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Every summer the Queen of England's Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. It is a unique initiative which recognises that young people have the ability to make a huge impact in their communities. Often young people do not recognize that they possess these qualities in themselves.

The leader of one of our own groups working in sub-Saharan Africa won an award last month. Edmund Rice International is a non-governmental-organization committed to working for children and young people who are marginalised because of poverty, lack of access to education, legal status, environmental degradation, or involved in armed conflict.

I ask myself, 'What makes a good youth leader'?

I presume one would have to have a desire to work with young people in some existing local organization or group such as a football team, school programme or summer camp. This would require good leadership skills, patience, dedication, and good listening skills.

To be an effective leader, I think, one would need to get to know the group's interests, likes, dislikes and goals; to care about the group, to love working with young people, to give them attention and inspire them to grow and learn and to establish a trusting bond with individuals and group.

It would be important, too, of course, to be  able to think up creative ways of involving and motivating young people in various activities such as singing, painting, field trips, doing arts and crafts, etc.

A good leader would also have to be prepared to spend time with a group. This might mean working extra hours, even week-ends.

This is quite a daunting challenge to undertake and more power to those prepared and ready to do it. What amazes me is that there are still  so many accepting challenges even when there is no "Queen's Award" at the end for it.