Youth leaders learn from fable

COLUMBIA CITY — Helpless babies floating in a river? What a disturbing thought!But that’s exactly the idea that teens were confronted with during a two-day youth philanthropy retreat held last weekend in Angola at Pokagon State Park. Attending the retreat from the H.A.N.D.S Foundation from Whitley County were Luke Sturtz, Taylor Daniel, Allison Conrad, and Maren Lehman. Teens were told an African tale of babies in a river and the reactions of three community leaders.The first leader jumped into the river and began to throw babies onto the bank to save their lives. The second went into the river and began to teach babies to swim. The third, criticized by the other two, walked steadfastly on.He said, “I’m going upstream to see how these babies are getting in the water in the first place.”“An important part of the story is when one person left the others to find the reason that the babies were in the river in the first place,” Churubusco High School sophomore Luke Sturtz said. “The rest of the group was angry with him as they felt he could be helping to save the babies or teach them how to swim.“This translates to leaders who may have to make tough decisions, even when this decision may not be approved by many. While the others disagreed, the man made the proactive decision to find the cause and stop the problem, rather than combat it.” Teens from across the country were challenged to think about the way their group approaches its philanthropic work. They were encouraged to ask questions such as the following: Are they most like the first, second or third leader in the African tale? What approach is most needed in their community? How can they, as young people, bring about the most positive change? The H.A.N.D.S. Foundation is supported and mentored by the Dekko Foundation, the Whitley County Community Foundation and the three public school corporations in Whitley County.The retreat was planned by a group of young people, called PHISH, who serve as leaders for youth philanthropy.The Dekko Foundation provides financial support for youth philanthropic groups across its grant-making areas in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota.Helping young people use their own ideas to bring about positive change in their communities has been a focus of the foundation for 20 years.