"Harvesting" together with contact friends

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26 October 2018

On October 26-28, the final seminar for volunteers and contact persons was held as part of the project “Not nearby, but together: a contact person for teenagers at risk”. Participants got to know each other, and an interest in communication appeared, there was a positive mood and acceptance of others, a willingness to interact and cooperate throughout the whole event.

The seminar used the “Time Machine” technique, when participants were able to mentally recall all stages of work and analyze the experience of their participation indifferent events. At each stage, the participants united in small groups, recalled events and discussed positive experiences, success stories, what was possible, what could not be done. The form of presentation of the experience was different: dialogue, monologue, game-improvisation, role-playing game. The analysis of the experience took place at four stations corresponding to the project phases: 1. Field meetings in the regions, working meetings with volunteers, 2. Seminars for contact persons, 3. Trips to special institutions, 4. Meetings with graduates. Everyone was very excited to recall how their activities began in our organization. Some of the participants have been contact friends for more than 5 years now and they went through a lot of things of things had to pass during this time, but the first meeting with the students, the first acquaintance with the organization will forever be remembered and will warm the soul. It is always very pleasant to remember good moments, and new volunteers were also interested in listening to these stories. Everybody took part in the conversation - memories: someone told stories, someone asked questions about what has changed since those times, someone just listened carefully and drew conclusions, everyone was involved.

The second big stage of “Time Machine” was the analysis of the activities that are carried out in a given period of time: all field activities, correspondence with students, communication and meetings with graduates, all that they succeeded and what difficulties they faced and face. In smaller groups, the participants tried to find a solution to the problems they face when working with teenagers. To realize the role of a volunteer, the role of a contact friend, various exercises were conducted. As a result, the participants mastered effective ways of communicating with teenagers, realized the emotions experienced by teenagers when communicating with adults, played constructive ways of maintaining contact in communication. Discussing the topic of help and opportunities to help, the participants came to the conclusion that it is important to be able to ask for help, to help sincerely, that not everyone can always help, and therefore it is important not to feel offended, not to close within yourself, but to go further, accept help with gratitude, offer openly help to others. Since teenagers usually do not ask for help, but need it, the contact friend must be able to be open, to endear to the teenager, to offer help correctly and unobtrusively, to understand the needs of the teenager to be heard and understood. Everyone agreed that correspondence with teenagers is essential help for him. Contact friend can give a teenager the opportunity not to feel lonely, the opportunity to share his/her thoughts and experiences, hobbies and goals.

The next stage was the future. What else can we do for students and graduates of closed institutions? There were a lot of ideas and proposals, each shared his/her experience, offered different types of work with graduates, shared what else could be done with the students and how to unite these two target groups. All participants were divided into 5 groups with specific topics: major events that can be done with all project participants; topics that can be discussed with students during retreat events; arrangements for recruiting new contact persons; events with contact persons; events with graduates. After the volunteers wrote down all the possible options for working with the target groups, they proceeded to the next sheet and added what their colleagues did not finish. Thus, in the discussion and planning, everyone took part and shared their ideas. After that all possible risks and resources that could be spent on carrying out these activities were brainstormed.

The evaluation of the seminar was held in the form of a survey and a reflective circle, where participants shared their impressions, important conclusions and emotions, wishes to the team and insights.

Here are some reviews about the seminar:

“I got positivity, new useful information for working with teenagers, different emotions that prompted thinking, improved my communication skills, got new ideas, food for thought about what it means to be a volunteer, a good volunteer and that this is such a responsibility to be one and help others.”

“I realized that there is a desire to develop, in any situation there is a way out; I liked that we discussed so many things and played and imitated so many different scenarios! Thanks to that I got confidence for some things, new ideas, saw some things from a different angle. This training developed my creativity, interest for the new and made some of my fears go away. I loved our team-work very much!”

The objectives of the seminar were achieved. The main results of the seminar can be named: a favorable positive working atmosphere helped create a cohesive team of volunteers, sharing experience in the project familiarized everyone with the organization’s activities and aroused interest and greater motivation among participants, awareness of their personal resources and constructive communication methods will increase the effectiveness of their communication with teenagers, the unconditional positive acceptance of teenagers will help volunteers to better understand and hear the needs of their mentees, the active involvement of volunteers in planning activities of the project increases their motivation and desire to be a member of the organization and team, different age and activity of volunteers enables self-organization of the volunteer team, and also represents a unique experience and possibility of mutual assistance and project implementation.