15 August 2013

YMCA Black Country Group has had a fantastic representation at YMCA Europe Festival in Prague this month. The theme of this year’s festival was “Love to Live”; it is an opportunity for young people from across the globe to come together and celebrate their love for life, meeting new people from all walks of life.

We asked some of Praguers, as they’re so affectionately known, how they found the experience and what they took away from the festival.

Sarah Prescott, YMCA’s Youth Engagement Co-ordinator

“The Love to Live Festival taught me that the world is a huge place and you should take every opportunity to explore and embrace the uniqueness of every single part of this world and the people in it because there really is something special in so many different people.

It was humbling to learn about the misconceptions of many of the countries there. For example I thought that everyone in America had a swimming pool in their garden! We met some who did, but many of the young people I met had nothing like that; they experienced drive by shootings on a weekly basis! Hearing these difficulties and struggles, made me feel truly grateful for the life I live. I never thought a week at the YMCA Europe Festival would change my life the way it did, but it has.”

Nathan Adams, Open Door Project Manager

“The point of the Love to Live festival for me, was to celebrate life and to inspire a love for life for young people from across Europe and the rest of the world.  The big themes of the festival seemed to be the Stop Poverty campaign, the environment, and the Christian faith.  The purpose of the Mission Possible team I was part of was to share the love of Jesus at the festival through outreach and creativity.

I loved meeting all the people – they came from all over the world and, whatever their background, they came with joy, energy and enthusiasm.  It was great just to walk around the site, greet people and make new friends.

I learnt that one of the most powerful ways that God shows his love to us is through the people we meet.  Despite storms, dodgy accommodation, puddles, mosquitoes, language barriers and tiredness the care and inspiration from people just never stopped.”

Lenny Allan, Operations Manager for Housing & Youth

“I travelled with a great group of people, I met a lot of great people, I met some great past friends from different parts of the YMCA movement I made new friends from other YMCAs and most of all, I had fun! There were some issues, but when you think of the overall experience and trip I would recommend it to everyone within the YMCA.  Of course, there are things that can be improved; we could have been better prepared most importantly we could have brought a kettle to make a wee cuppa tea!

We had a long day travelling back to the Black Country, but this gave me time to reflect on this great YMCA movement, all the lives that it touches in one way or another and all the opportunities it provides for people to come together and celebrate.

The theme of the festival was “Love 2 Live.” I have done that and I hope all who read this will put on their “to do list”:

[  ] Learn to live

[  ] Serve others

[  ] Create opportunities “

Gary Clayton, Peer Mentor

“Probably the biggest part of the festival for me was the Stop Poverty Campaign. They gave talks and stage shows about how together, we can stop poverty and spread the message. This for me was important as ending poverty has a special place in my heart. It really encouraged me to go home and continue to campaign against poverty with new ideas it was great as there were people from YMCA’s around the world where there which means the message of ending poverty will spread further.

The festival also had one of the most amazing moments of my life. The closing ceremony had thousands of people from around the world, all stood as one, holding candles and singing along to a hymn which I can only describe as beautiful (because I didn’t understand a word of it) but that didn’t matter to me because it was about people from all around the world sharing one beautiful moment.

Oh and as far as the comedic value of love to live there was a moment where I managed to fall out of a tram!”