It has been nine months since we launched our Mission: 300 pilot program in the juvenile prison system in Northern Thailand. During this time we have witnessed many changes in a group of young men that amassed last week. The first three months was built on understanding of our four main pillars of the program: Identity, Strength, Courage and Influence (read here for more details). Our Life Mapping section followed that demonstrates the Kingdom of God model of how to live from your heart in order to influence rather than be influenced by the outside environment. Then it is time to begin assisting others in what they have just learned. This has been going on over the last two months, where a group of three adopts a new participant and teaches/models what they have learned over their previous time in the program. In addition, they are to build a model of an organization. They chose to build a football (soccer) club. Our job as mentors was not to tell them what to do. Rather, to be a guide, provide background knowledge and help them find the answers to build their ideas.
It is important to note that to most of these boys grew up in the simple rural life of Thailand. Many of their dreams included having an air conditioned office (the job responsibilities was not relevant), owning a bar-b-que stand, working for the government, being a tour guide, and being a professional soccer player. This sums up about 80% of the responses from young men over the last four years of working in Thailand. Most other ideas seemed too far out of the box to pursue.
The planning for their soccer club began with a written structure of the jobs, logos, name and style they wanted to have. They created jobs for captains, managers and artists (design logos and communications). There was a lot of questions and advisory time to see this through, but overall they had begun to believe that something bigger was possible. Their first fruits came this week when we were able to make a digital copy of the drawings of the uniform they wanted to have. When we suprised them with the jerseys, their response will not do justice with words. They put them on meticulously, even leaving the tags on as not to cause any disruption to the original product. Then they stopped and stared at each other. There was no joking or laughter, for no better words, a joyous sobriety.
They all under their own motivation sat on the floor in a circle awaiting our words. We addressed the meaning of this first manifested accomplishment, what it represents and their responsibility to be a positive influence on the other boys in the center. We then asked for them to share about what this represents to them. Many great thoughts confidently were spoken by the boys (unlike six months ago when a response was a rarity). The conclusion came by one of the senior boys, "We took an idea and it became real. Things are possible. We are leaders and we don't quit." They now continue to prepare to represent their center in a national soccer tournament May 19th.
As we were walking back to the gate with officer that oversees them, he shared with us the thoughts from the Director of the center. She evaluated all the programs in the center by randomly interviewing the participants. What she found was that this program has been the most successful in accomplishing her true goal: The boys are changing into leaders because they want to, not because they have to. The Director wanted us to take on a much bigger group, but the officer we work with affirmed our goal of quality change does not come by gathering the masses. He assured her the group will affect the whole center through the leaders mentoring the others. This can be seen as the center asked for permission to adopt the logo as the official brand for the whole center.