Summer Camp Poem

After our summer camp training weekend, we were sent a poem about the weekend from one of the volunteers.

Cullen Marshall is a first time volunteer and will be volunteering at the “Go eXtreme” camp at Coalbrookdale.

Here is his poem

“Two companions, seven hours, one KFC, and lil mix featuring Stormzy

Arriving at Edale, strait to the main room full of people

We came from all over in many vehicles

Robert aroused our excitement with twenty sixteens statistics

As the team explained the weekends logistics

Outdoor activities, friendly delivery

I see so much energy, opportunity, love and impact

Because let’s face it, that’s why we’re here!

 

Meeting greeting, making new friends

An early night in ma bunk bed follows a big breakfast

Yawns with grins, I didn’t have to wash up anything

Training while it’s raining,

All smiles no complaining, exploring our social fog

Some serious stuff too

Still silly sausages sizzle together nicely

As we soak up the juice of experience precisely

So, spritely we came together and formed this year’s volunteers

 

A powerful talk from Sarah, woops and cheers

Clink of the beers, maybe a few tears as we scaled inspiration and grew

Who knew me and you could fit in?

And what’s new is we’ve not even started really

So, here’s to us all, I hope you’ll gain

Feel the love and be loved

Because the world needs hero’s, you are mine, be the children’s

Young people we’ll cyas on camp

 

As for the YHA family, I give thanks

And hopefully

We can transform lives through travel adventure and discovery

From one soul to another

My sisters and brothers”

Thanks Cullen – can’t wait to hear what you think after camp!

Volunteering in Brighton

Back in the Spring of 2016 a group of young volunteers came to YHA Brighton and were tasked with painting a few of the rooms that needed a little bit of a touch up. One broken window and two ruined carpets later the concept of volunteering at Brighton was quietly put to bed. Enter team 2017!

The AMEY group (a gold standard Investors in People award winning company) contacted us to arrange a day volunteering as part of the corporate social responsibility their company employs. Although at first met with a little trepidation, the momentum quickly built as we planned the work they could do, how we could supervise this and what benefits this could have to us and our business, not to mention the 120 hours added to the volunteering time sheet.

On the day the team turned up on time, with branded T-shirts on their backs, ready to work. The outside of the building has been repainted, making a huge impact on the first impression of the building; 5 rooms and various corridors have been decorated bringing a new lease of life to some areas that were starting to look a little tired; The dining room has had a new lick of paint freshening the walls where scuff marks and footprints were beginning to build up; the entire of our, frankly, huge basement has had all rubbish and unusable materials removed meaning we can make much better use of this space and taken a weight off the shoulders of our maintenance team.

The team really enjoyed the work and did an excellent job. It was also mentioned that they would like to come back again next time and also many of the volunteers commented on the standard of the hostel and said the often repeated line, “Youth hostels aren’t like what they were when I was young” which has furthered our mission to engage with new customers and spread the YHA word.

DofE Gold at YHA Sheringham

Back in April, YHA Sheringham hosted a gold DofE residential week. Where a group of young adults came from all over the country and worked together on a project at the hostel.

Whilst they were here they took on the challenge of revamping the customer garden. This included weeding, removal of all over-grown bushes and plants and trimming hedges and bushes back. Their title for this project was ‘Making a Home for Nature’. When they were working they were paired with people they didn’t know so that they could bond and get to know new people.

They were also given a few questions to think about during their time with us. This allowed them to research the questions as a group. At the end of the week we reviewed everyone’s answers and reviewed how the week had gone.

The group was very hard working and determined. They always gave their all into everything they did.

During their time with us I had also asked them to come up with a poster for our fundraiser for Breaks for Kids. I gave them all some information about Breaks for Kids which in turn gave them some further ideas and help on how to design their poster. This was a poster for our manager Adrian Dyde who is running 1000 miles. We had the idea of sponsor a brick and “Break Through The Wall” was our slogan. The idea of it was that for every mile that Adrian ran there would be a brick as his aim was to raise £1000. So if you sponsored a brick you would write your name on it and you would put a £1 in the charity box.

