Energy, Creativity, Capacity

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By Christine Ennulat
Posted on 2/16/2011

The chatter of nervous teenagers buzzed in the community center in Turmalina, a small town in southeastern Brazil. As the grownups watched the handful of young people preparing to lead an activity around the importance of education — the first time they had let youth take the lead in quite this way — they wondered whether they could pull off the learning activity they had planned for their peers.

For that matter, so did the three teenagers.

Would anybody come? Would anyone join in the discussion? Or would it be just totally lame?

 Youth facilitators in training using netbooks.
 Youth facilitators in training using netbooks. 
 Youth facilitators Nathany, Roberta and Thais.
 Youth facilitators Nathany, Roberta and Thais.

The session would be one of several culminating moments in a netbook pilot program ChildFund implemented in two Brazilian communities, one urban and one rural, late last summer. The pilot was designed to explore how netbooks might support programming activities for children and youth. (A concurrent pilot program applied netbooks to monitor child well-being in a third community.) ChildFund staff used netbooks loaded with BrainHoney educational software by Agilix, to train staff as well as local community mobilizers, who in turn used the netbooks to train youth facilitators.

Three of them now stood at the front of the room, preparing to facilitate.

It helped that the three girls already had a little eager excitement going in, thanks to the training in facilitation best practices that they had just completed on the netbooks.

They knew they had much to gain from the experience of applying what they had learned to tackling an important issue with their peers. Courage, in particular. “We will lose our fear of public speaking,” one of the girls said. “We will conquer our fears and be leaders. We will know how to interact with our peers, prepare presentations and have a better understanding of our friends’ feelings about our community.”

Other topics they looked forward to bringing to the group included issues like environment, drugs, health and violence.

The first time they presented, though, they were so nervous. Most of the adults, who included representatives from the Brazil national office as well as ChildFund’s international office, tiptoed out, thinking the girls might be less intimidated. Young people began to fill the seats in the room. It was time.

Haltingly, the girls began to toss questions to the group. Shyly, the participants began to respond, soon loosening up and becoming more effusive in their answers. Then they divided into smaller groups to write about their choices about education, producing posters about their choices and on “how my studies can help me.”

We will lose our fear of public speaking. We will conquer our fears and be leaders. We will know how to interact with our peers, prepare presentations and have a better understanding of our friends’ feelings about our community.  

- Youth facilitator,


The adults were impressed. Ana Paula, a community mobilizer, was one of them. “We have to respect their willingness to participate in the activities,” she said. “They have much energy, creativity and capacity to facilitate.”

Another, Vera, was struck by the power inherent in young people’s participation. “I see that it is of big importance to have the youth as facilitators,” she said. “They have potential, and they felt themselves really important when doing the facilitation. To be part of something, get involved and make a difference is a path for their own development, and for the community’s. They need to be given more responsibility and to be encouraged so they are every day more committed in the process of their own development.”

The young people will be able to explore those possibilities in the youth groups that formed as an outgrowth of the facilitated events in both Turmalina and the other pilot site, Vespasiano.

“The youth facilitators were well prepared and had the control and were committed to the activities,” said Patricia, one of the mobilizers there. “We learned that they have potential and we just need to give them a chance so they can discover their own value.”

The training certainly got them thinking. “I thought the word ‘facilitator’ interesting,” said a young facilitator trainee named Cleiomar. “It means mediator, who mediates with the participants — who does not know everything but who is part of a process.”

We know technology has great capacity to bring about empowerment in many ways. But in the case of these young leaders, we know there was much more at work than just the netbooks.