Putting a point across a la Toastmasters

Lim addresses students on Day Three of the camp.

THE Toastmasters Youth Communication Camp (YCC) hits its seventh year in 2018 and is keen to continue the mission of setting teens up for a future where they know how to get their point across.

Inspired by a similar camp, organised by the Swan City Toastmasters Club in Sibu, Kuching Toastmasters Club (KTMC) core members Stanley Ngu, Margaret Loh, and Mike Lim, spearheaded the camp in 2012 under the name Toastmasters Youth Leadership and Communication Camp (YLC).

Kuching Toastmasters Club is still leading as the core organising committee, assisted by a committed team of volunteers, comprising members of other Toastmasters clubs as well as non-Toastmasters in Kuching, including past YCC campers.

Participants of the Toastmasters Youth Communication Camp (YCC) 2017.

Ngu told thesundaypost at that time, there was no camp dedicated to public speaking, so the Toastmasters were in a good position to organise one.

While there are many organisations and schools running leadership camps for students in Kuching, YCC is the only one focusing on the development of confident public speaking and effective communication skills.

According to Lim, YCC is not a carbon copy of the Sibu camp but it did take inspiration from the latter, on what is practical and workable and added its own elements to the programme.

“Before that, some of us were talking about the possibility of holding a Kuching speakers camp, involving all schools, but didn’t follow up on the idea,” he said, adding that they instead went to have a look at Swan City Toastmasters Club after learning about it through Ngu.

This was enough for them to start cracking. Six camps later, the core members were able to see the difference they made to the lives of various students between 16 and 19 years old, from Kuching, Serian, Bau and Samarahan.

Ngu remembers among the campers was one quiet boy, who hardly talked in class.

“His classmates witnessed a transformation when he went back to school after the camp. He was so chatty. Apparently, he has found new confidence in expressing himself.”

Lim also cherishes such instances.

“While attending the camp, the kids would say they were becoming more confident and having fewer butterflies when making a speech. After the camp, if they saw me in the street, they would come up to me and say thank you,” he said.

Last year, there were 161 student participants, including first-timers from SMK Hajjah Laila, Asajaya.

The students were charged a heavily-subsidised rate of RM80, which included transport to and from the camp, two T-shirts, workshop materials, food and accommodation.

The operating costs of YCC were offset entirely through government and corporate sponsorships.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah has been the camp patron since 2012, both in a personal capacity and through his ministry.

Over the past six years, corporate bodies such as Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd, Sarawak Energy Bhd, Titanium Foundation, HSL, and Quality Concrete Bhd have also been contributing generously to the camp.

In view of rising costs, YCC welcomes financial support from corporate sponsors.

 

Downtime in between stations on the obstacle course.

Day One

A camp typically runs for three days and two nights. Students go through a series of speech writing and speech delivery workshops, group and individual coaching sessions and team-building activities.

Day One kicks off with activities that include prepared speech delivery and impromptu speech delivery workshops, led by principal facilitator Lim and his team.

Students are taught the principles of writing a speech versus writing an essay, then taken through a prepared speech and impromptu speech delivery workshop.

Impromptu speech skills are invaluable as they enable students to think quickly on their feet and come up with a coherent answer to an unexpected question — skills which will prove useful in the event of an important interview.

For Lim, the biggest challenge is raising the bar higher in speech writing although many of the participants tend to show marked improvement in a short time.

Both he and Ngu are grateful to be named camp facilitators but putting a camp together hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

“The challenge is to have toastmasters who are willing to commit their time and effort. Overall, we are fortunate and blessed to have many volunteers among our members,” Ngu noted.

Because of these dedicated volunteer facilitators, every student gets ample individual and group coaching with an average ratio of one facilitator to four students.

 

Brainstorming at a speech writing workshop.

Rewarding experience

Laura Kho, KTMC immediate past president and camp volunteer, said it was a rewarding experience because she got to see students experiencing a subtle shift in mindset — from believing they couldn’t speak well or climb a six-foot wall to realising, “Hey, maybe we can do it after all.”

She said the time, effort and energy put into preparing the camp every year were well worth it, especially when participation has a positive impact on the lives of the students.

“The incredible camaraderie and team spirit shown by volunteers also make it a fulfilling experience.

“As Toastmasters, we have benefited from the Toastmasters International programme and this is our way of giving back to the community and investing in the next generation of leaders.”

Through constructive feedback, constant encouragement and regular practice, students are able to build on existing skills and show gradual but significant improvement, regardless of their skill levels when they first joined the Camp.

What is notable though is that YCC’s objective is not to teach the English language but build on and improve existing public speaking and communication skills.

 

The panel of judges for the speech contest.

Day Two

Day Two typically begins in the morning with team-building activities and an obstacle course.

This bonding experience is important to build up soft skills such as the aptitude for teamwork, effective communication between peers and the ability to not only give but also listen to instructions.

Here again, the programme focuses on fun learning through experiential activities and self-reflection.

Students also get to show their performance skills at an Oscar Night where individual groups act, beatbox, sing and dance to outshine one another.

Day Three

Day Three is the highlight of the camp. Among the activities is a prepared speech and impromptu speech contest where students are picked from each participating group to pit their speaking skills against one another.

The winner takes home the Datuk Haji Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah Challenge Shield. Past winners included Rachel Jong of SMK St Thomas (2015) and Kimberly Tan Hui Yuin of SM Lodge International (2017).

Miguel Michael, a participant of the Prepared Speech Contest.

This year’s camp is tentatively scheduled from Aug 31 to Sept 2.

The Kuching Toastmasters Club is a community devoted to the art of public speaking, and open to anyone aged 18 and above.

Established in 1988, the club has since been active in hosting regular bi-monthly meetings and other beneficial programmes

KTMC follows the comprehensive Education Programme, set by Toastmasters International. It’s a proven programme that helps members develop communication and leadership skills.

Those wishing to know about the Kuching Toastmasters Club can visit http://kuching.toastmastersclubs.org or look for Kuching Toastmasters on Faceboook.

The members meet every first and third Sunday at 7.30pm at Harbour View Hotel.

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