Twenty youth workers from different parts of Europe came together to participate in a learning adventure, which is a type of training course that aims to reset our minds, explore our limits, and provide us with new tools for working with young people. What a wonderful place to test your limits – in the middle of the Caribbean sea – the French island of Martinique welcomes us with unbearable heat, high humidity, and the friendly smiles of the locals.
The training is both mentally and physically demanding. The cherry on top is that none of the participants have any idea where we are going to stay, what we are going to do, what to expect, or how to get ready.
On the first day, it appears that everyone is experiencing some degree of unease. A new location, with new people, and jet lag. Let’s make an effort to become acquainted with one another, shall we?
Because we are not permitted to play any name games, we are required to be interactive and creative. Because Thank God is not a very large group, by the end of the day we are familiar with a greater number of the members’ names. We have been put into family groups, each consisting of five people, and will provide mutual assistance to one another throughout the process. We have to select a leader and figure out who we are, as well as what we like and don’t like about ourselves. Since each of the five of us has taken a distinctive route through life, we agree that our family name should be Diversa.
How could I possibly forget to mention the special tasks? Each of the families are required to complete exercises that are strenuous on the body and include activities such as running, swimming, and bodyweight training. The participants do not know what lies in front for us, so there is uncertainty in the group. If we do a lot of different exercises today, and then tomorrow is a physically demanding day, do you think I’ll be able to make it?
Do not forget this is a gathering for youth workers – individuals who provide social support to young people at a time when the young people require it. As soon as the exercises in building the team are finished, we move on to the professional development activities. As our primary coach has a strange allergy to people who are chronically late, we try to be on time to learn about the various aspects of youth work in Slovenia. I appreciate the fact that we work with real life cases seeking to understand of the many layers of youth work that lie hidden behind the smiley faces of professionals who have chosen this path.
We play the kiss killer game to lighten the mood while keeping the conversation focused on serious issues. Your mission is to give one of your team members a body kiss before they give it to you. The kiss of death. Happily we all survived!
On the third day, we spread our wings again. Moving to a new, undisclosed location, followed by a hike and an intensive dive into active listening without giving any advice, just listening and attempting to ask the appropriate questions to assist your partner in finding an answer. It seems simple. Have you given it a shot? Explore your limits, talk about the things that are bothering you, and look for a solution while doing all of this with… a complete stranger?! Your deepest secrets are safe with us. Have fun on the ride!
We will spend the entire day in the tropics, exploring the jungle. You are beginning to experience discomfort from the muscle pain, you did not pack enough water, and today you will push yourself to the limit. What do you think about some case studies? Let’s throw ourselves into this right away! The work with young people is emotionally demanding, you risk being exposed to a great deal of injustice, and you limited powers to tackle the matter. How should you deal with it? Work on it, have patience, listen to others, and offer assistance; if you do all of these things, you just might succeed! You will do a good job. Do you know what can help? An exercise in case analysis in the wild! It is fascinating to watch how the real stories unfold while the team is bonding together.
Awake, it is already six o’clock in the morning. Say whaaat? We have to change our plans as we are leaving in less than an hour and a half, and in that time we need to tidy up the house, pack our belongings, get ready for another hike, eat breakfast, look out for our teammates, and get ourselves organized. It is going to be a challenging day, so Volcano, hang on!
We survived, what’s next?