As you can see from the before and after pictures below, the garden looks absolutely stunning.

First DofE Gold for Manorbier

YHA Manorbier ran their first D of E Gold volunteer break recently and it was extremely successful. Three young ladies attended and during the five days they managed to treat all our garden furniture with wood preservative, tidied up the paths around the hostel and helped with bed making during our busy Easter period. This was a big help to the hostel and the volunteers seemed to enjoy the experience.

Ollie and Snowy gave up their time to take them snorkelling one afternoon (and kindly lent them wet-suits and equipment) where they saw quite a few jellyfish and starfish and luckily had great underwater visibility. Their last evening was rounded off with a beach bonfire where Martin unwisely boasted about his one match fire lighting skills. It seems these skills are a little rusty, although he tried blaming damp wood. When the fire was finally lit with help from the young people, we did manage to have toasted marshmallows

AGM 2017

We recently held our AGM on the 8th July 2017 in London and the day went really well and was a great success.

We had some amazing volunteers helping us on the day and we’ve received some brilliant feedback from them.

Barbara Everest has been volunteering with us for over 25 years and had nothing but praise for her day on Saturday.

The venue at the Royal College of General Practitioners was stunning. Wonderful auditorium and conference rooms.

The atmosphere was positive and vibrant. Lots of information about the current and future plans for the YHA including the building of an 800 bedded hostel in Stratford, London.

The event went smoothly with lots of positive feedback from the delegates.

Many delegates got to meet the new CEO for the first time.

The venue was in a central location next to Euston station.

The whole day was organised very efficiently thanks to Louise and the admin team from Matlock.

The YHA volunteers really enjoyed helping out and working together with the admin staff from Matlock. Many said they would return next year to volunteer.”

    

We have also had wonderful feedback from Atalanta Tolputt who starts an Events Management degree at university in September, she felt like this opportunity really helped to get her “foot in the door” for what’s to come on her degree.

“I really appreciate YHA for letting me help out on Saturday at the AGM meeting. It was a truly brilliant experience and I truthfully, really enjoyed it and enjoyed being a part of it. 

I was allocated to the making memories workshop and I really enjoyed hearing stories of the delegates’ times with YHA and best memories. Its amazing how many memories the delegates have. I spent the morning standing by the stairs and greeting people. Helping them find their way around ie: where to sign in, the cloakroom, toilets and pointing them in the direction of the trustee videos. 

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy. The food was great, the venue was beautiful and the staff helped me feel comfortable. It was the first time I had ever done anything of this nature and I would love to do it again. 

I couldn’t suggest anything to do different. I thought it was all brilliant and extremely organised and it was a pleasure to help. I found the financial part of the meeting very interesting as I studied business for A-level. The growth of the organisation is unbelievable. The guest speaker was amazing. Her story was so moving and eye opening. It just shows that you can do anything you put your mind too. So inspired after the whole event to get out there and explore some more.”

It’s great to hear that our volunteers really feel like they gained valuable experience and insight into the company through their day of volunteering!

YHA Summer Camps Volunteers

A day in the life of a YHA Summer Camp Team Leader

As summer camp season is almost upon us, we caught up with Tess, who was a Team Leader at YHA St Briavel’s Castle Action Adventure camp in 2016! So if you’ve ever wondered what a typical day at camp is like for a team leader, what the benefits of Volunteering at a YHA Summer Camp are, and what her experience was like, then keep on reading!

A typical day…

6:55am: The alarm goes off, its Ugly Heart by G.R.L so I’m up, dressed and dancing out the door before we reach the chorus. Down the corridor to wake the campers and then back to my room to sort my kit for the day.

7:25am: I’m racing round the castle, chasing out the final campers for breakfast, we wouldn’t want anyone to go hungry!

7:30am: Breakfast. I’m sat outside on the picnic benches chatting to the campers about what they’re going to do today. Our table is called up to get breakfast – cereal and croissants followed by cooked breakfast and toast – three weeks in the novelty has still not worn off.

