Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Taking City's LEAD to Ethiopia

The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. It’s not just a cliché; it’s a universal truth. And just as effective leaders can have far-reaching influence, so too can an effective leadership program. All the way to, say — Ethiopia.

Staff at The City of Calgary Recreation developed the LEAD program (Leadership, Empowerment, Achieving a Difference) to help local youth prepare to be leaders in their communities. The free leadership certification program offers youth from 12 to 17 the opportunity to build confidence, gain experience, interact with their peers and develop valuable leadership skills as they work through nine distinct training modules.

“Everyone is a leader in some way,” said Debbie White, community resource services co-ordinator and one of the biggest advocates for the program. “It’s a matter of recognizing those strengths and drawing them out.”

LEAD was designed to be flexible to the wants, needs and cultures of Calgary’s diverse population. That’s what made it particularly attractive to Burke Vindevoghel. Burke is a founding director of Strong Hearts Children’s Foundation, a non-profit youth-focused organization in Ethiopia.

When Burke approached The City to ask permission to bring LEAD to Ethiopia and try it out with his youth group there, Debbie and her colleagues in Recreation were thrilled at the prospect of sharing their resource.

“What’s exciting to me is the reach of this program,” said Debbie. “We’ve already had about 300 youth participate here in Calgary. That’s wonderful but just think. Youth all over the world could benefit from this.”

LEAD has been well received here at home yet, as Burke explained, in some ways this type of leadership program is almost more important to kids in Ethiopia.

The goal of Strong Hearts Children’s Foundation is to bring youth together as a community and grow hope. “To affect a huge change in the mentality there,” said Burke.

While Calgary Recreation’s LEAD program is giving Calgary’s youth a genuine head start, it’s helping open a world of possibility to Ethiopian youth more than 12,848 kilometres away.

***The City of Calgary's LEAD program makes a difference in Ethiopia.

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