A Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) experience
The first in our National Youth Week 2016 blog series, where young people in our programs provide an insight into some of their amazing experiences.
Hello, Patrick Pham here. I’m a Bachelor of Arts graduate in Media and Communications, History, and French, and also an Alumni of Doxa’s Cadetship program. For my cadetship I had a contrasting experience in an admin role at the Australian Tax Office (ATO). I hope to use my knowledge in foreign languages and communications to grow a career in the media industry or government. Having lived a year in France, I love travel and its opportunities to broaden the mind and develop a diverse network.
Coming into Camp RYLA
It was a month after my final assessments when I got on the bus to RYLA. I quickly made friends with others while boarding the bus. Everyone seemed nervous about the camp ahead, but keen to chat and break the ice. This people who had the initiative to leave their life in the city for a week to improve their leadership skills. It was obvious that I was amongst a special group of people.
For the first few days, we attended seminar after seminar of experienced and insightful speakers. It started with a hard-hitting first session, where we were asked to imagine our funerals and describe what kind of life we wished to live. The first of many tears were shed during this session, as intensive reflection began to break down participants.
Two other seminars that come to mind include: Jacob, a brave non-gender identifying activist, who spoke about his experiences with discrimination and depression. Polyanna Lenkic, an author and corporate speaker on communication sharpened our interpersonal skills. In particular, she gave us insights on building rapport and how we could listen better to others.
The seminars prepared us well for the main challenge of the camp: to apply these new interpersonal skills to work with each other. These next few days would be memorable for the angry bickering, furrowed brows, and therapeutic tears.
We were given the task of putting on a variety show for all the RYLA sponsors in two days. Divided into small groups, tensions and stresses began to take over. Group work tired out participants, and cynical outlooks started to sink in. Some of us spoke too much, some didn’t speak at all, and some broke down in the tense atmosphere.
As the deadline approached, excitement and nervousness kicked in and we started knuckling down on the task rather than each other. We frantically wrote scripts and made props, and the show was starting to look promising.
The variety show featured a uproarious parody of the camp facilitators, a nature documentary, and a stand-up comedy routine. A highlight was an emotional speech by a participant about how the camp had stopped him from taking his life. We were all astounded by the show and so were the audience, who were touched and inspired.
That night half of the participants took their sleeping bags out and slept under the stars. We sang and played the guitar together, chatting until the early hours of the morning. From being strangers a week before, we felt like lifelong friends.
With the lessons of RYLA at the back of my mind, I can better control my negative reactions in a stressful situation. I can reach out more to people I meet, talking to them about their passions rather than sticking to small talk. I can also motivate myself more knowing what challenges I’ve already surpassed.
It may be something that I largely forget, but RYLA is an experience that has changed me more than I know.