8:45am: Medical forms and spare biscuits tucked safely in my bag, I’m out on the grass again playing a game with those campers who are out a little earlier. By nine they’re all out and we split into our activity groups to collect our lunches and then meet our instructors for the day.

10:00am: We’re all on the minibus heading off to our activity. After several reminders we do now all have a towel and a FULL water bottle. The instructors have briefed us on the activity we are doing today and I’m now trying to answer the many questions the group have about it.

11:00am: We’re out on activity now. The instructors are covering the safety side and facilitating the activity whilst I’m working on encouragement, group management and generally assisting where I can. If the activity is one I know well I might help with kitting up the group or showing them how they could do something but if I’m as new to it as they are I’ll let the instructors do all of that and I’ll stick to boosting morale, playing games whilst equipment is being set up and handing out the spare biscuits!

12:30pm: We’ve stopped for lunch, the instructors are sorting some kit for the afternoon/having a well earned rest. I’m keeping an eye on the group, directing to the toilets (or nearest bush!) and checking everyone has had enough to eat – vital for the campers to enjoy their afternoon without getting tired or grumpy.

2:00pm: We’re still on activity, it’s much the same as the morning. We might have changed to a different activity or it might be a full day trip. Which ever way, I’m able to get stuck in with it all. “I’ll do it if you do it” encourages both the camper and myself to push our boundaries.

4:30pm: We’ve just arrived back at the castle, Team Leaders take it in turns to shower so someone always has an eye on the campers. Tuck shop opens at 5, but the castle staff run it, we just keep an “orderly” queue.

5:55pm: I’m back racing round the castle chasing out stragglers for dinner. There’s always something good on the menu, roast dinner with sticky toffee pudding for afters is my personal favourite.

7:30pm: Evening activity starts. the Camp Manager will be in charge of this one and the options include human cluedo, talent show or her favourite, mini Olympics.

9:00pm: Depending on the length of our evening activity and how tired our campers are, we might stick a film on at this point. I’ll only see part of it though as I need to keep an eye on those kids not watching it as well.

10:00pm: Time for the little ones to go to bed. My room don’t fancy sleeping yet so I fetch a book and sit and read to them till one by one they all drop off. Time to tiptoe out…

10:45pm: The older ones still won’t be quiet, so I’m off up the tower to take the guys in charge of their room some hot chocolate. They have to stay sat on the stone steps til’ it’s all quiet.

11:00pm: Team meeting. Time for a review of the day. It’s normally very positive. We share any memorable parts of our day as well as giving the others a heads up on which campers have been misbehaving and which might need a bit more help. The following day’s evening activity is gone through to see if there is anything we need to sort out for then.

12:30am: As soon as the meeting finishes we’re free to go. Some bolt for the door, ready for their beds. I’m normally one of the last to leave, creeping through the castle to avoid waking anyone. There’s just time for a quick shower before bed.

What benefits did you find through YHA Summer Camp volunteering?

If you read the YHA info for campers it will give you a list of all the great benefits of attending a summer camp. If you times this list by 10 you will get the benefits of being a team leader.

You will try things you never dreamed of doing and you will love them.

You will learn what you are capable of, and it will surprise you.

You will meet incredible people who support you, motivate the campers and always give their all, and you will become one of them.

Volunteering at a YHA Summer Camp showed me that I was on the wrong career path. I belong in the outdoors and working there with kids is what I love best. For me summer camp was the time I realised that I needed to take my life in both hands and just go for it, follow my dreams. I would not have managed this without the incredible support of the St Briavel’s Volunteer Team and the instructors we were working with.

Camp also showed me what some children are missing out on. Many of the experiences I take for granted were a huge deal for some of the campers. It broadened my horizons more than I would have thought possible. I will no longer assume that just because I’ve been doing something since I was six, that a 16 year old has done it. We also all have different things that scare us and as a leader it is important to remember this!

