Reading for the Future
Reading for the Future is a violence prevention program in collaboration with public schools in urban and rural high risk areas, target group being children aged 11-12. Reading for the Future helps children to explore their skills and talents, to dream and to make those dreams tangible and possible to reach. Schools for the Future believes that the power to shape the future lies with the understanding of one’s own capabilities and the tools acquired to make the most of them in collaboration with others. 695 children have participated in the program since it was initiated in 2010.
The main objectives of the program is to empower a new generation of leaders by promoting self-reflection, encouraging long-term thinking, empowering dreams and ambitions for the future, strengthening school-school and home-school relations, and developing social networks and capacity building. The themes of the program are peaceful conflict resolution, democracy and human rights, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and intercultural understanding.
We work with workshop groups of 10-15 children, if possible with an equal distribution of girls and boys. The intention is that each group should be a mix of children from different family backgrounds and levels of aca-demic achievement. Each workshop is attended by 2-4 facilitators. The program includes the fol-lowing elements:
- Weekly workshops: 10 times x 2,5 hours per workshop group
- Field trips: 1 per workshop group
- Parental meetings: 1 per workshop group
- Closing ceremonies: 1 per workshop group
The methodology implies a mix of activities with the entire group and activities in smaller groups. The activities include:
- Team building activities
- Elaboration of life plans
- Public speaking
- Games and role plays
The inclusion of teachers and parents is a crucial part of our methodology.
These are the most important changes that the facilitators observed on a group level:
- Increased active participation over the cycle, especially for the more timid children
- Improved tolerance and respect within the group
- Improved self-esteem, especially among more timid participants
- Less impulsive behavior
- More confidence when speaking in public within and outside of the group
- Increased study motivation
- Increased motivation to read and readiness to visit the school library (when such exists)
- Improved reading comprehension
- Improved reflection skills
- Improved creativity
- Improved writing skills
- Increased knowledge and respect towards the environment
- Improved self-leadership
- Creative exploration
Leaders for the Future
Leaders for the Future is an advanced program open both for graduates from Reading for the Future and new participants, with the purpose of further promoting the values and practices of sustainable leadership among Salvadoran youth. The pilot was launched in 2013 and the program has so far reached a total of 120 students aged 12-14 at four partner schools.
The objective of Leaders for the Future is to further promote the impact of the themes and methodology of our basic program. The idea is to train the participants to become mentors for their younger peers, community project managers, and ambassadors of non-violence at their respective schools. The ambition is also to be able to recruit facilitators from this group in the future.
The methodology of Leaders for the Future is based on the same themes and activities as Reading for the Future, but with a stronger focus on leadership development and project facilitation. Throughout the workshop period, the participants receive tools to elaborate pilot project at their schools, which they present at the end of the program cycle. The idea is that they will be able to implement these pilot projects and thus develop their leadership skills not only based on theory but also on practice.
Some key elements of the program are:
- Knowing and reflecting upon different leadership types
- Human rights and practicing democracy
- Motivation and team development
- Communication and execution of campaigns
- Resource planning and management
- Project implementation
The facilitators have observed the following impact of the program:
- Improved collaboration within the group
- Increased tolerance towards different opinions
- Greater motivation to challenge oneself
- Improved ability to reflect
- Increased understanding and implementation of leadership in action
- Improved self-esteem
- Decrease in violent behavior within the group
- Improved public speaking skills
Shaping My Future
Shaping My Future is our newest program, targeting students aged 14-17. The pilot was launched in 2014 and enabled us to learn and develop a suitable methodology for the sustainable continuation of the program.
The key mission of Shaping My Future is to promote development in El Salvador by increasing the motivation and chances among under-privileged children to proceed to high school and university and to act as proactive, non-violent change agents in their lives and communities.
The initial methodology was trialed in 2014 and was then evaluated and adapted for future implementation. In 2015, the program was aligned in order to achieve the strongest possible impact: Part 1 to train new facilitators and Part 2 to develop support and evaluate the activities offered by the Centers. Here, students put their knowledge and insights into practice: “learning by doing”.
The following themes were included in the program:
- Team building
- Long-term thinking and life planning
- Critical thinking and analytical reflection
- Study techniques
- Study support
- Scholarship requirements and application processes
Through observations and participant evaluations, the team has identified the following points of impact of Shaping My Future:
- Many participants were shy, introverted and passive at the beginning of the program, but soon started to participate actively and to overcome their fear of speaking in public
- Increased exchange of ideas and experiences among the participants throughout the program, through work in teams consisting of students of different age groups
- Increased respect, empathy, tolerance, equality, and helpfulness each other among the group members throughout the program
- Increased awareness of human rights and their practical implementation
- Increased awareness of social and economical issues on a structural level
- Increased awareness of what leadership is and how to implement it in one own’s life and community
- Improved ability to analyze and reflect upon information and using this ability in the forming of opinions and decision making
- Improved understanding of the importance of goals and how to define and strive to reach them
- Improved study motivation
- The high interest in the creative workshops resulted in singing and dance performances in festivals and closing ceremonies organized by the participants
- The participants expressed that they preferred Schools for the Future’s workshops to other activities, because of the active, inclusive, dynamic, and team based methodology