Youth Exchanges: Training Course for leaders of Youth organisers

Overview: How Was What?

by Maria Marks

Sometimes the expected appears to be unexpected.  That is what happened to me. Not long ago, I  had the chance to participate in a wonderfully organised training course, which took place in Stockholm, Sweden at the end of June. And yet before this great experience laid on my shoulders, I was not too much satisfied or inspired to take part in it, because I didn’t trust the idea. At first glance, I applied to this training course because I loved the stated aim, which is “to enhance participation and community impact on youth activities”. That is what intrigued me for signing up. My expectations were too high, that is why I tried to keep them as low as possible. Don’t ask why.

What is really interesting about this youth exchange is the “how” question. How did the organisers manage to  create ways, that would be entertaining, accurate and impulsively attractive for the participants to get involved with the activities? I say, it was almost spontaneously done. The aim of this training course was fulfilled by using different psychological, funny and entertaining methods. In the very beginning, the topic(youth participation in general) itself looked like was hard to digest, but the paths that the leaders took were inspiring and joyful to follow. That is how we made it-through fun and energising games, including ruff and hard theory, that led us contribute the knowledge that we have now. For instance, at the last days of our training course, we were divided into groups of people, who wanted to realise their chosen idea and make it as a real project. We have sweated for a day and a half building the walls – the structure, the essence, the program etc. of our project. At the end, we had to “submit the application”. It was so intense that it brought us a lot of energy and practical experience in maintaining an actual application.

However, the participants would have not encounter or contributed those good results of their projects, if there were no previous “getting the knowledge” games and exercises. To make it more clear, I will describe the traditional structure of the day. In order to get the group going, we had short energisers after every break. That really helped a lot to interact with one another and to continue being productive with our work. Every day we were working with different people from the group- that made us more comfortable with each other. While working together in groups we had the chance to discover our own  place and role in the team. Some of us took the lead, some – followed. Everything was happening naturally. After the ‘team work’ sessions we always did presentations for the whole group, sharing thoughts and ideas about specific topics, for example       “Opportunities and obstacles for youth participation in your local community” or “cultural interaction with the community”. In the evenings we had evaluation sessions. Again we were in our small groups, sharing thoughts and emotions that occurred throughout the day, remembering / concluding our intensive work.

The group of 25 people from different cultural backgrounds, with different stories and different stages in life provided an experience that I would not so easily forget.  During the training course we not only had to work and sweat like pigs. With the diversity and youth energy we managed to have fun as well. That is, for instance, an inter-cultural evening, or a day-off in Stockholm city, or the Thursday and Friday farewell parties. Somehow, I was picked up to organise this inter-cultural evening. Naturally, I have become the host as well. Hopefully it did work out, because we were able to see what kind of talented, creative and perspective future and present organisers have come to present their countries and youth organisations in this TC.  Yet the joyful energy kept us going till late at night –  we danced till the sun rose. Of course, another extreme party we had at the city of Stockholm. Not only we have been working and connecting with different youth organisations in Sweden, there were other type of explorations of the city centre. The farewell parties were a total blast- what would you say about a midnight swim with clothes on in the lake? Or a talk with a trainer/friend while missing your taxi to the airport? Or breakfast with couple of sleepyheads colleagues? That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

To conclude this short review of the training course, I just have to say- we all worked 100 percent for this. Especially the trainers. Everything we have experienced: the emotions, boost of creativity, interaction with different people, new information, the wonderful surroundings of Hellasgarten- was part of the plan. The plan which has an  essential meaning – the learning itself. From it we had the chance to collect the knowledge that we sought to gain. People, who were intimidated or scared of the work, didn’t receive too much what was given. Yet the people who were open and willing to work hard got the full package. I am proud to consider myself as the one, who took everything, what was possible to take. And now, I realise, that sometimes the unexpected actually appears to be deep down expected.

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