If all that doesn’t convince you, you also get a reference from your camp manager at the end of it all plus a shed load of experience in working with children, additional needs and as part of very busy team. The experience I gained from my time at camp was a major factor in getting me my current apprenticeship.

What did you enjoy/not enjoy the most about volunteering?

Is ‘everything’ too general?!

I enjoyed working as part of a team of like minded people. We were all there to make a difference. We all wanted everyone, campers and volunteers to have a great week. I enjoyed watching my group develop through the week. The quiet ones learnt to talk in the group, the loud ones learnt to listen. They learned to look after each other.

I enjoyed getting stuck in on the activities, not just the big stuff but also the evenings. Helping build the bug hotels and the rafts, trying my hand at mountain biking, getting “wetsecuted” during cluedo!

I didn’t enjoy watching the group leave at the end of the week (although the down time was appreciated). I didn’t enjoy watching any of the campers (or volunteers) struggling. This was most common on the climbing day. Thankfully, most of the time I was able to give them a helping hand or some carefully chosen words of motivation to allow them to complete the task at hand to their own satisfaction.

What did you find the most memorable?

A little boy from South London who I was sharing a boat with. He lay back in the boat as we glided down the river. He looked at the blue sky above him, the clear water below him and the green valley sides around him. and he said “That view ain’t real Bro, it’s too good.” He couldn’t believe that views like that could be found in the real world, with no photo-shopping.

Reading a room full of 10 year olds a bed time story – Wind in the Willows. They’d all had hot buttered toast and were curled up in bed. One by one they all fell asleep. As the last one dropped off I shut the book and crept out the room. And they were adamant that they weren’t tired!

We had a banner that every camper signed before they left, reading what they wrote was a great end to the week. There would be a collection of in-jokes, comments about which activities were best (mountain biking was a common winner) and without fail a whole host of thank you’s. Reading those and seeing how much I had helped them to have an incredible week always gave me a good feeling.

P.S.A Final Memorable moment. Not from when I was volunteering but from the year before when I was a camper. An 18 year old looking up at the stars. He was from South London and had never seen the stars before. I will never forget the look of wonder on his face and I will never look at the stars the same way again.

We are currently taking applications for our positions at Summer Camps this year! If Tess’ story and experiences have inspired you, then why not apply?

Find out more about Summer Camp volunteering and apply now.

A Room with a Barcelona View

The YHA Exchange Programme allows YHA staff and volunteers to travel the world, meet new people and gain fantastic new experiences and memories. As part of the programme, YHA staff and volunteers have travelled from England to Spain to volunteer with Ribals, a Spanish kid’s activity company! Our intrepid traveller James has previously written for the YHA and The Guardian about working abroad, and this adventure in Spain is his next installment!

Capture

Room with a Barcelona View

4th July

It’s been our first week here In Barcelona, and already I’ve felt the pulse and vibrancy of the city with its independent flair. A Roman Gothic cathedral is our neighbour from the high-rise apartment we’re based out of, and the historical culture is breathtakingly right on our doorstep.

Venturing through the Gothic quarter backstreets feels like a golden opportunity to get under the skin of the culture we’re working in as summer camp volunteers soon. Marc, our organiser from activity company Ribals, has laid out for us our adventurous plan to soon travel to near the Pyrenees mountains and give an authentic English experience to the kids during their time on camp. It’s an amazing opportunity that the YHA has been partnering with here, offering everything from a chance to improve language skills, to gaining employable skills such as communicating across teams and culture barriers.

Capturing the experience on camera, I’m collaborating with the YHA team to be releasing after-films and a photo journal of our time here, so make sure to stay tuned for the best to come!

Check back in soon for updates from James…

YHA Ravenstor goes for Gold (Residential!)

3At the end of May / beginning of June (30/05/16 – 03/06/16 for fact fans!), a group of nine Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award volunteers descended on YHA Ravenstor for a busy and fun week of volunteering. From a wide variety of schools, sixth forms, colleges, etc across the country (some from as far away as Aberdeen!), not many of them knew each other at first, but all were firm friends by the end.2

During their time with us, the volunteers accomplished a wide variety of projects around our grounds, including but not limited to: clearing and laying two new paths through our woodland areas; sweeping and clearing many of the steps and ramps through the grounds; making two big planters out of assorted wood (the remains of old bunk beds!); clearing a sizeable herb patch in a sunny spot off our back driveway.

