Last Saturday we took around 40 young people and leaders on a day trip to Winnifred Beach in Portland. The day was planned out with activities that would help the young people to have fun, work together on team challenges, and ultimately experience a level of freedom that they don’t normally get, in the context of a community that valued each individual. We were then planning to have one of the leaders share his story towards the end of the day; talking about how those experiences of community for him as a young person had changed his life.
The day didn’t go to plan!
The chef had a power cut at home, so had not woken early enough to get the food ready for us when we arrived. So we needed to get the bus with the young people going to the beach and then have the smaller bus with more leaders and all the equipment follow afterwards. The food still wasn’t ready when we got back, so the second bus arrive an hour and twenty minutes after the first bus. When the young people arrived they just wanted to swim, so simply would not take any of the activities seriously, and there were several altercations in the first few minutes, as well as a lot of very disrespectful comments directed towards the leaders.
We hoped this would change when the extra leaders arrived, but we were wrong. As the day progressed, every single leader got to that point of total frustration that they just didn’t know how to respond, or if they should even keep trying at all. It was a tough day, and the trip home was even worse … but as we were leaving I asked one of our young leaders (in exasperation) “What do we do with these kids???!!” Before the last words had left my mouth he replied: “We can’t give up on them.”
He then told me the story of talking with one of our young men, a 14 year old, earlier that week. I can not record his story here, but what this young man has experienced reminded me, in a vivid way, why young people like him can exhibit challenging behaviour sometimes. Life has not been simple for them.
The day afterwards our team of leaders were all committed to running a festival at a park in the city for VMBS (a local building society who were putting on a family-focussed event).
The team pushed through the exhaustion, got going again, and the festival went amazingly well!! Some of the bank staff even gave us their contact details because they wanted to join the team as volunteers in the future.
The following Thursday night we held a club meeting with those who had been on the trip, did some of the activities that we had never got to on the trip itself, and the leader who was going to share his story on the trip shared it at the club instead. The young people responded well, gave their full attention to his story, and thanked the team for persevering.
I am proud to be part of a team that get’s knocked down, but just gets up again!