Her husband spoke about his life becoming a disciple at an early age and staying faithful through the teen, campus, singles and not marrieds’ ministry.
The groups then divided into two. In one group were the college-age corpers while all the younger ones stayed together in another group. Representatives of the campus ministry as well as Mr. Emeh the campus ministry leader had a discussion with the next generation of campus students inspiring them with what is to come.
The younger corpers had a discussion led by Evangelist Laolu Karounwi over thunderous rain! The corpers were asked to recount their greatest learnings over the course of the week at camp. Uncle Laolu was a remarkable human amplifier loudly repeating what the campers said. Here are some of the highlights of what the Youth Corpers said they learned after their week at camp:
• How to keep their surroundings clean
• Believe in yourself and you will succeed
• How to prioritize their values
• Learned from Olumo Rock – how Abeokuta was established
• They learned the importance of developing character in order to become a successful person.
• To be able to cope with any situation she finds herself in life.
• To be obedient to their parents
• To think before speaking so as not to bring others down – set an example in speech.
• Learned the history of Owu and how to show proper respect to an Oba
• Learned about LOVE – how to be loving to all not only a few.
• Ability to learn and discover their talents
• How to put their values in the right order.
• How to determine their own values instead of going along with others
• To make sure they have the right values at any point in time
• The need to be focused and determined to realize his objectives and achieve all he wants to in life.
• Character: without good character he will not be respected.
• Values to always consider them
• Family: How important they are and how close one needs to be them.
• Learned from Like Stars on Earth: Understood that we all have potential in us.
• We should discover what God has deposited in us and live that out.
• Be Humble – without it, we will not be able to serve
• Do not let anyone kill what you have in you.
• Do not be intimidated.
The corpers then went off to lunch and to a LEAP presentation about Leadership. Presenter Kunle O took the corpers through some basic teachings about leadership and social responsibility. The discussion entitled the “Art and Act of Leadership” focused on some tenets of leadership such as the fact that:
• Leaders are made not born
• Leadership is an act not a position
• Leadership is about possibility
The corpers got moving again this time for refreshments (Name of the company) —— provided sparkling beverages for the corpers.
It was finally time for the final presentations of the final house and that honor went to the House of Patience! The Orange house performed to an excited crowd a beautiful rendition of Eh –Kaya as well as a choreographed dance number.
Friday night ended with a roaring bonfire and roast! The campers gathered round the fire singing songs, dancing and ended up eating delicious roasted goat meat by fire light.
The campers woke at 5am as usual for their morning devotionals after which we had the finals of the football tournament. It ended in a 2-1 win for the Red house over the Orange house.
Then it was off to get cleaned up and packed for home before heading to breakfast! After breakfast there was an award ceremony for counselors and campers alike. The awards presented were “Best Male and Female Counselor” which went to Jason Daly and Dr. Odusote who pulled triple duty as a counselor, the camp doctor and a helper in the kitchen. For the campers, awards were presented in three categories:
• Best Servant (male and female)
• Most Sociable (male and female)
• Best Behaved (male and female)
Saturday was a short day filled with goodbyes. The campers were loaded into buses for the return trip home. There were many tears shed by campers who were not ready to return home, or be apart from their friends. Many claimed they wanted to stay at least another week at camp!
• Less sitting/more activity – no more than 2 hours of sitting at a time
• Better scheduling including a regular afternoon downtime to rest, talk and process what they are learning and to have any necessary Family Time per cabin.
• Facilities need to be better organized – boy’s bathrooms could have done with a showering schedule for instance, since so many groups needed to share the same facilities.
• Reduce size of the groups per counselor. Have no more than one counselor per 8 children OR if possible have one senior counselor and one junior counselor (18/19 year old) per 8 or 10 kids.
• Size of the groups per lectures – decrease the groups to about 40 or 50 at the most preferably by age group. This will make the faciliators job easier by being able to target a particular age range and having a manageable classroom size.
• More different types of sports like archery, rugby, basketball etc – preferably sports that require TEAMWORK over individual achievement.
• Sports needs to be better organized – Counselors should be trained to facilitate the playing of corpers and not play sports themselves.
• First Day have an adventure team-building project that requires the participation of EVERYONE in order to succeed.
• Same or close in age campers in the same rooms – Have corpers who are close in age work together. This will also make the job of the counsellors easier to know they are working on communicating effectively with ONE age group instead of a range of for e.g. 10 – 19 year olds.
• Extensive training for counselors in advance of camp
• Information sheets on each child provided to counselors latest first day of camp.
• Realistic scheduling expectations – how long can the children sit and learn? How many lectures do we want to squeeze in per day?
• R Camp/Teen Camp plus Youth Corps is what you’re doing
• Consider the criteria: What does it take to qualify for Youth Corps?
• Snack time/Meal times – don’t let the corpers go longer than 3 hours without some thing to eat or drink.
• Water, Water, Water – especially in the hot sun of camp. Make sure the corpers are drinking water AROUND THE CLOCK!
• Make sure there is activity and movement involved in all aspects and that camp does not end up looking a lot like school.
• How do people apply/qualify etc?
• What are the age restrictions: 10 – 17 To be broken up into ages 10 – 12, 13 – 14, 15 – 17
• Better communication with the campers in advance of camp. Reminders to bring their medicine, reminders to come dressed for the activities. Shorts, T-shirts, sneakers etc.
• Focus on a specific project for the duration of Hope Youth Corps.
• The duration of camp: make sure it’s long enough for what is needed. Maybe Youth Corps needs to be two weeks? Or have other activities around the week at camp.