4And they were no slouches inside, either – all of them got a chance to experience a ‘typical’ YHA housekeeping shift, and also help out in the kitchen, one day each. On top of this, they: repainted our games room; took part in a few deeper housekeeping tasks; cleared, cleaned and de-cobwebbed a mysterious toilet I had discovered near the entrance to the building one day!

As our volunteers had been so helpful during their time with us, we treated them to a cheeky session of abseiling with some of the YHA Edale staff on the Wednesday afternoon of their stay. We were all really pleased with the time they gave us – it has helped to give YHA Ravenstor a new lease of life in some crucial areas, and hopefully our customers will get a nicer experience overall thanks to their efforts.

Many thanks again to all nine volunteers for their fabulous commitment and contributions to YHA Ravenstor!

YHA Wasdale- a magical place to volunteer

 

was 3This 200 year old country house has bags of charm. YHA Wasdale may be old, but it has Wi-Fi and the team are very happy to collect/pick up volunteers from Seascale train station.

This small and friendly team always make time for fun, and there is lots of amazing things volunteers can do on their time off. You can swim in the lake (one of England’s deepest), climb Scarfell Pike, take the Wasdale Canadian Canoe out for a trip, enjoy some amazing walking, and even try to win honour for the team every Sunday at the local Pub Quiz. You can also visit Ambleside and other nearby Cumbrian towns on your days off.

wasdale 2

As a volunteer at YHA Wasdale you will get the chance to learn many new skills, and gain valuable experience which can help with your career. It’s a great way to experience the English countryside, meet new people, and make some amazing memories.

The team have volunteering roles available throughout the year, so get in touch with volunteers@yha.org.uk to find out more!

The Boggle’s Spanish Exchange Adventure

The YHA Exchange Programme allows YHA staff and volunteers to travel the world, meet new people and gain fantastic new experiences and memories. As part of the programme, 2 YHA staff members have travelled from England to Spain to volunteer with Ribals, a Spanish kid’s activity company! One of our intrepid travellers, Keith from YHA Boggle Hole in North Yorkshire (henceforth referred to as ‘the Boggle’!), has been keeping the hostels’ Facebook page (facebook.com/YHABoggleHole) updated with news of their Spanish adventure. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for their updates, or check out this blog which will be updated regularly!

5th June 2016
One of the many hidden gems of … hang on, this isn’t Robin Hood’s Bay… I’m a little lost Boggle…

barcelona 1
Fooled you!
Not really lost, the Boggle is in Barcelona working with Ribals, helping them provide quality outdoor education for schools and young people. The next couple of weeks, the schools have requested a heavy focus on learning English. Hence the Boggle. Hope they’re ready for some proper right Northern twang….

It’s also great for the Boggle to see how other people deliver and promote experiences similar to those we have in the YHA. Check them out.

https://www.facebook.com/ribals.educacio.outdoor

6th June
After a morning planning and exploring the world of Ribals, we imbibed the madness of Gaudi at Casa Batllo and made it down to the sea. Today we’re off to Tarragona to field test some amazing iPad town tours that we’ll be using next week. All good stuff. Details to follow.

7th June

Next Monday I will be based in Tamarit, and one of the activities is to explore the old Roman sites in Tarragona. Using an iPad and clever little app, groups of children look for virtual “hot-spots” and where they find them the iPad, cleverly knowing their location, pops up a question, challenge or task. Sometimes is a simple multiple choice question, requiring a little knowledge or the nerves to ask a local;sometimes it’s take a photo or video and send it to the Activity Leader, who then marks it; and sometimes it’s a physical challenge to keep the kids engaged.

We field tested it today with three grown ups and it works really well.

