Battle Won

19 November:

Tiring is an understatement to describe the journey for them girls. Immediately after their end-of-year examinations, the students had to review their business plans, spend afternoons making their handmade recycled crafts and stained glass products, plan for a sales pitch, prepare the props for the skit, stocktake their products, create online advertising platforms, package their products etc. And while we teachers had to do A LOT (really a lot) of pushing and pulling, disciplining them at times even (oh goodness the scoldings were necessary and so bitter), I think the credit must really go to them.

There was a period when I thought the team may fall apart if the girls did not learn to work together and be responsible for this challenge. Some of them were sour and bitter at having to spend their holidays labouring in this way, and they allowed their nasty attitude to show (as young girls tend to do). But through the past two weeks they increasingly exhibited greater initiative and ownership towards this challenge, making suggestions and solving problems.

As the challenge drew closer, the number of complaints grew lesser too. What started out as pure obligation turned into ownership and duty, and today I think it turned into pride and maybe even a sense of identity. I was worried that the girls would be demoralised and tired after a long week of preparation, so I decided to pop by and see how things were going. To my surprise, the energy level of the team was high, morale was good, and the girls greeted me with enthusiasm, eager to share how much they had sold and how their day went. I took a tour of the other pushcarts. There were some worthy contenders, but altogether I think our pushcart stall (NUMBER 12!!) is pretty neat!

The girls told me some of their schoolmates and teachers came and bought some products. I know from their eyes and their voice that they were really encouraged by those forms of support. I think it’s more than support, I think its recognition too. The days, weeks of hard work is finally bearing fruit in the form of public support and recognition.

Tomorrow, they will report early in the morning and sell their goodies till nightfall. I know it will be a long and hard day for the five of them, but it’s no doubt that this challenge will mould into them resilience and teamwork, if it has not already. My prayer for them is that they will grow stronger from the experience and find joy and contentment while working hard. Tomorrow they give out the awards too. I’m crossing my fingers that their hard work will pay off. (It’ll be a great morale boost for the club too yay!) And if it doesn’t work out, let’s keep our heads held up because from what I saw this evening, I’m already proud of them girls for doing such good work.

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After 20 November:

We won. Overall Champion of the National Pushcart Challenge 2011! God is good, and it is indeed a pleasant surprise and huge present to the deserving team. Praise the Lord!

I hope the rest of the club members share the same joy for the girls as the school. More importantly, I hope the girls will not let this win clog their eyes with complancency because it was really a team effort. No doubt, the girls spent many hours of their time hard at work preparing for this challenge. But there were many others who worked behind the scenes for all the products to come together, CCA members who made a trip down to show support by purchasing the items, teachers who rallied their friends (me! me!) to drop by. The next lesson for the girls to learn is humility and graciousness while enjoying their prize, and to share the joy with the rest of the club.

One of the most important things the girls learned over this challenge, would have to be teamwork. Initially some flared up at each other, and some others gave up working leaving the rest of the team to do her part in bitterness. When there was a customer at the pushcart, they push each other towards the customer because they couldn’t be bothered to do so themselves. But towards the conclusion of this competition, I saw a team working seamlessly together. When one of them was in a less-than-happy mood, the rest of the team quietly did her duty and supported her rather than point fingers in accusation at each other. We insisted the girls work in shifts to ensure they had sufficient breaks during the day. But on Sunday, the girls just insisted on sticking it out together. Maybe because what mattered more to them was not time for their own personal rest, but that the team’s pushcart was a success. Maybe because they wanted to be part of that success. Maybe because they wanted to share the exuberance and good feelings as a team. When there was a customer at the pushcart, they automatically went forward to offer their services. I just thought it was a beautiful thing to witness.

On a personal note, I beam with pride for our school because on the 20 November, the public and 14 other schools learned that we had emerged champions. Whoever did not hear of us before, would have heard of us then. And a small part of me beams because we may not have academic achievements to boast of, but we have claimed this small but certain space for ourselves.

Now with this teamwork shared between the five girls, my prayer is that they take this teamwork and spread it to the rest of the club. We need that pride and joy and enthusiasm to fuel our next year 2012!

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