Last weekend was probably one of the best weekends in ages: it was the first residential with Team v! (If you don’t know what “Team v” is or if you haven’t read part 1 of “My Team v Leader Journal”, I suggest you click in the following link first, and then comeback: https://findingmyselfinsideme.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/teamvgo-my-team-v-leader-journal-part-1-warm-up-day/)
The residential weekend took place in Starverton Park Hotel, Daventry (East Midlands, England), so I had to travel a LONG way to get there (I live in South East England). However, I don’t complain, because all that effort was worth it. Starverton Park is the nicest hotel I have ever been to: I absolutely loved it! The exterior design of the buildings suited very well the countryside landscape in which the hotel is set, meanwhile the interior design had a state-of-art touch ideal for any sort of events, conferences, training sessions and business meetings. The hotel had a remarkable service, with fitness and leisure facilities available to its residents, as well as various free coffee and tea machines available in every floor the building. Here are some pictures:
Needless to say the Steam, Bake and Grill restaurant of the hotel was almost certainly my favourite thing. The food was delicious, and you could eat as much as you wanted! I went a bit over the top with my diet during those three days. But, who would have been able to resist? I mean, look at these pictures…
(Example of breakfast)
(Example of lunch)
(Example of dinner)
You are probably wondering which was the actual purpose of the residential, because as I’m describing the situation, it seems I went there for relaxing holidays! But Team vresidential weekends are far away from being holidays: they are intensive learning weekends in which all the Team v leaders across the country (+100) are revealed the campaign they will work on during the following 2 months, and they are given specific and general training to carry out that campaign. This was the first residential of the year, and it lasted three days, from Friday the 17th to Sunday the 19th. On Friday, the campaign topic was revealed through this video, which I invite you all to check:
So yeah: #BeyondFood is the name of the first Team v campaign of 2014, and it will be focused on food poverty in UK: its causes, organisations trying to tackle it and food aid providers (e.g. food banks). I truly like this topic, because:
1) I’m a strong advocate of social inequalities (and poverty is a social inequality).
2) Food is a basic need nobody in this world should ever lack from, because it affects people’s intellectual, physical, emotional and social development.
3) I have been there: I have experienced food poverty, and though now I’m in a better situation, you don’t forget those sort of experiences. I know how it feels when nobody helps you, so I want to help others to cope better, as I wished someone would have helped me back in those days.
4) I want to unmask all the stereotypes associated with people who seek help from food aid providers, and make the public understand better the actual roots of food poverty.
To carry out this campaign, we received various training sessions from different professionals and organisations. Our first training session was with Church Action Poverty, a charity dedicated to raise awareness and to investigate the roots of poverty. This session gave us an insight into national statistics and figures about food poverty in UK, it explained the possible causes of food poverty, and it made us consider the different reasons why people are referred to foodbanks. I learned quite a lot from this session, since I had never before considered the possible impact of issues within the benefits system on this topic.
The next training sessions was with Oxfam, the renowned international charity that fights poverty across the whole globe, including UK. This session was about getting the attention of politicians for our campaigns through lobbying. I found this session useful but unexciting, since I will find very hard working with politicians and keeping my actual views silent. I’m not into politics nor I’m part of a political party, yet I have a very strong opinion about topics such as the welfare state or immigration. Moreover, my familiarity with the British politics system is null, so I will have to learn more about it.
The last training session of Friday was with the organisation Tower Hamlets Foodbank. We had two speakers: one who talked about how foodbanks work, and one who talked about her experience using a foodbank and the reasons why she had to use it. This was probably the best session of the day: it was heart-warming and eye-watering, and it gave me extra motivation to run a superb campaign in my local community to help others.
The rest of trainings of the weekend were less specific to food poverty and more general to our general role as Team v Leaders. We had training on: campaign planning, budgeting, PR, social media, evaluation and reflection, leadership, operating safely, community organising and public speaking. From all these training sessions, my favourite ones were leadership, community organising and public speaking. Leadership was very helpful, since it’s one of the skills I really want to improve during my Team v program. Community organising was empowering, because it made me feel that I can actually make a change, not only in my community, but also in the world. And public speaking was the highlight of the whole residential, the best training session without doubt. It boosted my self-confidence, receiving constructive criticism to improve my public speaking skills, both in formal and informal situations. Moreover, I was given positive feedback on qualities I didn’t even know I had, and that made me feel so good.
Training session sneak pic: Evaluation & Reflection
After all these training sessions, I feel skilled enough to carry out the #BeyondFood campaign in my local community, and I can’t wait to put everything I have learnt into practice. The residential weekend did its job.
Apart from the educational aspect, the residential also had another aspect that made it the best weekend I have had in ages: the social aspect. I met so many awesome and fascinating people. On Friday morning, I felt so insecure and negative about the possibility of talking to others and making friends. However, those feelings vanished as soon as I met my lovely roommate, with whom I bonded instantly. From that moment, the real me, whom had been hiding somewhere since I came to England back in 2012, surfaced. And the weekend couldn’t have been any better. I engaged in interesting debates, I carried out deep conversations and I joined fun activities, all of it without the fear of being judged or being embarrassing. It is weird, I don’t think this happened because I’m finally feeling comfortable in England, since I still struggle to socialise in college. I think it happened because I was surrounded by likeminded people, who were all diverse but had the same willingness as me of striving for a better world.
(Eating hours were probably the most social hours of the day!)
For instance, on Saturday night there was a silent disco, and I wasn’t afraid to dance as I wanted and to sing as I liked. And I have never EVER been able to do this before. Not even in Spain. The first impression you can get from me is that I am a quiet and shy girl who doesn’t like social events; sometimes this impression becomes true because I’m not able to feel comfortable or I don’t like the people I am surrounded by. But in reality, I speak a lot, I’m funny and a sassy wannabe at times, and I have one of the craziest minds ever, though I’m a reflective and deep person who sometimes loves being alone and reading a book or listening to music in peace. That’s “me”, and I’m so glad I showed that “me” during the whole residential. In addition, I made so many friends I want to preserve: people different to me, with whom I had some of the finest days ever, with whom I share interests and ideas, who inspire me in diverse ways, and whom I want near, because I believe our friendship/acquaintance will make me a better person.
Silent disco night!
On conclusion: the first residential weekend for the Team v program was absolutely magnificent. I feel a much more cultivated person now than a week ago (a week ago!) and my motivation to follow my dreams and to achieve my goals has never been bigger. Now, I believe that a better world is possible, because I’m not the only one striving for it. The training sessions didn’t only educate me, but also inspired me to continue learning and to overcome barriers affecting my development, such as low self-confidence. Now I must focus on carrying out the #BeyondFood campaign in my area, which is going to be a difficult but enjoyable challenge.
Also, the people I met gave me both indirectly and directly advice and guidance for life, and I believe I can count on them when I need it, as well as they can count on me. Now that the residential is over, I’m kinda empty: I miss all those people who went from being simple strangers to close friends in just a few days (I probably also feel empty because no delicious cakes!). I miss the meaningful conversations and the amusing moments: I wish these would have been eternal (they will actually be in my mind). But the residential is over, and I’m back from the world as it should be to the world as it is.
Sharing my experiences,
Emilie H. Featherington
(PS: If you would like to know more about the #BeyondFood campaign, visit the following link: http://chroniclesofarhaceisoul.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/beyondfood-food-poverty-campaign/)