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Leaders of Tomorrow

UNICEF-supported summer camp helps young people to discover their leadership skills


By Konul Karimova

SHAMAKHI, Azerbaijan, August 2017 - Sounds of discussions raise from the crowded conference room of the hotel in Shamakhi, a town 110 km west of Baku. It`s 40 degrees outside and there are loads of summer activities they can do, but it doesn’t matter for young leaders of tomorrow. Because gathered around a small table and a white sheet of paper, instead they choose to have a heated discussion about environment and its protection. They are passionate and full of ideas they want to communicate. Their voices echo in the room, but it has a perfect harmony that seems to make discussions a peaceful and a constructive one. Their teaching supervisor Farid, counts down the time; they have last five minutes to finish their presentation. As the ring bells the preparation phase is over and six groups of children from different regions gather in the courtyard of the hotel. They are excited and seem ready to discuss environmental problems and propose solutions to their peers. Supervisor gives an introductory speech briefly talking about things they have discussed earlier about environment and importance of protecting it and an interesting round of presentations begin. Every group seem to grasp the importance of the issue. What makes their presentations even more interesting is different perspectives they have towards the same issue, thanks to their various backgrounds.

This summer camp is just an initial step of these young leaders` journey. The State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan Republic hosted summer camp with the support of UNICEF as a preparation for the 4th Children Forum that will take place on November 20th in Baku, where children from all over the country will have chance to raise their voice and discuss issues that have direct influence on them.  Forum gives platform for the young adults to share their ideas.

“We developed our public speaking skills, but most importantly, we have been treated like adults. We now know how it is to be listened to and how important it is to value others` opinions,” says Chinare Mustafayeva, 15, from Shaki. Her friend Gunel Bayramova, 17 from Gazakh also agrees with her, adding, “I have chance to make my voice heard in here. While preparing for forum we had discussions on different topics and I realized that one topic can be handled from different perspectives. I see one issue from many different points and it helps me to excel.”

As part of the summer camp curriculum children had chance to get information on various topics from the experts in the respected fields including child rights, internet security, role of family and society in their personal development, environmental protection and healthy lifestyle, and leadership. Following the information sessions, children were divided into groups to discuss the issue and propose solutions with a presentation. Regardless of the serious programme they have at the summer camp, children don`t seem to see camp as a holiday, but as a valuable chance to expand their knowledge – and their group of friends.

“In our age, we tend to listen to our peers more. While getting more information on different topics we learn how to promote good habits among our peers in our region. Just like bad habits spread quickly, we can spread good habits and contribute to change among young adults across the regions,” says Orkhan Yusifov, 17, from Shamkir. He also adds, “However, all this is not as important as the valuable friendships we made here.”

At the end, what matters the most for the participants was the friendships and memories they have made as well as the knowledge they gained that will light their way on the way of becoming good leaders in their own communities. 



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