Tomorrow, Laura & I go north for our first School Trip. Team games, aquatic trekking, slack lining, canyoning, archery and mountain biking. Oh, and orienteering on Friday morning. Hence the early night.

We’ll be staying here,
http://www.santjoandelesabadesses.cat/index.php/l-alberg

8th June 2016

So I’m finally in a hostel again. And in lots of water thanks to a Spanish storm and helping run an aquatic trek (gorge scramble to some). Fifty four eager Catalan kids all looking to enjoy the best that the countryside can offer, and of course they have to speak as much as possible in English. In truth I don’t think half of them yet believe that I am not Spanish or Catalan, as they happily chatter away, only to be met by a confused Boggle expression. That said loads of them are trying which takes some guts, and in truth school kids are school kids the world over, so it’s not so different.

Tomorrow I am gorge scrambling again …. All day.

10th June 2016

No post yesterday as it started at 7am and ended at midnight. There’s no question of us not getting a complete experience of the Catalan school residential . . . Orienteering this morning and then back to Barcelona.on the lookout

10th June 2016 Cont.

So it’s Friday night, Barcelona is revving up and Laura and I are exhausted. End of week one, and time for a little reflection. We’ve assisted on a three day two night residential, quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s not the content that varies so much as the duration….

Sant Joan de les Abadesses houses a hostel converted ten years ago from a railway engine shed. The Ruta de Ferra, or Iron Road, is a disused railway line now popular with cyclists in a very pretty, historic part of North Catalonia, just south of the Pyrennes.

Unlike the YHA, where if we had a school staying we’d look after them for booked activities, here Ribals works with the kids most 24/7 as the expectation from schools is that they hand the children over to the activity provider. So yesterday was an early start (the hostel hasn’t got the thickest of partition walls) at 07:30. Breakfast at 08:30 and then the kids were ours (the teachers always ate separately in peace after the children were done). During all free time we had to supervise the kids…. First activity at 10:00; one of either archery and slack line, cycling or aquatic trekking. This for three hours, followed by lunch at 13:30. Then free time (with us) til 16:00 and then another activity from the list above. Return to the hostel at 19:00 hours, sort and store equipment, supervise free time. 20:30 was dinner time (same model as before) with free time until the disco at 22:00 hours. Disco til 23:30, then team de-brief and planning for tomorrow, and then bed.

There is a major culture difference in the ethos and expectations schools have, and I’m intrigued as to why. As an ex-teacher I was always keen to participate as fully as possible with the kids, seeing them in a nehostelw light and having them see me as someone more than the chap who marks their spellings. As an activity provider now with the YHA we have a clear relationship built on working with the school staff at our hostel to maintain engagement, behaviour and encourage exactly this sort of positive experience.

During our initial conversations at the office it seemed clear to us that there is a culture of apprehension around school trips in Catalonia and Spain, as it’s something not as embedded into the educational programme as perhaps it is in the UK. And maybe that alone is the thing that governs the level of involvement from school staff here, and the overwhelming amount of work involved in working with kids if you are the “Activity Provider”. Either there is a reluctance to engage fully with the outdoor classroom experience as it is indeed quite a risky thing, the rewards of which aren’t always fully understood, or there is a need to have an external provider take full responsibility for the activities and experiences that a residential offers.

All of that said, the two school staff who came with the fifty four students did join in some of the activities and were very happy (10 out of 10 on the obligatory, international feed back form) with the whole experience. For me the memory of this residential is one of long rewarding hours that has made me look afresh at how we do what we do back at Boggle. Also it’s my torn sock from three water slides, and the lost shoe (again, water slides, now bobbing about in some Catalonian eddy).

Lots of the children were genuinely grateful for what we had helped to provide, and, in a very un-English manner, lots of hugs were shared before they boarded the bus and left mid afternoon. The Mediterranean spirit doesn’t do English reserve…

So anyway, it’s been an intriguing week, and it all goes to explains why we are going for a quiet beer before an un-Barcelona-like early night. This volunteering business might seem, from the wealth of tourist photos (loads more to come this weekend) to bst joan 1e a bit of a jolly. And indeed it is, but it’s also demanding and exhausting, hugely rewarding and (with a language barrier and a different educational ethos to contend with) occasionally frustrating.

