On Saturday 13th February, 2016, Christchurch Youth Council ran a retreat day for our members at Halswell Quarry Park. Our team had to build up a CYC ‘camp’ for the day, including getting a marquee set up (some people were learning this for the first time!), arranging food and prepping for the activities we had planned.
Kotte, from Yoga By Kotte arrived at 10am to teach our team yoga relaxation and meditation techniques for an hour, and it was clear by the smiles on everyone’s faces that they enjoyed this part of the day immensely! A favourite memory was Kotte encouraging everyone to relax their backs by being carried around like a backpack by someone else. This part of the day encouraged team spirit, oneness and broke down any awkwardness - and also flushed out the sleep!
Next, Rochelle Faimalo from Hurunui District Council came to facilitate a session based around ‘Using your Strengths in the Christchurch Context’. For the first hour, we worked through activities which allowed us to unpack the experience of being young people in the earthquakes. It was really refreshing to see members who don’t ordinarily speak up having a say and the group processed their feelings together, which lent a real air of support to proceedings.
Rochelle moved us from this activity to an analysis of our individual strengths as found through using Strengths Finder. The group got a lot out of talking about what their strengths might mean and how they might be useful to their lives and to our work with CYC. We then looked at how different people’s strengths intertwined - some potentially productive connections we made in this part of the day and we went into this topic in a great deal of depth and continued this work through lunch, which was delicious and involved a Youth Council favourite: pizza!
Finally Rochelle moved to a physical activity where she used continuums to allow CYC to see where we fit amongst our peers on a number of topics and scenarios. This was illuminating as it allowed us to understand why our members think the way they do.
After a short break, Emma Trott, of Flamme Rouge Personal Fitness, arrived to take us to the end of our day with some running around and team games to encourage a bit of bonding and friendly competition. It was very hot by this point in the late afternoon, so some members had to tap out from the physical activity but it was good to finish on a high.
We really enjoyed the day. It was something we had all been looking forward to and by involving Strengths Finder to unlock ways to deal with the Christchurch context they all live in, we have been left with a lasting tool and set of strategies which will help us professionally and personally.
The team spirit that grew through the day meant that new members felt welcome and the longer-serving members had a chance to really play great hosts to them. Being in the quarry was a great decision (had we hosted our event one day later, we would have been very scared thanks to the aftershock!), and we were undisturbed for the whole time we were there.
We used the lack of venue costs to put more into the important thing - making change for our young people at CYC. In a strange way, talking about the earthquakes, processing how to deal with them and only focussing on strengths might well have meant that our team were in a stronger frame of mind to deal with the next day’s aftershock. It is, however, a reminder that we’re not out of the woods yet, and that grants for retreats like this are absolutely necessary to allow teams like ours to unload, process and repack their thoughts about this unique time we are living in. We are very grateful to CEAT and CYS for approving our grant.
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