Fresh air, lakes and green forest, last days of summer and a lovely wooden countryside house. That was the setting of our European Youth Leadership Training in Kloten, Sweden from 20th to 24th of August. As our Finnish delegation arrived at the location with the Russian Youth UPF team, we were yet to discover how much fun the following days would be and how much we would learn and develop throughout the event. The atmosphere was very warm and supporting from the beginning.
The first afternoon and evening was spent settling in and getting to know our surroundings, whilst waiting for the rest of the participants to arrive. Everyone went to bed early that night, tired from their journeys and in order to be fresh and well-prepared for the morning.
Our first training day begun with ice breakers (led by Bogdan Pammer, director of Youth UPF Europe), including a game where one needs to connect an action to his or her name, and drawing a timeline in groups based on individual members’ important life events. In addition to Finland and Russia we had participants from Sweden, Great Britain, Germany, France, Austria, Portugal, Malta and Tunis. In the second session of the day all the delegations introduced themselves, and shared with others what kind of activities and programs they are conducting in their own countries. The session was greatly inspiring, and we came up with various ideas for activities our team could arrange in Finland. Later on we had a lecture on political concepts of peace given by Joana Pereira from European Comission, and a workshop to develop our own foundations in our countries. The day was not purely hard work though, and in the middle of the program we had time to go canoeing in an idyllic, 20 km long lake near by.
Our second day started with a short introduction and a group discussion on conceptions of peace in world religions. We identified similar thoughts in religious texts and discussed the role of religion in conflicts, how it is represented in media, and how it could be used to prevent conflict and war. After a break we listened to a lecture on the genesis and work of UPF by the secretary general of UPF Europe, Mark Brann. As the morning side of the day had required a lot of concentration and participation, we had a chance to rest our minds and go canoeing again, which almost everyone happily agreed to.
In the afternoon session, given by the director of Youth UPF Finland, Hakim Salem, we continued in groups identifying and tackling challenges that our societies are facing. Each team was formed around a different central issue, from environmental issues and global warming to racism, educational challenges and reduction in moral values. All teams came up with possible solutions, and ways for UPF to improve the state of our societies.
On the third day we started with Bogdan Pammer’s lecture on Father Moon’s thought, emphasizing the role of internal and external desires on achieving happiness and peace, and the importance of the individual and a healthy family to world peace. An important notice was that there should be no enemies in our thinking when working towards peace. The following sessions we spent in mostly our country groups working on our existing or upcoming projects. Furthermore, we got valuable advice on event organizing from all of the Youth UPF leaders, who presented us with ideological toolboxes and checklists for planning and execution of projects.
On the side of work, some brave participants experienced the Nordic sauna and jumped in a chilly lake for refreshment. In the evening the whole group of participants gathered in the dining room, covered the floor with mattresses and relaxed by watching a movie together. Everyone felt pretty comfortable with each other, and be it that or an apt choice of movie, the evening was full of laughter.
On the morning of the final day we received some brilliant advice on team building and managing from the Tunisian team, Wafa Ben Slimen and Emna Chebbi. We also had a conclusive round up session where we all received our certificates from the training and got to thank each other and our kind hosts.
All in all, the training covered various fields on the subject of leadership and initiating peace, and gave a great push for each of the Youth UPF delegations to develop their own activities and projects. Importantly for our Finnish team, we found valuable cooperation for our upcoming project in Helsinki, Finland on youth and education. In addition to exchanging information and creating useful contacts, we made plenty of new friends, and the training gave a strong feeling of belonging to a larger society of people who are as passionate about creating change as we are. We would suggest a workshop like this to be held every year in a different country.
Written by Katri Olkkonen, Youth UPF Finland