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World, meet these butterflies

Indonesia, July 29, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Rusli Halim/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Rusli Halim/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Gunawan Meliyandoko/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Gunawan Meliyandoko/Mercy Corps

When we first kicked off the Global Citizen Corps (GCC) program in Indonesia earlier this year, we didn’t expect that more than 700 young people of Jakarta would apply to be GCC leaders in over a month period of recruitment. We spent sleepless nights at the office just to shortlist the candidates into 100 leaders that we would train on personal development, leadership, media and action planning skills this July. Reading those essays they submitted, browsing those blogs they listed. And it wasn’t an easy thing to do because these applicants were all stellar.

But we managed to find (and contact) our first 100 leaders — with special thanks to the FIFA World Cup matches that kept us accompanied while we stayed up late nights.

And so came the trainings. We divided the leaders into two batches of training. The first half, which mostly consisted of high-school students, took place in the first week of July. Yesterday, we just wrapped up the training for the second half, which mostly consisted of university students. We formalized these trainings into a week-long Youth Camp where we stayed in a beautiful lodge up in the hills, about three hours from Jakarta by bus. The objective was to radically alter the way these young people think about the world and their role within it, and to equip them with the skills needed to take meaningful actions in their communities. We aimed to create a new generation of poverty and inequality fighters.

It turned out to be a life-changing experience, not only for the participants but also to us, the facilitators. These kids were amazing. They blew our minds with their curiosity, energy and enthusiasm. But most of all, we were amazed by their openness to change. It was like watching a pupa transform into a butterfly through the metamorphosis at the camp. They transformed each other throughout the week.

“I wonder why food security issue hasn’t been blown up in the media like climate change. Is it because it’s not that important? Or because it’s simply not cool to talk about it?” asked one of the participants from the first batch during the Global Issues discussion.

“Because all of us can feel the impact of the climate change. Stormy weather in dry season like we are having now, for example. We normally don’t notice the thing we’re not experiencing, but it doesn’t mean it’s less important,” responded another participant.

“And so, it all comes back to us. To be a global citizen leader, we have to care about everything, included things that don’t impact us directly,” concluded the others.

That was just one example of fruitful discussions we had each day at the camp. Not to mention the inspiring guest speaker we have invited to talk with the kids who gave the kids a new perspective in looking at the word “action.” We invited a famous actor who’s also an environmental activist, the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone Indonesia magazine who’s also a defender of human rights, a well-known designer graphic who uses his skills in influencing people about social issues and a member of Indonesian Parliament to talk with the kids. We also had a number of Mercy Corps senior staff to share their expertise with the participants at the camp. These speakers came to me at the end of their session and said things like, “These kids are mind-blowing, I almost couldn’t handle the questions. How did you even find them?”

At the end of the training, the kids almost refused to go home because they were enjoying their time there so much. They joked about it and said “Can we stay another week?” or “Can I join the second batch too?” or “Is there any third batch?” It felt like the whole sleepless nights paid off. They keep thanking us for inspiring them throughout the camp, when the truth is...it’s us who were inspired by everything they were and did.

So now, as we recharge our energy for our next projects, we also can hardly wait for the actions that these kids are up to in the following months. We’re pretty sure they will blow our minds again as they flap their new wings of change.