You were born to count the stars PART 1

A Touch of sLOVEnia broadcasting internationally.

A youth exchange in an organic farm, somewhere far away from factories and shopping malls. About 25 people from all over Europe. And my very first time as a trainer in a setting as such.

Dear reader,

all you really need is not a great pair of shoes. I just came back from the above event and as I’m going through the photos and am trying to organize memories. I feel the time is right to share with you what’s up.

This youth exchange was something beyond special. It was an opportunity to stop time, unplug wifi, forget the phone charger and throw makeup into a trash. As always, at the beginning when I have a group to lead and a message to deliver, I get a bit nervous. But not this negative nervousness, but more of an excited one. I was worried whether the group members would understand the message and whether they would have it difficult adapting and simplifying their way of life for the time being at this exchange. Besides solar showers and compost toilets, there was also very strict non alcohol and drug policy as well as vegetarian food.  Not everybody is able adapt to this, yet alone to understand what to do and how to spend the time instead of browsing and tweeting. Will the group of people who don’t know most of the others and are aged between 16-25 be able to manage?

This group managed and they managed the first day already. The energy we created was so inspiring and I think they (and hope) learned soooo much in such a short period of time. For example, take an exercise: you get a certain social role assigned and you have to place yourself up the scale according to what the facilitator asks. Questions like “can you vote, are you able to bring your friends over for dinner, are your children going to be safe in the future, can you afford to buy new clothes every 3 months”, etc. etc. Each member had a different role. And as we climbed up the scale, many were left behind and some were progressing forward. In the debriefing phase we discussed about this. And people who were way in front (privileged) noticed that none of them was there because of their own efforts. Maybe it was a rich daddy’s influence, maybe a political party they belonged to or maybe they were children of successful traders. But none of them was privileged because of their own work.

It touched us deeply. As we shared the emotions in the end, a girl who was among “well off” members said, she was disappointed. And she was right. Society isn’t just. And the position we are in, has most of the time nothing to do with our work or efforts. Equal opportunities suddenly gain importance and at the same time become a vague concept.

Anyhow, this was just to illustrate about the group’s maturity.

I’m sitting in front of this stupidd screen now. And am going through what has happened in the 3 days we’ve been together. The exchange isn’t over yet, just I had to leave because I have some other obligations to fulfill. So I think right now the group is having dinner and is hopefully checking their “gossip box”. I hope they will find something nice in there.

More to follow …


Mandala of trust, understanding, respect and love.

How to make a Win-Win situation out of conflict

Dear reader,

Do you like church bells? Our street doesn’t. In fact, in the last half a year or so, most neighbours (including us) began to hate it. Our village church is a big proud heavy building and so are the church bells. Since we live in a valley beneath, the sound doubles or even triples. Moreover, since our Christian community lives a colourful and active life, they celebrate every special occasion with ecclesial music. In our view every 15 minutes, relatively.

The neighbours as usual and everywhere in the world talk a lot. Complain a lot. In addition, as soon as they find enough think-alike partners, the party begins. Especially, according to Slovenian stereotype, this is a rather typical Slovenian situation.

We wanted to do something about it. My husband started online conversation with our priest and the priest invited our whole community for a meeting that took place on Tuesday. I went along not because the bells would bother me (in fact I don’t care much about things like that), but more because I wanted to be there in case the group would fall too deep into conflict and argument and would need mediation. Also, I wanted to be a support for my husband in case he would get stuck with words.

The meeting started. There were about 25 people – about 7 bell ringers, the priest and the rest of us, angry neighbours. The priest invited my husband to start. My husband, ladies and gentlemen, is a natural talent when it comes to nonviolent communication. He’s also a master of natural solution-focused orientation. I had to go through a long training and hours of learning, but he manages it as a piece of cake. What he’s not so good at, is managing group dynamics in terms of deciding when enough is enough and how to break with a topic that’s leading nowhere and bring it to a topic that does. Since I was aware of this, it was rather easy for me to know what to do. If I knew the group dynamics, which I did not …

Things got heated up as the neighbours took over complaints and everybody wanted to state how much they are bothered, when and what the situation was as well as how bad it is. The priest and his team eventually started losing patience. As soon as this happens, there’s only one tiny step towards defence. From there, there is little chance of reaching consensus.

As it turns out, the priest and my husband (with my minor interventions as leading from behind) managed to start a discussion about the solutions. As a result, we will get some special window shutters by August 15th. How was it possible this happened and the whole group felt satisfied with the agreement? Because the leaders (the priest and my husband) agreed upon the following statements:

  1. We want to communicate
  2. We want to make a common improvement
  3. We don’t take things personally
  4. We understand the needs of the other
  5. We understand our own needs.

I only wished I could take a picture of before/after situation. A picture with red faces in the complaint phase and smiles in the conclusion phase.

As the meeting closed and we started to say goodbye, our close neighbour introduced me to the priest, saying I do some activities the priest might find interesting and valuable. This resulted in an offered space for our workshops and meetings! So dear reader, in the next newsletter if you are subscribed, you’ll find information about a new location!

yes mhh

Picture from cherry on the cake training (see previous blog post) that seemed to suit the conflict management situation

And That Reminds Me of a Story

Dear reader,

learning begins at the end of your comfort zone. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. The best and most learning happens when you are feeling insecure, unfomfortable, maybe even scared, because things are hard.

Comfort zone isn’t always fun. In fact it is almost never fun. But it’s always worthwhile once you have time to reflect back on it.

My uncomfort zone has happened last week as I was chosen for a job shadowing as associate trainer for the international training for youth workers and leaders. From the pool of trainers two were chosen for this job and we were supposed to learn from two experienced trainers. So together there were four of us in the trainer’s team. I’ve done some (many) trainings before, but never within a team like this one and never to a group that I would stay with for one whole week, 24 hours per day.

I entered the training pretty confident. Little did I know that running training for a day or two is in no way related or similar to delivering training where you develop (together with) a group. This one was not just about passing on the contents and teaching others, but was as much about group dynamics, stages and development through different stages. This was very new for me and sometimes really hard. Though the expert trainers let us take parts and deliver some of the sessions alone or in pairs. And that turned out to be the best way to learn. This was not a rehearsal, there was no backup and the timing was scarce so we had to be quick in making important decisions and had to react promptly.

We managed. Not perfectly, and I’m sure we could do better. But we did the best job we could do. All of us. We tried our best. Our driving force was the group we trained. We wanted to give them everything we could and we really hoped that the group would meet the outcomes that is useful for them when they return to their organizations.

I learned. Again learned to be comfortable with uncomfort. This is a sign that I’m growing.

So one more news. Prior to this training we had our first meeting under the project “That reminds me of a story“. It was really well received and our plan is to run in continuonsly every month or two. If you’d like to join, click here to subscribe to the news about the dates. In the next meeting I’ll have many stories to tell from this amazing week of intense learning, new friendships, group work, team building and increased acceptance of diversity. Thank you so much Sneža and Sašo and Lea and thank you my dear group to be such a challenging environment that demands much, but also gives much in return. I’ll never forget this.

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