Dear Rotary Club of Papakura,
 
I would like to sincerely thank you for sponsoring me to attend the RYLA course of 2018. I greatly appreciate the opportunity you have given me to gain valuable knowledge and tools to help me realise my potential and develop my skills as a leader. The course was extremely worthwhile and I have taken away so much to reflect on and implement in my personal and professional life.
I was absolutely blown away by the incredible speakers who shared with us their stories, life lessons and advice for our own futures. They were all truly inspirational people and I respected how open and honest they were when sharing their challenges and how they overcame them. Our first speaker, Cheryle Randall, shared the analogy, ‘take off your coats’ and ‘let your inner diamond shine’. This concept was so clearly modelled by all of the speakers and it was clear that this message resonated with all of the RYLA awardees, as we all ‘took our coats’ off on our RYLA journey. We really valued and appreciated that to grow on the course, we needed to be true to ourselves and those around us, so we could nurture, support and encourage each other.
 
Below are a few key lessons I have taken away from the presentations, which I am sure will positively influence future decisions I make:
 
- Niki Bezzant was very knowledgeable about healthy eating and in particular she challenged the norm around meal planning. Usually we decide on the meat and then plan the vegetables around it. But not Niki. Niki says, ‘choose the veges and then the meat’. Vegetables are so important. I couldn’t agree more. How blindly led by society’s ideologies and norms we are.
 
- Michelle Dickinson – She taught me that, ‘if you win you will be happy. If you lose you will be wise’ and ‘success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking why you do it’.
 
- Volkar Kuntzsch – He asked us, ‘which values will steer your course?’. His answer was, ‘relationships and care for the people’, which really hit home for me.
 
- Craig Burborough, former officer in the Royal New Zealand Navy centred his presentation around different leadership styles and he helped us to realise and reflect on our own styles. And although we didn’t realise it at the time, we would soon have to put our leadership skills to the test when adventuring to Rangitoto island to lead our team through various challenges. Nick Winstone said in his presentation that ‘leadership comes in many flavours’ and not only did this complement Craig’s values, it also gave me the confidence to utilise and refine my own skills set on the island, knowing that we can all learn from one another’s own leadership styles.
 
The experiential aspect of the course was a once in a life time opportunity and really challenged me physically and mentally. I am very grateful to the New Zealand Army and their engineers for the great lengths they went to, to prepare 24 well-thought out challenges that we had to complete as a team over the course of 15 hours in order to make the ‘toxic swamps’ safe on Rangitoto island. And although it seemed tough at the time on a maximum of two hours sleep, by the end of the three days on the island, we really were so well looked after – it wasn’t really ‘roughing it’ after we were provided with the safety and guidance by the officers along with the abundance of food! I also have a huge amount of respect for the army officers who really cared about helping us to work as a team and develop our individual leadership skills. Our officer, Darren, really took the time after each challenge to debrief on what we did well as a team and how we could improve for future challenges. This practical leadership opportunity under challenging conditions was a huge learning experience for me and I really appreciated all of the valuable feedback from my team and Darren.
 
Craig mentioned something which was quite obvious on the island experience and something I will always remember and that is ‘the importance of having the guts to be the first person to follow, as there is no leader without a follower’. This concept really illustrated the importance of team work, which was vital on the island for us to succeed. Initially, there were quite a few ‘peacocks’ in our team who stood out amongst the crowd and wanted their ideas to be heard and actioned. However, we soon learnt by allowing the designated ‘leader’ to lead, the challenges were much more effectively executed and the feedback from the team in our debriefs were more positive. It turned out that we all felt more reassured and supported during challenges when there was one clear leader and thereby felt more confident about achieving our goals. Through this, we learnt that as a leader, it isn’t always about being the one in the driver’s seat, calling all the shots. It may not always be our turn to lead, but when it is, we have the experience to know what it is like to be on the other side.
 
Days before attending the course the thought occurred to me that, ‘I have so many friends I just haven’t met yet’ and this was so true. I feel very fortunate to have met so many wonderful people over the course of the week and to have made life long connections. So I would like to thank you, not just for putting on an incredible week, but also for the lessons, memories and friendships which I will treasure moving forward.
 
Yours faithfully,
Freya Jenner
Sponsors