This Is Youth Work: the power of youth exchange

In October, young people from across Scotland and Germany met in West Linton for a youth exchange hosted by UK-German Connection and YouthLink Scotland. Andrew has shared his experience of the exchange for Youth Work Week, sharing his story and highlighting this years theme: #ThisIsYouthWork. 

Helm Training are fortunate enough to be participating in a youth exchange, hosted by UK-German Connection and YouthLink Scotland. The exchange hopes to bring together young people and youth group leaders from the UK and Germany, enabling the forming of relationships between young people and youth organisations that stretch far beyond their own locality. Its intention is to provide a platform to allow the initiation and growth of relationships between organisations that will sustain these to enable future exchanges, to the educational and personal benefit of the young people and youth group leaders.

In the first leg of the exchange, Helm was one of ten Scottish youth groups participating and who was host to nine German youth groups. We met our German counterparts at Broomlee, West Linton where we enjoyed a weekend in shared living quarters and getting to know each other through meal times, team building activities, outdoor exercises and winding down into the night with conversations where we shared our cultural differences, similarities and everything in between(!).

The seamless assimilation of cultures was heart-warming, inspiring, and uplifting. All involved revelled in our little differences, our big similarities and the overwhelmingly unifying trait we each possessed: our common humanity.

Photograph of a group of young people in a dorm roomLittle examples of this were evident throughout the weekend and not limited to nationality, or culture, or life experiences – regard was given freely and without limitation to every person, young or old, German or Scottish. So, to Heiner from Fideliopark (Kreisjugendring München-Stadt) who offered his phone charger, and Steffen from Jugendfeuerwehr Eckersmühlen who taught me to dance to Helikopter 117, and Bernhard, Mara, Annika and Dominik from JugendgruppeRegensburg who took time to teach me more about their language, culture and games – I wholeheartedly give thanks. My appreciation extends to everyone I met across the weekend who made it the fantastic experience it was.

Steven and Caitlin – Helm Training students – joined me on the weekend and were fantastic advocates for Helm, Dundee and Scotland. Both had a fantastic time, formed lasting friendships and challenged themselves to try new things. Steven particularly enjoyed meeting new people and enjoyed the camaraderie he found in his dorm group where he forged friendships with young people, Scottish and German, and continues to be in contact with them. He also loved experiencing Edinburgh, namely the castle, and sharing the experience of our beautiful capital with others. Caitlin, too, enjoyed meeting others and by the final day was settled in amongst a group of friends she would have considered strangers two days before. Both now look forward to the German leg, partly to see beautiful Berlin, but more so to be reunited with those they would now consider friends.

Whilst fun, Broomlee was a weekend that had intentions: to develop relationships, to strengthen connections, to gain new experiences. What it actually achieved went far beyond this, and it was a sobering reminder in an increasingly hostile and tense political climate of fear, or division, or intolerance that we are all only human – and what a beautiful thing to be.

All that’s left to say is… see you in Berlin!

This article was originally posted on Helm's website on 31st October. 

The views expressed on this blog belong solely to the original author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of YouthLink Scotland.

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