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Changemakers 2016

by Panisha Pindoria

The School for Changemakers (SfCM) had its latest residential weekend away at a brand new venue at St Mary's University, in Twickenham.

Marking its 7th anniversary, it was able to provide a networking opportunity for participating young people, aged between 18-28, moving into internships, in between studies, exploring their career paths and who have been identified as emerging leaders of the future. 

As a result, we had a very diverse group of young people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds learning about aspects of ‘change’ from personal, professional and spiritual dimensions. The hope is to develop leaders who create positive changes in themselves, communities, countries and throughout the world.

As part of the School for Changemakers annual summer conference (June 17th-19th), 60 young people gathered from all across the UK and beyond at St Mary's University to take part in an intensive, 3-day event. Panisha Pindoria, a delegate, gives her personal account and experience of the 2016 conference

We had a variety of speakers this year, focusing on conflict resolution, leadership within the workplace and one’s own life as well as on creating global change. Hearing impactful stories in a safe environment with time to reflect and discuss was invaluable.

Pat Magee and Jo Berry visited us again, and on the first evening shared their story, which made an impression on us that has stayed with many of the delegates. Their personal example of peace and reconciliation showed us the full impacts of actions and the strength it takes to share your story even if for the betterment of others.

We also heard from Amit Mukherjee and Howard Grace; strong characters in their own right, passionate about leadership and its application within their varying lives. After travelling the world and facilitating change through Australia and India with IofC, Howard worked with young people to help them move out of their comfort zones, to be their better selves and to understand that freedom isn’t free. As a lot of the delegates were students or working with the youth, it was inspiring to hear how he has incorporated his passion in his work to help others lead themselves.

Amit went on to speak about change and leadership, noticing a concern in his environment and deciding to make a change. The relatability of the talks helped us all to realise that if you’re doing something right, with a passion, we can become part of the solution rather than focusing on the problem.

Onjali Rauf was also present to speak about Making Herstory, a not-for-profit company she launched to work to end the abuse and trafficking of women and children. Her hard-hitting story resonated with many of the participants as an eye-opening and relevant session, informing us of the magnitude of the work set out by Making Herstory, spanning from the UK to Calais, to Bangladesh and beyond.

The underlying theme of the speakers throughout the weekend showed attendees exactly how they can try to create a change in their society, community or the wider environment and follow through with succession as proudly shown through the examples of Changemakers present at the weekend.

We had learning tracks which focused on the Environment, Neuroscience & Yoga and Difficult Conversations run by Scott Darby, Daya Bhagwandas and Paul Gutteridge respectively. I attended the latter, mainly focusing on understanding yourself and how to use this when working in a team and solving problems. Building on your strengths to attain the goals you wish to acquire by leading yourself was a fundamental learning taken from the three-day session concluding with personal difficult conversations simulations in order to incorporate the learnings in a real life scenario and seeing the changes within yourself of how you approach certain situations.

We also ran learning tracks specifically to show and delve into the history of Irene Laure and Frank Buchman. Sharing their stories in a creative way and discussing the journey they both took had a profound effect on the delegates. It showed them hardships, which may be seen as something hard to relate to because of the time period, but helped them to understand the passion and drive behind their work and how far it has lived through many of the Changemakers.

As always, there was a talent night showcasing the vast personalities present over the weekend ranging from spoken word, to singing, to dance workshops and poetry recitals. Rekindling old friendships and forging new relationships with like-minded individuals is a great way to refresh and recharge. Culminating relationships where the conversations are based on more than people and events is something many people appreciate from events such as SfCM in turn helping them to enhance their selves and taking that away to implement within their daily lives.

We ended the event with a talk from a special guest speaker, Akala. Many of our participants have seen Akala before as well as heard his performances through various channels and one such individual, Rumbi Mukoyi, shares her experience below:

Over the past few years, the School for Changemakers have helped me bring many of dreams into reality. This latest one was meeting Akala, having only been introduced to him through YouTube videos of his many performances and speeches. I felt it was important to meet an academic and poet gifted with the ability to connect the dots around current affair issues such as racism, politics and imperials that often we do not know we're missing. He brings not only wisdom beyond his years but also provides a rhetoric that encapsulates all religious, creeds and colours whilst still being someone that is relatable to the younger generation. He had become an educator with a difference, as he does not simply dictate the way in which we should think but puts forward all the evidence and leaves us to make our own conclusions.

As always, the main feedback was that three days were far too short for a group such as this to come together, share stories and learn and grow together in such a safe environment.

Ammaar Rahim, a first time attendee of the School for Changemakers had this to say on his experience:

SfCM was an incredibly reflective experience. The sessions ran by the facilitators have had a profound impact on the way I conduct myself. It was a trigger for me to reflect on myself and my life. By reflecting on my life, I have realised that for me to bring about change, I need to change myself. For that lesson, I don’t think I can ever repay the facilitators at SfCM.

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