Tuesday, July 29, 2008

community building

I was asked some months back to do some 'getting to know you' activites at the Pre-YM Seminar (9-11 July '08).

It's just as well I'm now used to the Kiwi 'she'll be right' way of organising things... although I'm pretty sure we've planned a few Link Group w/e's in a similar manner (memories of me, Ruth and Susie at Glendevon Rd organising an entire event over just one pot of tea... please don't tell Mina, she'd be horrified!). A couple of weeks before the event I tried emailing round to get an idea of what the other sessions were to be about as I discovered from the programme that my slot had transformed into a whole session entitled 'community building'! Having been to various events over the years where the first night has felt like it has had nothing to do with the rest of the event I wanted to tie things in together somehow.

Well the day before I headed south I finally got a reply! So it was a case of trusting the spirit and hoping for the best. What I had managed to find out was some idea as to who might be there, so knowing we'd have one electric wheelchair and one person with walking sticks 'the sun shines on...' went out of the window as an option (I think the weather was coming to a similar conclusion) - no point giving Marilyn & Chris and unfair advantage!!! I wasn't worried about them, more our squashed toes...

What we did, which was fascinating to hear, was a go round where everyone introduced themselves briefly and then said who in the room they'd known the longest and how, and then someone they'd just, or recently, met. We heard an amazing variety of connections including teacher and pupil, 'Miss New Zealand' and an inspired teenager (albeit some years back!), people who'd known each other since babes in arms or as young girls with pigtails (which raised a laugh), connections through the Alternatives to Violence Programme, retreat centres, peace campaigns, Britain YM Treasurers conference, and Yorkshire Friends Holiday School. Margaret who is one of the current Resident Friends in Auckland was staff at Holiday School when I was there as a teenager!

The interconnectedness of our lives and the different sources of these connections, not just Quaker, did manage to thread it's way through the ongoing conversations of the gathering. I was the only participant under 50 but the energy levels were high! It gave an insight into people's worlds that we possibly wouldn't have stumbled across any other way and by the end of that first session we felt like we all knew each other far better. Many delighted exclamations were made at being someone's 'longest known' and those who were visitors to the YM got many mentions for being the most recent aquaintences so we were all well aware of who they were and they felt well and truely welcomed!

Our sense of community was indeed being built on firm foundations.

ps a note to anyone planning to try this who wants to be a bit more organised in advance - it took us at least an hour to get round about 25 people, but I didn't rush anyone and we had plenty time to play with.

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