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  • Oscar Solis

Communication, potential and trust - how Kids Kabin supports Leadership in Action

This summer, Kids Kabin hosted Oscar Solis, a volunteer from York University as he completed a six-week Leadership in Action project as a Laidlaw Scholar. Oscar is studying for an MSc in Natural Sciences, specialising in neuroscience, and through its network, The Laidlaw Foundation aims to develop the next generation of ethical leaders. This blog post is all about Oscar's time with us, taken from his final end-of-project report .

I spent six weeks volunteering with Kids Kabin, a UK-based charity that provides children in low income neighbourhoods with fun, engaging and enabling activities.


Its aim is to create a safe space for these children to be creative and develop various lifelong skills. I was primarily based in Middlesbrough, though I also visited its Newcastle location. I met and worked with children from different backgrounds, with different personalities and interests. I also worked alongside other volunteers to run sessions, including those held on the street.


Initial thoughts


I aimed to design and run sessions that tap into aspects of everyday life that I personally value: an opportunity to engage in problem solving, a curiosity for science, and an appreciation for others’ cultures.


Early days


I observed how Kids Kabin operated in different locations. I learned about the variety of relationships that children develop, and how to keep a child’s best interest. One of my favourite moments was in a Newcastle location. The activity was creating tie-dye handkerchiefs using Sharpies and rubbing alcohol.


Coincidentally, this demonstrated the principles behind chromatography, a scientific technique used to separate mixtures of chemicals. I used this knowledge to challenge a boy to see whose ink could travel through the fabric furthest. Sadly, I lost.


I also accompanied a group of children from Middlesbrough to a retreat at Seahouses. With an excess of bananas, we made some treats including some (delicious) banoffee pies and some (experimental) oat and banana cookies.


Lessons learned


I didn’t go to another country like a traditional Laidlaw Scholars experience. However, I did work with international volunteers from the Philippines, the US and Spain.


I helped these volunteers navigate through and immerse themselves in North East England’s culture. In return, I’m hoping to visit them in their countries soon!


My time at Newcastle showed me how even a very diverse set of leadership styles in one group can function successfully – with the most important thing being communication.


Over the course of my final week, the big lesson I learned was to personally have a more on-the-fly approach. No one can really predict the weather, or a group of children’s interests and values, or how a group of children will be that day.


What is important is to constantly learn and draw on past experiences to achieve the best outcome. The best part of the week was getting to know a young boy (on the right panel of images, third from the bottom).


I was really impressed by how he took the initiative, coming up with ideas for his flag, and helping out others. The biggest lesson I learned was that of potential. By having the opportunity to be creative in a safe space, the children really impressed me with what they could do. This extends to many things.


When leading a team, for example, a leader should think carefully about how everyone can get the most out of the entire experience.


Impact


The impact that Kids Kabin has is immense, with Newcastle’s location existing for more than 25 years now. The team has built a name that locals trust, and this is same vision exists in Middlesbrough’s. I’m looking forward to continuing to volunteer at Kids Kabin, giving children a chance to learn and be inspired.

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