YOUTHopia - An Unforgettable Week
The week started with a lot of handshakes. I was shaking hands with some people who were still in their teen ages but also with people whose age has already passed the teen-limit. With people from different countries: Belgium, Catalonia, Finland and Poland. Some of them were visiting high school - some went to university already. Some were youth workers. There were people with deep blue eyes, others with glasses. Some had tattoos or braces. It was, to say it in one sentence, a bunch of really different people that met in Helsinki on 29th July 2017. A colourful diversity of young human beings with one thing in common: our participation in youth work. We all want to bring the idea of engagement closer to the young people. The idea of making something happen together.
On the program for Saturday – the first day – were name games and team building tasks. For example we had to go to the city in small (mixed) groups and take pictures of specific things. Of course we could be little bit creative with the tasks as well. We got some really awesome results and had a lot of fun watching them afterwards. Here are some examples:
A picture of 4 generations.
One of the 3 pictures with a burger place.
A picture of a proposal.
A picture with a house with number 192.
As you can see in the pictures everybody was already really into the group and we had a lot of fun – and that on the first day! And also the next day the atmosphere was cheerful and people got along with each other very well. Even creating the rules for the camp became an easy and funny task. In small groups we had to think of rules for the camp and later on, when collecting all the ideas, we got a good list of “rules” that everybody agreed on:
According to one rule every group (We were divided into the colours of our name tags) had to create a motto. I was in the blue group. Does our motto sound familiar to you? (If not you can check it here)
In the afternoon, again in small groups, we were sent to Helsinki city centre to do some tasks like counting the steps of the Parliament House (46), checking how much a train to Rovaniemi would cost (80 euros!!) , making a video at Kaivopuisto or a picture of the President’s Residence. We also just discovered the city little bit and enjoyed the sunny weather and the good company.
But the ice finally broke in the evening. After eating Falafel we organised a small international evening with traditional food, habits and dances from the four different countries. We learned a lot about the cultures of the other group members. Later in the evening we left to Hietaniemi beach together. With huge speakers and their endless urge to sing and dance, the Belgians turned the beach into an outdoor disco and entrained everybody to join them. Limbo, Letkis, the Belgian dance and the crazy jumping around to the Bosnian song Gas Gas were on the top list of the evening and then also during the whole week.
On Monday we learned more about each youth council in a session called “Elevator Pitch” – you describe your youth council in the time that you would spend in an elevator – so, really short. Later we could also rotate around and ask more specific questions from each other. The last task in Helsinki was making a video about “What is participation for you?” which was a lot of fun when we watched them together later on. At 4 pm we left to the camp place in Vihti.
During the first morning in Vihti we tried to tackle the challenges (problems are never problems but challenges) of the individual youth councils. With the information from the Elevator pitch that we had done the day before, all the groups could gain ideas to improve their own strategy and inspire each other. The objective of this workshop was a prototype of the solution to their biggest challenge. Here are some:
The prototype of the Catalan group.
The prototype of the Finnish group.
On Tuesday we started the secret friend, which became a highlight of the camp. Everybody had to create an envelope with his or her name on it and we had to pick a secret friend to whom we would send little notes during the camp. It was exciting and really nice to find little coloured papers in your envelope from anonymous writers. Who it might have been?
The following days were also filled with many different workshops. We spoke about the Erasmus opportunities, formed political parties in a workshop called “If I could decide…” and reflected on how we can motivate young people to participate. The last task was about the future of the project , like if there will be another exchange and where and when. Many agreed on that the next exchange should take place in Catalonia, I wonder why? :)
But of course the whole program wasn’t only about workshops and developing strategies. We played many energizers before and between the session...
…we ate a lot and really good food. But many of the young people - especially the Catalans - complained about the meal schedules because they are normally used to eat lunch at around 2-3pm and dinner at around 9-10pm. This was the eating time table in the camp:
And also we simply enjoyed. The sun blessed us with her presence every day and there were so many nice things to do. There was a beach volley ball field, the lake right next to the camp where we could swim or go rowing. We enjoyed – and some of us discovered - the sauna. Also the bonfire place was used several times during the evenings. One evening a small group of Belgians even started to build a sand castle and it ended up as a marble run where in the end everybody participated.
The grand finale of the camp was the farewell party on Thursday evening. We had prepared a slideshow of pictures which we had taken during the week. It was a magical moment when after the video everybody was clapping and even standing up. Applauding to all the participants who made it a unique experience and to the leaders, who have managed to organize such an extraordinary camp. Applauding for the awesome week, for so many great memories and moments we have experienced together.
Text: Anja Kaufmann
Pictures: Anja Kaufmann, Małgorzata Majewska