Mediaplanet: How do leaders and mentors contribute to children’s overall wellbeing and development?

Rickesh Lakhani: One of the most important factors for a child’s development is having encouraging and supportive adult influences outside of the home. While parents, guardians and teachers play vital roles in a child’s life, children greatly benefit from having other people they can speak to where the conversation is truly about them and their growth. By having the support of someone who isn’t deeply involved in their everyday lives, they have a unique space to explore who they really are.

MP: What can kids do to build their own confidence?

RL: Achieving small goals on the way to larger goals is a powerful way to build confidence. The idea of doing something big can often be intimidating for children. When they see that they have the ability to break something down into smaller steps, and then each success or failure along the way to that larger goal is acknowledged, they start to build inner strength and courage. This creates a stronger and more confident core within that child.

MP: Naturally, children will face challenges on their journey. What can kids do to prepare themselves for real-life challenges?

RL: Children need to know that any challenge or issue can be solved with the right mindset and the right help. The more chances they get to take meaningful action, learn about their strengths, overcome obstacles and set and achieve goals, they better suited they will be to handle whatever curveballs life happens to throw them. Taking part in community activities, volunteering and extracurricular programs are great platforms for this.

MP: As parents, educators, and mentors, how do we prepare kids to deal with the answer “no”?

RL: When kids ask others for help and they get a ‘no’, they may feel discouraged and shy away from moving forward. Rejection isn’t an easy thing to deal with! Often a response of ‘no’ just means the other person needs to ‘know’ more. So instead of giving up, encouraging children to ask great questions, seek to understand others and then educate them will help them influence people. Sometimes, ‘no’ just means you need to find a ‘yes’ somewhere else.

MP: What role does creativity play in a child’s development?

RL: Children are naturally creative but as we get older and begin feeling judged by others and as the focus on academics increases, creativity can be at risk. Yet creative play, activities and arts are crucial in developing children into well-rounded and thoughtful adults. Creative thinking allows kids to solve problems in new ways – and will help them be better equipped for a world that needs innovative thinkers to thrive. The good news is that creativity is a muscle and can be strengthened with practice!

MP: At Future Possibilities for Kids, who are your KidCoaches and what role do they play in the Ready, Set, Goal! program?

RL: KidCoaches are committed adult volunteers who connect one-on-one with Kids ages 9 to 12 from underserved communities in our program. Through weekly phonecalls and program days with the FPK community, they support a Kid in achieving a meaningful community service project called a Goal of Contribution. KidCoaches get to see real change in their Kid and see confidence build, leadership blossom and a tangible goal get achieved. They also learn valuable skills and get inspired to become more active in their community!

MP: What are some of the specific goals that kids in Future Possibilities for Kids programs have achieved?

RL: One Kid felt isolated and alone when they were new to their school, so they decided to start a club for new children so they had an automatic place where they could belong and connect. A brother and sister recently rallied the community in getting an accessible playground put up at the community centre – and now it’s in construction! It is quite powerful to see what young people achieve when given the opportunity, the tools, the support and the encouragement.