Saturday, 2 March 2013

Giants and small boys

Day 6 & 7
Wednesday was an emotionally challenging day for me. It started well enough, with a worship led by Alana, Caitlyn and I in the Croi. At the request of volunteer Martha from Maine, who was at Corrymeela for several weeks when I was there in the summer of 2011, and who is now the Director’s assistant, we agreed to lead the morning reflection time. It was a nice, gentle opening to the day, and left me with warm memories of the privilege of being able to have that gift on a daily basis.
We then headed off for a quick trip to the Giant’s Causeway in the Corrymeela bus, with Peter driving. Further down in this blog you can find the origins of the Causeway, and the legend of Finn McCool. “What do you mean legend?” said Peter when I asked Steph to explain the story ... “What do you mean story?” said Peter ... “ok” I said, “the history of Finn McCool.” As I said earlier in this blog, you don’t get too far in Northern Ireland, and Corrymeela, without knowing about Finn McCool, the giant who “built” the Causeway. Although we didn’t have a lot of time, the group got to the bottom to see the rocks and I was able to poke around the new, very impressive Interpretation Centre of this World Heritage Site. And yes, I shopped in the gift shop.
Back at Corrymeela we had an evaluation and then lunch, and we were on our way back to Belfast. During these past three days, I have been truly moved by the number of staff who seemed genuinely happy to see me, and interested in the group and what we were doing. I had several deep conversations with folks who will help me continue to shape this program. As we climbed on the bus, Paul advised “keep writing the blog, and remember Derek from Brazil.” I left Corrymeela for the second time, again richly blessed by my experience.
Peter drove back to Belfast along the Antrim Coast road, which took a bit longer, but is much more picturesque. He was lively and informational all along the journey – full of facts and anecdotes about everything from who owned the small castle on the side of the road, to the salmon that are helicoptered to the salmon farm in the bay.
When we arrived back at Farset, the mood immediately changed. We were all anxious about going into Boys Model School in the morning. Boys Model is a huge, protestant boys school. We found out several weeks ago that Trish from Bernardo’s had placed us there for the last two days of the week, working with boys at the youngest end of the high school spectrum, the year 8s ... aged 11 and 12. It was unclear to us what exactly was expected, and what the topics were that the teachers hoped to have covered. All around, it was just making everyone a little jumpy and worried. We were supposed to meet Trish late afternoon, but because of work commitments we weren’t able to meet with her until about 7. She reassured the group that whatever was planned was going to be great, but the group wasn’t so sure. After Trish left, they split into their two teams for several hours to finalize their sessions. I realized that as much as I wanted to control things, to swoop in and make a plan, I had to just let go and trust the group. I had to let go. It’s hard when you think you have the answers ... which as it turns out, I probably didn’t.
Thursday morning, a very tense group met Craig Carlisle, the teacher who arranged our visit, who picked us up in a mini bus to travel to the school. The bus was noticeably silent on the trip over. It was explained that over the next two days the group would facilitate sessions with about 150 boys aged 11-12, in classes of about 30, so each group of 4 would have about 15 pupils each session. And the first group was the special needs group with all boys in that group having some form of learning disability, ADD, or autism. “I’m glad I didn’t know that last night!” said Ariane.
I was an observer, alternating between groups. After 10 minutes, I knew all would be well. Each of the young women have much experience leading camps and working with children, and in working with teams. We had worked on the guiding principles of the sessions weeks ago, which were that they were to be conversational rather than content-oriented, and in order to facilitate that, they would try to break into smaller groups as much as they could. In between the conversations, they would insert fun and silly ice breakers and games to keep the boys’ attention. 
The teachers made a point to tell the Dal group at the end of the session how amazed they were that the boys stayed attentive for the whole session. Both groups of leaders had amazing conversations with the boys over the course of the two days. My observation of both groups over the two days was that there was deep listening going on, between leaders and students, and even between the students. Needless to say, Craig mentioned to me on Friday morning that the bus was much more animated on the trip over. Below is Craig with the Dal students, several pictures of the small group discussions, one group singing "Waddle-ee-atchy", one group pretending to be sizzling Canadian bacon, and one of the group drawings. A wonderful success all around!

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