Youth Fellows Overnight Meet-up

On May 6th and 7th, 2016, The Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice, the Peace Learning Center, and the Desmond Tutu Center Youth Fellows came together for our May Overnight Meet-up focused on team bonding, relationship building, and training workshops at the Christian Theological Seminary Hospitality House.

Under the warm sun on Friday evening, PLC Youth Program Facilitator Clare Wildhack-Nolan, guided Fellows and staff through a series of light-hearted activities that allowed everyone to warm-up, be a little goofy, and ease into familiarity with laughter and leisure.

P1020077The group then gathered indoors for a discussion on active citizenship led by DTC Managing Director, Waseema Ali. Building from the philosophies of Desmond Tutu and spoken word videos by Prince EA, Ali discussed the importance of Ubuntu, “I am because you are.” What we do affects others, how we treat other people is reflected back to us. “People need people, to be people,” Ali said. The philosophy embodies the ideas of human connectedness, community, and mutual caring for all. Ali talked about the importance of civic engagement and working with others on issues of common concern and being an active citizen. She talked with the Fellows about how they can be engaged, be leaders in our community, and be agents of change through their work with the Youth Fellows Initiative and beyond.

As we get to know each other, we realize there are differences in the way we process thoughts, communicate with others, respond to situations, and resolve conflict. As a team, we understand the importance of respect and thus the Fellows created a Group Code, a set of unanimously agreed upon guidelines that the group will abide by to encourage respect, understanding, and kind resolution of conflict. Each Fellow contributed thoughts on what they felt needed to be included in the code to feel safe, valued, and respected by the rest of the group. The Group Code includes listening, patience, punctuality, non-judgement, respect of personal space and items, and device etiquette among others. As a team, we agreed that we will succeed best if we follow the Code and participate in frequent “check-ins” particularly during the South African Study Trip in July.

“Speak Out” was the final team-building activity for the evening. Designed to encourage individuals to speak on behalf of a minority or marginal group they belong to, “Speak Out” offered everyone the chance to share personal stories about what is important in their lives. Everyone shared personal stories about the group they represented, what they want people to know about the group, what they wished others would stop saying about the group, and advice for others in the group. Each Fellow and staff shared thoughtful narratives about being part of groups related to race, gender, appearance, or personality. We learned how to be more compassionate and understanding of those who represent those groups, an important step in growing together as a team.

IMG_5623 (1)Saturday morning began early with Peace Yoga and Meditation provided by Lauren Roberts, an Indianapolis-based Yoga instructor who empowers visionary leaders, organizations, and communities with the skills to show up, be seen, and create meaningful work. She took some of the Fellows through exercises to alleviate stress, provide calmness, and promote peace inwardly and outwardly. Stretched and rejuvenated, we began with breakfast and an opening circle conversation guided by Ali and Youth Fellows volunteer, Niru Hayden. The question “How do you deal with early mornings?” was posed to the group. We learned about each other’s quirks, habits, and preferences when it came to sleep, travel, and personal time. Some are early birds, others night owls; some enjoy exercise, others writing, reading, or blogging; some of us have traveled before, and for others the Study Trip will be the first trip so far away from home. We revisited the Group Code to make changes and additions. A technology workshop followed on WordPress blogging and YouTube Capture vlogging (video-blogging) platforms, which the Fellows will use to share progress and thoughts during the program. The Fellows also participated in a mystery-solving group-building activity that helped build teamwork (and crime solving) skills and circle discussions, designed Youth Fellow T-shirts and apparel, and finally a Question and Answer session before the Fellows returned home for the weekend.

IMG_5641 (1)While each Fellow has their own project idea, at the DTC we envision the Fellows as a team of young, emerging leaders who will work together to empower each other. We spent two days deepening relationships within the group and learning more about our own narratives, stories, interests, skills, hopes, and dreams. Forming a team built around mutual respect, trust, laughter, kindness, and compassion is crucial to the success of any group. The Youth Fellows Overnight Meet-up provided the DTC, PLC, and Youth Fellows to build a strong foundation for the Youth Fellows Program and we are more excited than ever to be working with these remarkable Fellows and eager to assist them as agents of change in our Indianapolis community.

By: Allison Troutner

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