“Unleash my strengths!” sounds like a command we may use to summon our superhero alter ego. But maybe that’s why it attracted 12 children to attend a 6-activity programme designed by Jia Jia, a 19-year-old intern studying psychology at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She felt that we often associate strengths with the competencies that bring success, and seldom do we celebrate other qualities of a person. True enough, when asked to list their strengths at the first session, the children mainly put down football, cycling and art in their scrap book. However, by the end of the second activity, strengths of the heart emerged.
Courage and kindness were strengths that all children had listed at some point over the 6 weeks. So, when asked how they would apply these strengths, the group decided that they would share their drinks with strangers who needed them more. With a bottle of water in hand, the children approached older people around their neighbourhood to offer them a drink. All except a 9-year-old who told us that the older people were probably not that thirsty. Then he plucked up his courage and approached a labourer.
We were impressed with the discernment this child exercised and praised him for putting much thought into his decision and sticking with it even when his friends were doing something else. The context defines our strengths and Jia Jia did an excellent job of introducing our children to activities where their strengths could emerge. During an outdoor cooking session, our volunteers were struggling to start a fire, but the children quickly figured out that a few matchsticks placed on top of the fire-starter did the trick.
Tammie, a volunteer shared that she was initially a little apprehensive of the children as they had the reputation of coming from the neighbourhood with the rowdiest kids. But over 6 weeks, she found them teachable, cooperative and very caring toward their siblings and their friends. She was impressed that when given a task, they kept at it and explored different ways to complete it. “It is easy for us to dismiss the strengths of people who are very different from ourselves especially when we judge them from a distance,” she reflected.
The programme also included moments when children spoke about their weaknesses and their lack of success in school was the big one. When they shared about the unkind remarks they have endured from others as a result, it drove home the point that usually only those who succeed are regarded as capable, strong and of worth. Jia Jia summarised, “Everyone is different but can contribute to society. Before we dismiss people, who seem like they ‘cannot make it,’ will we give ourselves a chance to understand them? Will we give them a chance to unleash their strengths?”
Enjoy your weekend.
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu