Out in the Open was a 3-phases Training program for youth workers focused on improving the social inclusion and active participation of LGBT+ youth in society, by improving the competencies of youth workers in outdoor education. 

Read below, what the Slovene team of participants is sharing about their experience during the 1st phase of the program and its Training Course, which brought together 21 youth workers, youth leaders, educators, mentors, and NGO staff from 7 European countries.

Out in the Open: phase 1 is behind us

Between September 9th and 15th Maja, Michaela and Ana have gone on a journey to Latvija, to the first phase of the project Out in the Open. It is a training for youth workers who work with LGBTIQA+ youth about outdoor education. Before departure we knew little about what awaits us once we arrive to Riga. Well, we knew that we would have to walk, that we will be doing things outdoors, that it might be physically challenging, that we would spend quite some time in forest and that we would learn about new methods for working with LGBTIQA+ youth.

We knew that youth workers from Italy, Estonia, Spain, Greece and the Czech Republic would join us on this adventure, that we would spent the ?rst night in Riga and the rest of the training would take place in a small village called Rites. At least that’s what the Infoletter said. What have we experienced? Read on …

So, most of the second day we walked, encountered different challenges and stops, through which we got to know each other better and started to build group dynamics. During our journey we climbed over ropes, got tangled in spider webs, walked with oureyes blindfolded (half of us at a time), we havedipped our feet in some mud and enjoyed Latvian forests.

It took us much more time that one would expect to walking approximately 10 kilometres because while walking we also got to know the work and achievements of other participants, we laughed, searched for the right path and started to trust each other.

We finished our walk in a village with just a few houses, one of them was our accommodation and learning venue. The house and its surroundings have been rebuilt and taken care of by volunteers of our hosting organisation, Piedzivojuma Gars. They have been the ones who also prepared our programme and activities along with the Active Rainbow collective.

In the next days we encountered different tasks and ventures that took place out in the open, in the surroundings of our temporary home. We played games that we didn’t manage to solve and some that we succeeded at. We played during the day and also in the night.

We also reflected and talked a lot about our roles in the group, group dynamics, how we experienced them and felt during tasks and in the group. We spoke about our values and beliefs that society put there. We digged into the LGBTIQA+ topic and learned about new theoretical concepts that will come in handy in our work.

On the fifth day we headed to a nearby high school where we implemented workshops with groups of high school students. We prepared some outdoors or experiential activities for the workshops in advance a day before. Despite some complications and fears we successfully presented a small piece of the LGBTIQA+ reality to young Latvians.

Last days were dedicated to ourselves, to self-care and gave us the message that we should not be to hard on ourselves, that we should respect ourselves and take time to feel good. Among other things this meant massages in our support groups (we made them at the beginning and met in them daily to discuss our thoughts and feelings), building and enjoying an outdoor sauna on one of the already cold autumn evenings.

Last but not least we took a look back at what we achieved and took time to plan the second phase of the project – implementing and trying out all that we have learned in our own environment. All who will attend DIH’s queer camp will have the opportunity to experience a little piece of what we learned at the training. We will try out what we learned also during a street action in Maribor that is part of the project All for Rainbow. But as methods of experiential and outdoors learning are close to our hearts, don’t worry, we will include them in as many as possible future activities. We are excited and are looking forward to new events that will include what we’ve learned.

As previously mentioned, Out in the Open is a 3 phase training. The second phase is happening right now in all the involved countries. The third will take place in December when we go back to the Latvian capital where we will share our experiences, achievements and dilemmas that we have or will encounter during phase two. We will surely let you know how this last step will go and will present the results of our project.

Authors | Maja, Michaela, Ana
Photography | Elina Primaka

The project was funded by the Erasmus+ programme, through the National Agency of Latvia, Jaunatnes starptautisko programmu aģentūra. We co-organized it together with Piedzivojuma Gars organization.