Though they started the event as strangers, they developed into a global International Inspiration team brimming with confidence, new skills and enthusiasm, ready to take back what they learned and share it with their schools and communities.
The International Inspiration Young Leaders in Sheffield
Each member of the group of 14 to 18 year olds faced personal challenges when they arrived in Sheffield. Many had to communicate in English for the first time and deal with the anxiety of being so far away from home.
Right from the start, they proved they were determined to throw themselves into this once-in-a-lifetime experience. By the end of the week, this group of strangers from around the world had become one giant family.
The Young Leaders took part in workshops on safeguarding young people and volunteering, designed to develop their leadership and communication skills. Many were surprised by the amount of time that goes into organising an event like the UK School Games, and excited by the opportunity to meet peers from different cultures and countries.
'The best thing about this programme is the knowledge that I've gained,' said Aiman, a Young Leader from Malaysia. I was really dumbfounded by the level of management of the UK School Games. I've learned a lot about volleyball and athletics through volunteering in these events. I truly feel that this will make me thrive further in life.'
Speaking about the impact the experience will have on his future, Yousuf, a Young Leader from Pakistan who received an award for his courage throughout the week, said: 'I feel so much more confident – this has helped develop my communication skills. I got a chance to know difference people, countries and their culture. I made some very good friends, faced some difficult situations and have learnt how to cope with them.'
Inspiring each other
What impressed me most of all was seeing how the Young Leaders supported one another to overcome challenges. They motivated each other with infectious enthusiasm and a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get on with whatever they had to do to make it work.
According to Abbi, a Young Leader from Wales: 'It was hard to communicate at first as some of the Young Leaders don’t speak English, but we all found a way around it together. Everyone involved in International Inspiration and the UK School Games is now one big family which I will never forget! I can't wait to share my experiences with my school and community so that they can understand how much International Inspiration is doing.'
Hamzah, a Young Leader from Jordan, added: 'It’s hard to build relationships with people that have different cultures, traditions, and language. But, through the UK School Games, we did it easily.'
Sharing back home
The evaluation session proved to be an emotional experience as the Young Leaders reflected on their week. And while there were some tearful goodbyes to new friends from around the world, they were also excited about sharing what they'd learned when they got back home.
Amira, an adult chaperone from Pakistan, said: 'When I came to the UK I was full of dreams and hopes to bring smiles to less privileged students. When I go home I know I'm going to see my dreams come true.'
Jack, a Young Leader from Scotland, added: 'I've learned huge amounts about other cultures, the organisation of large events, and even some new things about myself. I've learned new skills which I will be able to take home and use within my community to help promote sport, and made links with countries I never thought would have been possible.'
Summing up the excitement, experience and joy of the week, Baraka, a Young Leader from Tanzania wrote this poem on behalf of the group:
'It is International Inspiration, yes it inspires,
Aspire to inspire before you expire,
Fire is for water, not fire for fire,
Keep on inspiring and never dare to retire,
'We may have similar way but differ in earning,
We may have similar day but differ in thinking,
Nevertheless you were born here or born elsewhere,
As you are a volunteer it is love we share,
'We are the world together as one,
We are the world together we learn,
We are the world together we plan,
We are the world and together we can.'