Never About the Destination, Always About the Journey

Guest article by Anna Denisenko
University of Central Florida
Anna with her women leaders at SMK Lake

When I started my Women Leaders Club at SMK Lake in Bau, Sarawak, I had roughly 15 girls (all 16 years old) rotate through my meetings. We discussed issues relating to Self Esteem, Wellness, Relationships, and of course, all the more candid and fun topics like, “Miss, have you ever kissed a boy before?” (How scandalous!) After a few months, it was time to get serious. I informed the girls we would be planning an English camp at a neighboring school for lower-form students, and THEY would be leading it. The activities they would be leading would be the very same ones I had been doing with them so far, and now was the time to really start practicing. Instead of me going over the lessons, I had them practice saying the lessons out loud to each other. I also managed to bring most of them to a lower-form class at school so they could get more hands-on practice.

One of the women leaders practicing leading an activity.
So how did it all turn out? By the time the camp rolled around, most of the Women Leaders really only had a grasp of one of the four main activities, and the responsibility of the camp fell back heavily on the American English Teaching Assistants. The camp ran over schedule and was fairly disorganized. Little went according to plan. With that being said, I don’t think this camp was a failure. In fact, even though I feel like I could have done better with certain things, I still accomplished every goal I had. And that’s because it was never about the camp.
Camp participants performing in front of a group.

After it is all over, my Women Leaders thank me for giving them an opportunity to lead. They tell me they never thought they would have the courage to speak English to a room of 100+ people, but now they wish they could do it again. I remind one girl of how shy she was in the beginning, and I show her the video I took where she is taking charge and commanding the activity. I joke with another girl who didn’t speak any English at first, but stuck with me the entire year. I compliment her on her bravery for coming to the camp because she was too scared to come at first. Another girl tells me I am the best teacher they ever had because I am more like a sister, and they feel comfortable practicing English with me. But, English was never the main goal here. Empowerment was.

A self-esteem activity completed by camp participants.

Everyone focuses so much on the end result. The big event. Getting the A. Impressing others with your perfection.  But all the little moments are what really add up to success. Learning. Trying. Growing. These are the things that matter.

So yes, we were successful. Of course I can see their improvement; I’ve watched it happen all year. But now, THEY see it too. They know they CAN. ‘Can’ anything they want. ‘Can’ anything if they try.  They know all this because they know they are beautiful, brave, and strong. And now, they will never forget it.See more from the Women Leaders Club Empowerment Camp in this video: 

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