This week on Brave Adults on Brave Kids we have a great text from Leo Lau Chung Chak, who has been involved in the project for many years, first as a Brave Kids participant, then Brave Youth, Brave Volunteer and as a group leader from the Hong Kong Youth Theater.
His “Project Amplifier” in which he asked the members of his group to produce a piece of 300-word writing, in either Chinese or English, to document, reflect on their 3-week Brave Kids journey was actually the inspiration for both our Brave Kids impressions series “Brave Kids on Brave Kids”and now this last one, “Brave Adults on Brave Kids”.
And now, here are his own impressions on his Brave Kids journey:
On trying and erring
A moment of the City Finale in Walbrzych, Poland during Brave Kids 2018 captured by Usman Muhammad, one the Hong Kong volunteers for Brave Kids Walbrzych 2018.
Dear Leo 7.0,
The first few days of Brave Kids project is always about curiosity – Where’s this girl from? Why is he wearing like that? Is Hong Kong right next to Tokyo? Salam Habibi! Why do Polish people eat rice with yogurt and apple? What have they done to punish themselves in this way? And wow! How does this boy do this dance? Oh, la-la! So, this is pierogi, great, it’s mine.
Wing, one of my kids from last year’s group, found it a particular ordeal to finish her box of apple rice.
As we all mingle, we progress towards the stage of making friends. Though, conflicts do occur – Who gives you the right to take my costume? Why have you taken my seat? That’s my favorite friend! You can’t sit with her! And MY LAST BOX OF PIEROGI! And usually, it is the leaders who come to the rescue (yes, I finally understood the hard work that Sim Sim, the leader who took me for Brave Kids 2012 (and of course, other leaders too!), had put up with when we were enjoying the Polish sunshine, when I took my group for Brave Kids in Walbrzych last year). Oh, wait, who just unlock my bathroom door? I’m still talking a shower in here!
But afterward, we always make up. Well, perhaps we will fight again, and make up again, on and off, until the last day of the performance. And within the process, we all get to gain something out of it, and slowly come to an upgraded self (i.e., Leo 1.0 Leo 2.0).
A picture of Darya, Michaela, me and Shewan during a break time in BK 2017. I think we were tired.
Yes, Brave Kids project is not simply a platform for artistically talented children and teenagers to showcase, perform, and “tell others” what they know. Children don’t simply come, perform, hug and say “Bye”; Leaders don’t simply prepare performance for kids, come and take care of their kids (or teens, in some cases); Volunteers don’t simply greet, hand out lunch boxes and look after kids when they fall ill. For me, I see it as a platform of “growth” and “sharing”, where everyone takes part in this process of exploration, learning, and reflection. Every single one doesn’t just take the role of learning or teaching. Instead, it comes in a package – we learn/teach as we teach/learn.
From BK2012, BK2013, BK2017 to BK2018, when I was a kid, a volunteer, a youth and a leader. (From left to right: Daphna, the leader of Ukulele for Peace from Israel, Linda from Czech, Divesh and Akash from India, Martyna, one of the volunteers from Poland, Naghmeh, leader for Donya group from Iran and finally, Ilona, the artistic instructor whom I have met since 2017, and has been my inspiration ever since)
Till now, I am still thankful towards the experience that I have previously gained through acting as a participant, a volunteer, and a “Brave Youth”. I don’t think I would have undergone such process of metamorphosis, thus becoming a globally-aware young adult possessing the capacity of embracing diversity, if it wasn’t the artists, friends, volunteers, families, leaders, and instructors who constantly have been inspiring me through their acts and words.
A picture of taken by Khalid, the Moroccan leader in BK2017 who invited me to Taroudant, Morocco this year in April (2019). I was hosting a workshop on “persuasion” for the local high school kids.
The year 2018 was a very magical year for me. As a leader of 4 with 2 volunteers, I was indeed fascinated by how knowledge is mutually transferred between teachers and students – I may be teaching my students a particular set of skills, but in each encounter with students, they never fail to show how one particular object can be seen from different angles. After all, my way isn’t the way. I still remember at one of the nights, Piotr and Sonia, the artistic instructors for last year’s Brave Kids project in my city, came over to my host Mum’s place for dinner. These very lines have struck me a bit. In Piotr’s words, he said:
“When you work with kids, it really never is about how you tell your kids to follow a set of rules and then complete certain tasks. It really is about letting them go. By that, I don’t mean kids should be let off completely. At times, you should be there to keep track of their progress, but you have to believe the fact that kids can work it out by themselves. Sometimes, you are just amazed by how much kids can achieve alone by themselves!”
As an English teacher, I’m always aware of how I should give my kids their full autonomy to do their work. Though, at times, my “controlling self”, who tells me how my experience is “guaranteed success” for my kids may get the better of my “sane self”. Hey! Is the result that’s all it matters? What about the progress? Don’t we all try and err at certain points of our lives to become a better self? I must say that I am far from being a role model, or perhaps setting myself as an example, but it really is the opportunities I’ve been given for trying and erring that shape me into what I am today.
During each edition of the project, there’s always the point where everything comes to an end. Departure is always an experience of different sentiments –
I’m excited: I really look forward to seeing how kids will turn out in, I don’t know, 5 years? 10 years? Or 20 years? And I am very honoured, and sometimes proud, to have met some of the kids who have been conducting a lot of amazing projects, or sometimes setting themselves as an inspiring example within their communities after their departure from Brave Kids.
I’m saddened: and sometimes heart-wrenched. Some of the kids may never get to meet again because of a lot of “complicated errands” that should have been simplified or eliminated.
I’m agonized: What can I do to help eliminate such complications for which I may (or may not) have been one of the culprits? Am I doing enough?
I’m aspired: (Sort of answering my excitement) I have faith in the kids who will come up with their own solutions to break down the barriers, and what we have deemed as “default”.
With Jedrzej, Hania and Sumit. I was so happy to have met them!
Sometimes, I may not be able to hold back my tears having so much of thoughts and emotions going through at the back of my head. Hey, isn’t this what Brave Kids is about? Isn’t it about new kids coming, fighting and making up? Isn’t it about kids hugging, crying and saying goodbye, and continuing with their great work? Isn’t it about the inspired kids inspiring their surroundings, inspired to inspire?
Yes, because this is what Brave Kids is about: inspired to inspire, not only to kids, but also everyone who’s part of the project, just let them try it out. It is the experience we gain through trying and erring that counts.
And don’t forget, kids can work it out too.
Until next time.
A picture of me and my 2018 group in Warsaw, Poland.