All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy’ and Avenues will not let that happen. This winter vacation students in the city have the option to spend time doing something fun and yet fruitful at Avenues’ 17th Annual Winter Workshops for children aged between 8 and 16 years.
The workshop, which started on December 6 with the first batch, is aimed at encouraging personal growth of children in the areas of personal values, confidence, self-worth, communication, public speaking and leadership. Avenues’ approach is built on the four pillars of its curriculum — mindset, emotion, communication and connection and action. The four weeks of the workshop will be focused on these.
The second batch will start from December 10. The 100 participants are divided into junior and senior sections depending on the age groups.
The workshop features specially designed modules which support the development of essential soft skills in participants. These skills, say the trainers at Avenues, will support the children in their pursuit of life goals.
An array of activities, like camping and strategy games, makes the workshop interesting and appealing to all kinds of students.
The existing education curriculum is struggling to meet the need of the holistic development of its students as they prepare themselves for a future in a highly competitive world.
“During the school term, both students and teachers are usually overwhelmed with the goal of finishing the year’s curriculum which leaves little space for a student’s personal growth beyond academics,” says Mark Stone Laitflang, founder of Avenues. “Our formative years are centred around the pursuit of academic degrees that makes life beyond our schools and campuses a daunting one. Lessons on how to clearly identify their values and goals, on how to realise their self-worth, communicate clearly and efficiently, and also, how to build the confidence they need to make it through life are not a major focus in academics. This significant gap can only be addressed through life coaching and soft skills training at a young age,” he adds.
The lack of coaching in these areas has become a glaring need in the face of studies which have shown that these essential skills actually play a large role in the pursuit of lifelong success. Avenues, the North East’s first capacity building and human excellence training institute, provides that extra training to cope in the real world.
Laitflang and his trainers call this training life skills coaching. “Many children lack the confidence to express themselves even if they know about a particular topic. We bring them in a group and help them break the wall. The results so far have been impressive,” says trainer Mankhraw Kharbuli.
The young trainers at the organisation have international qualifications and are enthusiastic teachers. Jasmine Laitflang, Mark’s sister, joined Avenues in 2009. She is a communications specialist and an internationally certified Emotional Wellness and Life Coach empanelled with the Global Certified Coaches Alliance.
“The values that I live by are love, patience, commitment and hard work. Since joining the Avenues family, it has been these values which I am pouring into the work that we do. For 10 years now my core focus has been to create curriculum and coaching methods for our programmes across the state that integrate self-worth, personal values, communication and interpersonal skills in every session,” says Jasmine.
Jasmine helps in building teacher training interventions that allow the faculty members to engage with each other, share best practices, create safe spaces for students and rediscover their purpose and passion for teaching.
The organisation has been working for over 16 years to help meet the need of the youth through various initiatives. It has worked with over 50,000 boys and girls to equip them with the necessary soft skills that will see them through various scenarios in their personal and professional lives.
Avenues says it has received positive feedback from their participants and parents as well as educational institutions. “The sessions really helped me to overcome my fears, to be more confident and have helped to improve my pronunciation as well as build upon my knowledge of the English language. It has given me the push to work further upon my higher studies; and the interview and presentation skills we were taught have prepared me for the future,” Baiahunlang Maring, who aspires to become an IAS officer, says of her time with Avenues.
Aimesha Swer is confident about her interview skills after her training. “Interview skills are very important… We now know how to dress, how to use eye contact so that the interviewer knows that we are not nervous, and this helps us to be more confident. These skills will help me to interact better with people in the future,” she says.
Antonio Lakiang, father of a Class IX student, is happy with the improvement in his son’s communications skills. Lakiang says his son has gained the confidence to speak in the public and his body language shows it.
“Our curricula have found a place in mainstream education creating alternative learning experiences that engage and encourage participants to discover the best version of themselves,” says Jasmine about Avenues’ multi-cornered teaching technique.
Laitflang, the 37-year-old entrepreneur, is probably the North East’s first personality development guru. A Class X dropout, Laitflang left home at an early age and went to Kolkata. “I sold flowers at 16 in the city that broke me and built me when I chose to move away from Shillong. All I wanted to do was support myself and become an entrepreneur. I started with software and computers and moved to many other things before finding my passion in training and coaching at 20,” he says.
Talking about his journey, Mark says over the years, people have become aware of the importance of life skills and life coaching and many campuses and organisations approach him today across the world.
The annual workshops are especially held at the end of the academic year so that students can attend them with ease. The numerous activities, both indoor and outdoor, are aimed at providing a different approach to self-learning and self-growth.
Avenues has recently been awarded a state-wide mandate under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to develop and improve the soft skills and communication abilities of tribal youth across the state. The initiative called Aspire Meghalaya is a first-of-its kind in the country and is working to support boys and girls in schools across districts to identify talent and career aspiration early on in life.
The 17th edition of the workshops will be held in the city as well as in Tura. The programmes are designed for children in urban settings willing to discover the best in themselves through a range of activities and experiences.
An experienced team of life coaches led by the brother-sister duo has worked extensively to create and curate a unique training philosophy that brings together mindset coaching, emotional well-being practices and human connection to inspire youth to build habits and take responsible action as they face the challenges of life.
(Compiled by Nabamita Mitra)