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 representative of Latvian 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.

Every work at some point in our lives might get us into routine. Youth work is not any different in this case and many of us – youth workers, have had these kind of moments when we feel maybe a little too comfortable with our working methods and/or topics we cover. Out in the Open was a wake-up call that gently knocked on our shoulders and made it clear that there is so much more than what we have known and experienced. This training course combined 2 areas that are a big part of lives of those who have been gathered together. Needless to say that we all have been curious about how can we use outdoors as a method to talk about LGBT+ topics. So, following the best practices of non-formal education we lived through the experience of this combination throughout whole week, starting from the very first moments of the course.

We got an amazing chance to, explore the limits of our comfort zone, and, as well as, push the borders of it a little bit further using all our senses. Our learning journey brought us all together through deep Latvian forests, dusty country roads, tall trees, beautiful meadows, long nights (brightened up by the moon) and rainy days. Not only these days have been filled with very extreme amounts of fun and adventurous exercises, but we also had many meaningful discussions about existing experience in how do we work with LGBT+ topics, what are the pillars of outdoor and/or experimental learning and how can we combine them. There is absolutely no surprise that bringing ourselves outdoors brings a whole different perspective and perception on both what is within and around us. Nature and lack of overwhelming amounts of information makes it way easier to concentrate on whatever is happening at the moment and see that there is absolutely no need to overcomplicate things, but rather make them simple, but significant. The course also proved that not having fancy outdoor equipment should not stop people from using it/being there as being outdoors is the best kind of equipment itself. The days we spent being Out in the Open have been full of new information that very much inspired us to create new activities on our own which we will be bringing back to our countries and organizations, and testing ourselves as creators of outdoor experience with added value, which are LGBT+ topics.

Our personal journeys started at the moment when we made our first steps outside of Rites. Now, we had the tools, experience and everything else was in our hand to create our very own local activities and involve our target groups we’re working with. The thought of meeting the rest of the project group again in December 2019 was a great motivation for each and every one to share our newly gained knowledge and findings to the others and involve them in activities we’ve created. Now, the ideas born in the training course, also started to live Out in the Open, just as we did a moment ago.

2 months after our first adventures together as a team and all kinds of local activities that happened across the Europe, organized by the Out-in-the-Openers, we gathered again in Riga for one last, very important step that we are keen to make together in the project – share our experience with each other and the rest of the world. Not only we had the intention to spread the word about the idea of combining outdoor/experiential learning and LGBT+ topics, but also, hopefully, be inspiration to somebody. With great excitement we shared our stories, tools, lessons learned and suggestions to each other and started the preparations for the culmination – conference “Should I come out?”

The experience of creating and delivering this event can, somewhat, be compared to the work of a carpenter in a way when you work with your material with great care, responsibility and love. Before becoming something new, the material, you work with, has been something else, with many different possible purposes, but here you are with what you have in your hands and see how it becomes something amazing, something live, something that others might or will use for their purpose. The given time for preparations was short, but that did not stop anybody of us to create something extremely special, almost exclusive – the first ever event in Riga. Event that talks loudly not only about combining outdoors with LGBT+ topics, but also the importance of common cooperation, necessity to talk to those we have besides us, to reflect and share the lessons learned to inspire and spread the knowledge and tools that helps us create a better today and tomorrow for everyone. And so, after we told our stories to those who gathered to see and hear us, we’ve said our most sincere “thank you”s to each other for being a part of this story we’ve all created together as said – not only to share the knowledge, but also, hopefully, be an inspiration to somebody.

Latvian team believes that bringing LGBT+ (and not only) topics outdoors will spark new light in our work and we are very much looking forward to being part of it!

Author | Anastasija Laizane, December 2019.
Photography | Elina Primaka

The project was funded by the Erasmus+ programme, through the National Agency of Latvia, Jaunatnes starptautisko programmu aģentūra.