Fontaine Gibbs, 18 years old
Graduate of German Swiss International School
President of Advocates Leadership Team 2020
"I wanted to join ALT because I strongly believe in Kids4Kids. It’s a unique charity in the sense that many leaders and volunteers are teenagers, while most charities have strict restrictions and age limits regarding young people. "
I had a really good impression of Kids4Kids from leading my school’s Kids4Kids club, Buddy Reading team and an Action for A Cause (AFAC) project and wanted a view into how Kids4Kids worked on a bigger scale. That is why I joined the Advocates Leadership Team (ALT) in 2019.
Before joining ALT, I led my school’s Kids4Kids club. I was asked to restart GSIS’ Buddy Reading team, which was a challenging responsibility at first, as working with kids never quite goes to plan. Every week I would discuss problems with the team so we could come up with solutions together, such as encouraging volunteers to think of 3 questions to ask kids during the session when kids and volunteers were shy. Now we have completed two very fruitful years of Buddy Reading at North Point Happy Teen Centre and I’ve been able to hand over the responsibility to the next leaders at our school. I will miss Buddy Reading very much - it’s always rewarding to see the kids becoming more comfortable with English and receiving handwritten cards at the end of each season!
Leading my school club, I also ran sessions at school to support students getting involved in Kids4Kids. We mainly focused on AFAC, holding sharing of past successful projects and brainstorming sessions for teams to come up with project proposals, many of which went on to win funding. In 2018, I also ran a stall for Kids4Kids at our school’s Christmas bazaar, receiving donations through a bake sale and sharing information about the charity.
Right before joining ALT, I led an AFAC project in 2019 titled “Speak Up”. It aimed to bridge the education gap by bringing English speaking workshops to underprivileged students, emulating the positive effects of Buddy Reading, but in teenagers who would need English for exams and university applications rather than young children. Through this project, I learned that making connections with others is vital; when we began, the students were very shy and scared to speak, lest they make a mistake. However, as we made the environment more comfortable for them, playing games and bonding with them over their interests, the students became much more willing to speak, gaining the confidence they needed to succeed.
I wanted to join ALT because I strongly believe in Kids4Kids. It’s a unique charity in the sense that many leaders and volunteers are teenagers, while most charities have strict restrictions and age limits regarding young people. I think this is a great feature as not only does it make students aware of social issues from a young age, but also empowers students to solve these issues themselves. Therefore, joining the ALT would be an excellent way to continue my contribution to Kids4Kids.
I think ALT is extremely different to other leadership experiences I’ve had because of the scale of its impact, its members and the autonomy we were given. Unlike many things I’ve led like school clubs, ALT’s impact is much more meta - we are involved with helping tailor large events like the Powered by Youth Forum (PBY) and are asked for our input on the direction of Kids4Kids in the future, like how it can better engage school clubs. This is very exciting to me because we are able to understand and get involved with the organisation from a very big-picture standpoint, something I think most leadership roles for kids can’t offer.
The members in ALT are also unique - several schools, skillsets and backgrounds are represented in the team, and because of the frequency we meet in-person, this soon forms a tight-knit group. I really value the friendships I’ve made at ALT, as these people not only have new perspectives to share with me, but also share my passion for education access.
Finally, within ALT I was given many opportunities to share my input and implement it, especially as president. I had the chance to improve many things I wanted to within ALT, like implementing small groups, which turned out to be more effective, or come up with my own projects, like helping members set up their own school clubs. There are so many opportunities for members to get involved in a big way, whether that’s running ALT interviews or speaking at PBY.
The ALT experience has changed my way of looking into the world. I think being a part of ALT has solidified the idea that new experiences are valuable to me. It opened many doors I didn’t expect, like an AFAC project, a chance to lead an online book club with author Sarah Brennan, and a new group of wonderful friends. I have learned so much, and it’s encouraged me to continue going out of my comfort zone!
Being in ALT also exposed me to many changemakers, from industry professionals to charity founders to AFAC project leaders that looked just like me. Hearing their stories illustrated to me that it was very possible to make a difference and that you weren’t required to have any special qualification or privilege to do so - which has helped me better put aside imaginary restrictions like my age, time or resources when I set high goals for myself.