The Spiritual Development of Junior Youth

“First I was afraid, I was petrified…”

At the London Regional Conference, I first approached a Counsellor asking her for advice on the core activities. I wanted to explain me situation and (ideally) for her to tell me how to juggle the different activities together. Instead, she told me to concentrate on one: Junior Youth. Why? “Because it takes courage, Saba. And unless a few of you start it, it will take longer to build momentum”. And it is true, this core activity is not for the faint-hearted. It does take courage, but the steps were small and many to get us to where we are now. Here is the story

Four months ago I found myself overwhelmed with work. I had too many commitments, and the urgency of the current needs of the Plan seemed like an added strain. Here I was, a full time graduate student, part-time dancer, full-time sister and daughter, part-time colleague, and full-time friend; and we were meant to be intensifying our actions? I hardly had time to do laundry in my normal life, let alone when the ‘intensive period’ was about to start. I could not conceive how it would all come together. I had a choice: either give up a few of my commitments, or combine the efforts into one cohesive whole. I chose the latter. Why? Because it made more sense; it meant I would be putting my Faith and the centre of all my activities. All my efforts, desires, and time spent could be directed towards my love and commitment to this Faith. Once I realigned myself that way, things could work. And they did.

Back in August, while completing their Book 5 animator course, a group of to-be animators set up an outreach project to launch a junior youth group in a northern area of Cambridge. The chosen venue was the Arbury Community Centre, a friendly, family-friendly building that was in need of activities for young people. Another organisation, the Harambee project, already held activities for youth aged 15+ but, as the caretaker told us, nothing was available for youth aged 10-14. Our services had the potential to fill a gap in the market.

The outreach project involved knocking on doors, giving out fliers, and inviting families to the event. Nobody turned up, but the animators had a wonderful time learning the games for themselves, and we made friends with the caretaker. He told us not to hold the event in August again. Following that, one family had been conducting devotionals in the same centre. On one visit to the centre to help advertise the devotionals, there, I saw it: a poster advertising dance lessons for youth aged 10-15 every Monday night.

I got in touch and asked if I could watch and meet some of the kids. I also came and met some of the parents and told them about the service we had to offer. This was very well received. “These kids have nothing to do at night apart from going out to the streets,” the mothers told us, “and they really could do with being taught some morals sometimes!”

We starting booking a small hall for an hour before the dance class and distributed new fliers around the centre. It took some time for the word to spread: The first time there were no children. The second, one was there at 6.30, and about seven more appeared by 6.45! The four of us were overwhelmed.

We started chatting about what we can do these nights, what they were interested in, and generally got a feeling for their tastes, habits and interests.

Needless to say, we were exposed to language and expressions very different to what we were used to elsewhere, but it was a good learning opportunity. Here are the highlights of what I am continuing to learn:

  • to meditate, truly meditate, on my situation and how I can best serve
  • to acknowledge fears and learn to let go of them
  • to work with others in the community, even if I cannot fully participate in their area of service, and delegate tasks when necessary
  • to pray for the success of my efforts
  • to persevere and *intensify* my efforts, even if they are only in one area of service
  • to plan ahead with each junior youth session
  • to use our community of interest (we have at least two people who have helped with this group in their own way)

My dance involvement connected me to my junior youth projects. Maybe that is what the character Musonda meant when she exclaimed at the end of the Junior Youth Book, Confirmation!

I encourage you to take a similar step in your chosen area of service. Remember, you will survive.