Building Leaders for a Better Future

In May, we took our CATALYST scholars on a study visit where they were given leadership training. One month before the trip, we asked all 44 CATALYST scholars who wished to be leaders during the study visit to nominate themselves for a vote. Nine ran for the election and seven students were elected to lead small groups of six members each. 

The group leaders were given a budget to take care of their member’s food and transportation. Group members were from different provinces. They first had to come to Phnom Penh, the capital city, and then the following day, travel by bus from Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri Province.

The leaders had to keep receipts of their members’ transportation costs and get each member to sign on a form whenever they were given money for food. Additionally, each group was tasked with a main responsibility like preparing snacks for the whole group, counting members when getting back on the bus, and making sure there was water for everyone.

In the evening of the second day, all the CATALYSTAS were led to play some leadership games.

They played Pass the Hoop, a game that requires the group to stand in a circle and hold hands. One of the people in the circle has a hula hoop around their arm. The idea is to pass the hula hoop all the way around the circle. This strengthens teamwork and problem solving skills, crucial for any leader, as they’re not working in a vacuum. Most importantly it teaches communication, which might be the most fundamental skill for any successful leader.

They also played Blind Lead. For this game, a leader or “head of the line” is chosen and the members all line up behind the leader. At first all the members are asked to close their eyes and follow the leader when she moves around. After that all the members follow the leader with their eyes open. The followers must decide whether or not to follow the leader when they can and cannot see. This activity involves leadership and building trust. 

After playing these games, the students were asked to reflect on what they had learned.

“Pass the Hoop required us to work collaboratively to pass the hoop and to come up with creative problem-solving strategies to move the hoop around the group. It also trained us be quick but cautious.”


“To achieve the goal, someone had to take the lead and assign tasks, including watching the time, to all the members. It required creativity, teamwork and good communication.” 


“I first found the Blind Lead game very difficult because I couldn’t see, I didn’t know where the leader led us to and I was worried that I would step on something or trip, so I didn’t want to follow my leader. However, after a while I decided to put my trust in the leader and just followed her steps then I become less anxious and everything went well.”


“As a leader, we cannot just choose the smooth and easy roads; otherwise, there won’t be improvement/development. We have to challenge our team so they become stronger and can deal with all sorts of obstacles, that’s why after leading them through easy path for a while, I decided to take some rough roads.”  


The trip wrapped up with electing the best leader among the seven. Gifts, as well as certificates of appreciation, were given to every leader.

We can’t thank our donors enough for making this training happen. Your support means bright futures for these bright leaders!

Learn more about our CATALYST program or donate today!