11th June 2016

So the weekend arrived along with the Boggle, slapped all over with factor “Eee By Gum it’s hot” in his Hawaiian print shorts. We tracked him through Barcelona Cathedral, spotted him collecting Euros from passing travellers who mis
took his hairy knees for some sort of modernista-street-art-protest-installation-performance, and then did our best to keep him in sight through the warren of the Barri Gotic. Last seen wolfing down Paella in the Barcelonetta. If we find him again, and it’s a big if, we’ll try to smuggle him home as a novelty piñata.

12th June 2016

Well, it had to happen, and despite all the hype and inevitable build up, there was still nothing that prepared me for Sagrada da Familia. There was in Gaudi an imagination, will and tenacity that has left us with some truly incredible monuments to human creativity. And this Basilica is the icing on that architecturally bewitching cake. The symbolism, the form and structure, the use of light and natural forms; all combine to astound and amaze. That humans are capable of such things I am sure pleases whichever God you choose to worship. And on a day such as today both the Boggle and I offered up a silent prayer, bathed in the rainbow sunlight, for those who only saw the worst that men can do. When we create with love, rather than destroy with hate, we are a remarkable race.

Back to it tomorrow. Two schools, three campsites, a Roman quarry, bubble football, kayaking and snorkelling all on the cards. It’s gonna be a tough week on the beach.st joan 2

13th June 2016

So, it’s been a busy old day. Don’t let the endless photos of sun confuse you, it’s been hard work from start to finish. First there was a visit to one of Europe’s most extensive surviving Roman quarries. The centre piece is a column 14 metres tall that the Romans left in place to show just how marvellous they were at digging out the stone. The evidence of their work is incredible, and tomorrow we are going to Tarragona (observant readers will note that I was there last week field testing software) 8km south to see just what they built with the stone they quarried.

Tamarit is a huge holiday park, which is the base for me and the Boggle tonight, and also the location of this week’s activities. This afternoon was paddle and body boarding, kayaking and beach games. It came as a surprise that the Boggle is a poor swimmer, whose technique is best described as flailing panic. As such we observed how the leaders work with the kids, how they manage fifty eight 12 & 13 in the breaking Mediterranean surf, and marvelled at how similar teenagers are across the world. (Insert your own adjectives here.)

And that is about it. Apart from the Boggle being spotted by one of the school teachers. Their eyes locked, the Boggle trembled, and she confessed her roots were deep in Middlesborough. We talked, I explained where the hairy-kneed hobgoblin came from, and she lit up like a fire work. Loves Boggle Hole. Is coming home next week. Will call in for a coffee at the weekend.

Boggle Hole is truly international in its reach…la sagrada

14th June 2016

Day two with this school was anything but relaxing. Roman Tarraco was stunning but there was just too much to do. The iPad Gynkahna (?) was really good but some of the kids seemed beyond concentrating, at least in my boy-heavy group. Then there was a hurried visit to the Roman Circus (a half decent ex-archaeologist-sometime-teacher-YHA-bod could have spent all day in there) followed by a whistle stop tour of the amphitheatre (the Boggle seemed possessed by the spirit of certain Mr Crowe and keep howling in broad Yorkshire, “are ya not enjoying thissen?”). Then lunch and a de-brief and the kids on a coach and the feedback form and back to Barcelona for a blessed night of peace.

Technology is I think a great asset we currently don’t use enough of at the YHA. The iPads were hired, and as a technology a la mode, the kids were very keen to progress to the next hot-spot on their tours, perform the tasks (interviewing locals, taking pictures, answering questions) all sent into a master iPad (that also tracked their position) for immediate scoring and feedback. True, this was I think the first use of the iPads for this activity in this location, and as always there’s work to be done to improve, but otherwise, great. Ideal for some of our locations with 3G. Not sure what that is in Boggle….

