Leadership through sailing – a memorable workshop!

Enabling Leadership Foundation recently conducted the first of a series of workshops for the girls under the Naavika Program of The Yacht Club of Hyderabad and I traveled to the Nizam’s city for the same.

Was I excited? Yes, Of course! Was I nervous? Most definitely yes.

Conducting leadership workshops with adults is a good experience but a tad bit vanilla when com-pared to conducting workshops with children. Children, unlike adults, are unpredictable – full of questions, full of energy and ever curious. And being able to nurture this energy and create “aha” moments of learning with it all, is what makes these workshops challenging as well as satisfying.

So, armored with stories, games and my most positive self, I met young budding sailors. These are girls from not-so-privileged sections of the society and are being trained by The Yacht Club of Hyderabad to become “Champions”.  Among lots of other common things between them, one of the most pronounced is their vision for themselves – they all want to become champions. I delved deeper in what “champion” meant for them and they gave me the example of one among them – a young girl called Vaishnavi, who recently won a medal at an event of National importance.

I probed further, and they guided me to the gallery where life-size pictures of National Sailing champions adorn the makeshift warehouse. Secretly, they envision their own pictures up there for other young boys and girls to see. I asked them if they had all the skills they needed to be the champions they wanted to become. Children are honest. And practicing their value of honesty to the optimum came the reply “No – we are not good team members, we need to help each other more. And we need to learn to communicate”. And at that instant, half my work was done.

What followed were fun-filled days of games, discussions, story-writing activities where I got to know each participant better. The Yacht Club has given a sense of purpose to the lives of these young girls and it is easy to see how they almost breathe sailing. During a game of snakes and ladders as the girls were moving boxes to reach their goals, many of them had to answer a question – “What was your happiest moment?” Unaware of answers of each other, unanimously they told me “When Suheim Sir complemented me on my sailing” (Suheim sir is the man behind The Yacht Club of Hyderabad. Naavika is his brain-child).

It is rare to come across 9 to 13-year-olds with such clear goals. Suheim must be proud of this lot!

Through the action-packed hours we spent together, the girls got an opportunity to get to know one another on a different level. One girl got up to share how her best friend in school hurt her, several other hands went “me too”. Another spoke about lying to her parents to be able to go out with friends and others gave silent nods. One of them spoke about how she was bullied by her younger sister. I saw many smiles saying “yes”, across the room. Somewhere this sharing was generating a sense of empathy and friendship with the premise “I know how it feels”. In the process, the girls were becoming a close-knit unit. Very soon in the workshop I was seeing some crazy bonding happening.


I have always believed that it takes only a few minutes to identify a leader in a group. While all the girls were creative, willing to share and learn, one stood out – Mehboobie – the other girls naturally gravitated towards her for help and guidance and she graciously accepted the responsibility bestowed upon her. In her own ways, Mehboobie was the peace-maker, the group-hugger, the agony aunt and the motivator. It was a delight seeing her in action.

It is rare to come across workshops which are fun, action-paced, full of heart and yet manage to achieve the objectives set out in the beginning. This workshop was one of those successful ones. When a good workshop ends, it is a happy moment. But to be honest, a part of me did not want this workshop to end. Because that meant that I will not be seeing these girls for some time. Lost in my thoughts as I was packing my stuff, one of the quieter girls ran to me at full speed and hugged me tight. “I love you”, she said, and on cue all the other girls joined in and we had a big group hug. If only the cameras could capture the moment!

—  Reha Bublani, Head Curriculum




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