In late May this year Medway Youth Trust were offered a unique opportunity to bring a group of our young people to Denmark for a 7 day Inspiration for Leisure experience facilitated by Inter College and Lolland Production School. Despite the short notice the opportunity was too good to miss and thanks to the fantastic pre-departure preparation by Simone and Nic ; myself and Steve Hutson and 5 of our young people packed our bags and hit for Gatwick at 5:30am on a sunny Tuesday morning. Terry Allen, Eddie Jackson, Talli Coyne, Libby Goodwin and Minnie Wray made up the MYT contingent – and I think it is a testament to their positive attitude and self-confidence that they grabbed such an opportunity with both hands despite not having much prior warning before the off. Clearly nothing would deter this lot from an adventure and I think it’s safe to say that we all had an unforgettable week.
The basic premise behind the week was bringing together young people from across Europe, sharing our sports, activities and games and inspiring each other to lead healthier and more active lives. The UK delegate picked up an extra member at Gatwick airport –with Marie (originally from Belgium but now living in Nottingham) joining our pack and increasing our multiculturalism another fold. The UK clan now consisted of three different nationalities (British, Irish and Belgian) and we were all the better for it as we rolled into to Lolland armed with a bag full of Yorkshire tea bags, a Cricket Set and a positive attitude.
Day one consisted of ice-breakers; where everyone was split into teams and began to get to know our fellow participants from Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and Denmark. We worked in teams to solve problems, puzzles and some more physical challenges. We discussed our hopes and fears and had our first taste of the fantastic food that has been ever produced at a campsite….all prepared by the talented young Chefs from Lolland production school.
Then the rain came …..and with it of course plenty of challengesbut it was over those next two rainy, rainy days that Steve and I became particularly proud of our group. The nights were cold and it rained a lot and yet every member of our team remained positive;they were always there on time for their kitchen duty, they were polite whenever they had a need or request and everyone either threw themselves into the physical activities 100% or they did their best and pushed themselves out of their comfort zone. Our hosts did everything they could to make sure the week was as positive an experience as possible and our group responded with energy and enthusiasm.
Eddie always the first on the football pitch, Tally impressed everyone with her English dialect and it seemed like Minnie suddenly spoke Italian. Marie became a naturaleighth member of our team and represented the UK like a local. Libby took to being a leader in a cultural ice-breaker called the Kingdom of Durdia and Terry talked, ran and sang his way into the centre of every interesting situation that arose; sprinting to every base in Rundbald (Danish rounders) and starting sing songs left right and centre. Over the following few days we had the opportunity to dance and make sandcastles with the Romanians, and we played Rundbald with the Danes, the Bulgarians showed us how they play Dodgeball and the Italians had us running sack races and following directions in Italian (while blindfolded).
On the third day it was our turn to share our sports with the other participants. Steve donned his cricket whites and showed everyone how to bat and bowl and I rounded up the others to teach them the Irish sport of Gaelic Football. Both went down a treat and we felt very proud to share games that have such a prominent place in our cultures with young people who had never heard of them before.
This sharing of cultures ran on into the cultural evening where we learned about our co-participant’s countries; their cities, traditions, foods and drinks. We shared with everyone what we felt life is typically like in Britain, we talked about the food and drinks, the sports and culture and what we loved about where we lived. We served tea and custard creams and Steve was in his element to find that one of the members of the Romanian delegate was as massive a Man United fan as he was. Finally the sun came out on Saturday and we took a coach journey to a nearby medieval themed village. Here we watched old fashioned slingshots catapult huge rocks into the lake, we cheered on our favourite knights in their re-enactment of a jousting competition and had a shot at some Archery with a medieval bow and arrow.
By now half way through the week- firm friends were being made and it was very special to see our delegate interact with their fellow participants. At meal times, during the activities and in the evenings everyone mixed; talking and laughing, learning new card games, learning phrases in different languages and singing together. On Monday and Tuesday the responsibility to lead the activities turned to the young participants with and extra 60 young Danes turning up to sample the new sports we had all learned the previous week. Terry stepped up to umpire the cricket with Tally and Eddie demonstrating the different skills required and talking everyone through the basics. Marie and Minnie also did an outstanding job teaching a group of young people the ropes in a sport they had never even heard of a few days before-Gaelic football. The evenings felt longer now that the sun was shining and it was hard to believe the week was almost over.
On our last evening we were ferried by bus to nearby Naskov where we had a fantastic farewell dinner at Lolland production school. As is tradition on Sankt Hans Day (Midsummers Eve) in Denmark we gathered around a bonfire (topped, traditionally, with a burning witch of course), sang songs and reflected on a fantastic week of being active, learning new things and making many new friends. The week was a success and we flew back to the UK exhausted but very happy to have been involved in such a unique and inspiring project.