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ENVEST (Day #3) – Empowerment

Astana, Kazakhstan – Did you know Astana, Kazakhstan is the second coldest capital in the world next to Ulanbaatar, Mongolia? The temperature dropped roughly 25 degrees overnight. Yesterday was 90 degrees and sunny, while today brought some Central Asian brisk air. Needless to say, day two of our five-day leadership summit kicked off to a cool start. To begin the day, we reviewed notes from yesterday’s brainstorming session regarding the social action projects that each group will present on the final day. Listening ears were turned on early when feedback was exchanged amongst the various nationalities, kicking off the day’s topics of communication and empowerment.

Following the social action plan debrief, we braved the brisk temperatures for some fun and friendly sport competitions. Our Richmond Strikers’ representatives Will Bates and Todd Johnson led the warm-up activities based around our theme of communication. Games included tail tag, blindfolded partner walks, and Ethiopian Escape – a soccer version of the popular U.S. game, capture the flag. The physical activities stimulated the youth with high heart rates and activated their brains for another full day of productive collaboration.

The dynamic duo of Dr. LeCrom and Dr. Dwyer began the first lecture by introducing the topic of personal empowerment. Their discussions included topics such as: how is personal empowerment achieved, examples of empowered leaders and how they came to be, and what characteristics those leaders possess.

Dr. Dwyer then took-over, transitioning from personal empowerment to how we can use our own power and influence to advocate for others. The common realization in the room was that bullying – in its many forms – happens in every culture, every day. Participants suggested solutions on how we as leaders can advocate for our peers and be the voice for those who may not be able to do so themselves.

VCU’s Jen Gellock wrapped up the empowerment discussion with an activity focusing on ways to foster personal empowerment. In this activity, participants wrote down answers to statements such as: “I am grateful for…”; “I am good at…”; “I am confident when I…”; amongst others. The youth participants then shared their responses in small groups and discussed vulnerability and ways to overcame those obstacles.

After lunch, the 8 youth members who traveled from the United States, performed a skit directed by Dr. Dwyer. With the pressure on, they comically broke down the barriers of communication – despite the language barrier that existed between the participants in attendance. I think we may have a nomination for the upcoming Oscars…

Eager to hit the field for the second time today, the group went back outside to play some more football – or as you may know it, soccer. The Strikers’ Will Bates and Todd Johnson took the lead again progressing from competitive small-sided games to 8v8 scrimmages. Soccer has proven to be a common love that has brought all cultures and countries together at the end of both days.

“Caption this”

As Day 2 of the summit neared the end, we got some awesome last minute news that we were given tickets to attend a ballet performance at the World Expo! The US Embassy in Astana hosted “The Human Energy Connection,” performed by the Island Moving Company who traveled from their home base in Newport, Rhode Island. As we left the Expo, the youth participants from the U.S., Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan chatted excitedly about the performance, thus providing yet another example of how sport and dance can bring people together.

Throughout the trip, every night ends with a brief discussion, with the entire delegation sharing their thoughts and experiences from that day. Our members were impressed by the confidence that other countries’ participants portrayed. Their optimistic outlook on life was certainly contagious – despite significant struggles they face in their own communities – and our members ended the day eager and excited for more collaboration.

You know how when you are so tired and you can’t stop laughing? That is how we ended day three on our drive back to our hotel. Trivia and some bad jokes capped a long day. The good news is we get to sleep in tomorrow! After some well-deserved rest, we are all looking forward to exploring what the World Expo 2017 has to offer here in Astana!

Can you answer the trivia question that stumped our youth delegation?

“What are the three NCAA Division I universities that have colors for their school names?” – Answers to follow on tomorrow’s blog post [no cheating!].

 

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