WAP 2017: Serbia
How Was Serbia?
It has been a month since we met each other at Atlantic College. We have experienced some ups and downs as you may expect from any international project, but Serbia has been our greatest challenge so far. How will we be able to summarize two of the most exciting and difficult weeks of our lives as young adults?
We, as a team, have worked with three different centres in Novi Sad, a relatively big city in northern Serbia. The beginning of this adventure was not easy to handle, we were about to enter into a complex field: mental and physical disabilities. The scenario got more difficult when faced with illness in our group. Not to mention, the unexpected appearance of a ninth team member, Pluto the mouse! Let’s just say the hockey sticks from our sessions were put to good use. So was Serbia demanding for all of us? Of course it was. Was it worth it? 100%. We were able to build amazing relationships and add to the growing collection of rewarding memories from this expedition.
Sessions at Dom Veternik required a lot of patience and energy but were fulfilling. The group got to experience the real value of play and its impact on an individual. In particular, one fifteen-year-old girl had been disengaged for the first few days of sessions. This completely changed with the introduction of something the group considers a lifesaver: the parachute! The colours, movement and sound of it made her entire face light up, much to the amazement of us and her caretakers. She was totally transfixed and spent the rest of the session attempting to dive into the sea of rainbow colours.
Similarly, the personal impact was felt at MNRO , the day centre for intellectually disabled individuals. We knew about the language barrier, but we hadn’t truly experienced its limitations until now. It is hard to see someone crying, and not being able to console them is even harder. One individual was talking about her personal life and we were there just to listen. Although we could not understand a single word, the feeling at the end of that conversation was more than rewarding. She was happy and we were as well. We gave something that not many people have unfortunately given them, genuine interest.
The difficulties we faced in Serbia made our experience all the more special. On the last night at Dom Veternik we threw a party! Blaring music from the van seemed like a great idea, until the battery died. Yet, even this event transformed itself. We now have a great memory of how all the residents of Dom Veternik helped jump start the van and cheered when the engine came back on.
Images: MNRONS and Dom Veternik Sessions
All that is left to say is: thank you Serbia, our partners and all the amazing people we met!
Ayelen and Felipe
WAP 2017: Croatia
Croatia for me was an amazing experience and when I think back to the time we, World at Play, spent there one moment really stands out for me. We did some great work individually with each of the three homes we went to however the session in the park where we combined the users from all three homes really highlighted how sport and play can change peoples lives. It was incredible to see teenagers and children of different ages, backgrounds and homes come together to play as one in a huge game of Tug of Strength. We carried on to play a massive game of football and we even saw some of the teenagers teach the children some of the games we taught them, such as American football. For me this was amazing to see as it proves that combining these individuals from different marginalized communities ignited the compassion in all of them, regardless of who you are we can all learn together through sport and play.
We also experienced great revelations in our session with the homes individually. Our sessions at the teenagers home was primarily high octane competitive sport and I, as a female who has previously had little experience in football, entered feeling nervous about running these sessions. However, I was surprised to find that by the end of our time there the male teenagers wanted me on their team. In particular, on the last day we were there one of the older boys called me out to play on his team for a great game of football tennis. I hope that my participation in these games helped break some stereotypes about girls in sports for these young men and now I am fully confident for future sessions similar to these.
Photos: All three homes battling in Tug of Strength
Dan and Christina
WAP 2017: Training Week Blog
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the World At Play 2017 International Project Blog!
Over the next 10 weeks we are going to be driving about 2,809 miles and through five countries in the Balkans. Although before we set out we faced our first challenge as a team, training. All great projects and teams need thorough training because as Benjamin Franklin said, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. There is no doubt that comprehensive training week is one of the key elements that fosters success and as Volunteer Christina said, “makes WAP stand out as a serious organization”.
Let’s Meet the Team
We are a quite International group of people this year. We have got Mariah and Colm, our dear Canadians, Dan and Ayelen our Brits, Meg from Cumru (Wales), Felipe and Ricardo our ‘Latinos’ respectively from Chile and Colombia, as well we have Christina our Norwegian fairy.
Although, we only met 7 days ago the team has become fast friends and it feels as though we have known each other for years. We bonded as a team and our individual confidence levels grew as we prepared for the potential challenges ahead. Throughout training week, we shared stories of leadership, coaching, and personal experiences. This led to open and honest discussion with one another allowing us to develop towards a common goal. WAP 2017 Volunteer Felipe said, “The training was really useful, I feel more prepared”.
Arriving at Atlantic College was a mesmerizing experience. Being greeted by St. Donat’s Castle was a great inspiration and introduction to the week we ahead. A massive thank you to our amazing hosts Atlantic College of the United World Colleges for welcoming us into your home.
Valuable Lessons from The Best Trainers
World at Play is an organization with extremely supportive Alumni who came to educate us on various sport and play related topics and develop new skills. For example, Pavlov made the trip up from London to share his knowledge on Eastern European culture and history. As well, he corrected our Serbian pronunciations and challenged us to lead games without the use of language. Thus, simulating the language barrier we would eventually face in Eastern Europe. However, we were able to use our native tongues or “gibberish”. A common theme arose of needing to exaggerate our expressions and demonstrations. This emphasized how important it is to use body language when teaching sport and play style games.
Skill develop continued with the help of alumni Luke who taught us the value of using imagination to transform spaces. Specifically, small spaces, as demonstrated by the T-Rex Game which never failed to make us laugh! As well, he cheered us on at our first practical session at Bonfaen Primary School and led a game showing us first hand how to turn a football field into a Pirate Ship and himself into a pirate.
Image: The Team with Bontfaen Primary.
Alumni and guest professionals helped to simulate sessions where children with disruptive behaviour, learning disabilities and physical disabilities might be present. Alumni Binti’s session, prepared us to cooperate as a team and be sensitive when individuals may require more attention. Simon, a guest professional from Disability Sports Wales, introduced us to inclusive language and adaptations within games around mental and physical disabilities. It was eye opening to experience things from the perspective of an individual in a wheel chair while playing a game. This granted us the tools to create and run a successful session at Cathays Inclusive Youth Project.
WAP Founder Mike shared his passion for WAP as he told us how the International Project originated. Specifically, how this experience impacted them and the people they visited in the initial expedition.
Later in the week Alumni Harry and Andy taught us the necessity of creating fun, competitive, and engaging games by keeping them simple with small progressions. As well, they showed us the importance of recognizing one another’s coaching styles as they ran a session with us and depicted their different coaching styles.
On our last night, the team had dinner with the whole World at Play Family which both inspired and instilled a sense of belonging to something bigger than just us eight.
Finally, we the WAP 2017 Team would like to extend a thank you to all of the World at Play Alumni and Professional Trainers that came throughout the week for providing us with confidence and new skills. All of which left us “buzzing for the adventure ahead” as said by WAP Volunteer Dan.
Thanks for reading!
Megan and Ricardo