Ribals, the company kindly hosting me, are a commercial venture, and as such I have noticed that the trip feedback form, given to the teachers during their final lunch, is a source of pride and trepidation. Through its simple scoring, they can identify specific areas to celebrate or improve, and as the paperwork is submitted to head office immediately via a photo on a smart phone, it keeps leaders on their toes. It’s also good to pat the staff on the back for a good job well done after an intense period of very hard work. The only thing under 9 or 10 out of 10 this trip was food at 7 …

Those might be a couple of the things I’d like to take back to the UK, but I will not miss the long hours. One Catalonian colleague is, after this weekend, working every single day in July (with occasional half days off) to run, manage and support their intensive summer camps programme. I was excused evening duties yesterday, but for all the other leaders it was again a mid day to mid night straight through affair. I might be just a soft English man under my patches of Mediterranean tan, but there’s no way I could sustain what they do.

It’s more summer camp than school trip, with the concomitant focus on non-school staff doing virtually everything. We at the YHA prefer to work with school staff to ensure maximum engagement and good group management and bseaehaviour. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work here the way they do it, because it does, but it’s interesting to note how different the expectations of school staff and delivery of activity providers are.

Tomorrow, 34 kids for three days and two nights. Wish me luck.

15th June 2016

I’m checking in and checking out. It’s been a long day. It’s ten past midnight and we’re still talking through the day that’s been and the day ahead.

I’ll send proper word tomorrow.

16th June 2016

So it’s another late night and I’ll beg your indulgence once more. Suffice to say at this point, the Boggle was squeezed into a wet suit today and drank a considerable quantity of the Med (so much that I might have to declare it at customs) while failing to stay on a body board.

It’s my last full day today and I think I’m almost in the swing of it. If crazy long hours, searing heat, being a little lost foreigner and moments of blissful delight are your thing, then this is a volunteering opportunity for you.

When I return to Barcelona tomorrow it will all be over. I will crawl on to the sofa, possibly with a Estrella Damm (other beers are available) and reflect on this all properly. Until then it’s me signing off, with a smelly wet Boggle still refusing to let me towel him dry.

17th June 2016amphitheatre

So. It’s done. The Boggle has discharged his duties as well as possible. I think we’ve jointly worked with nearly 200 children, from coast to mountains, from hostel to camp site. And it’s been a real eye opener.

To begin, on my list of favourite things, if I’m honest I’m not sure teenagers would get a mention. The work we’ve been undertaking has been mostly adventure/action stuff, and as long as you get them to focus for the safety bits, that seems to be enough. With primary kids, you have, even in 24 hours, sufficient time to make a real impression, and the rewards seem to be bountiful compared to those moments of connection you have with teenagers. Give me Bob the Donkey any day.

Now obviously there are caveats to that. I have very little experience of working with “The Teenager” and this showed. Similarly, if the first and second language of your audience is Catalan followed by Spanish, with English a third jostling with the French, German and Latin they have to do at school … then there’s barriers. They have control over their interactions with you. You don’t always understand the instructions being laid out by other leaders. You are kinda at their mercy. And third is related to the second; only really knowing the expectations people have of you when the activity is about to, or has begun.

Boggle is about fun and education, and it’s easy to see how these two go hand in hand through our programmes both with schools and, increasingly, with the general public. The focus here has been on the technical skills of getting a teenager to body-board safely, to understand the principles of coasteering, to trek through a rather scary gorge safely while thinking about their own and others welfare. In this respect the two weeks have been a huge success, but the Boggle will never been an Activity Leader, the type who wears sunglasses on their heads even indoors, has all the latest technical kit, and sneers if you haven’t belayed across the Grand Canyon in the dark using only yak hair and organically reared tofu.orange

The things I’ve learnt are copious. There are several games that I’d like us to do at Boggle as soon as winter is over. I have seen how much can be achieved with a slightly less prescriptive attitude to playing in and interacting with water margins (the sea). I will hug every single teacher who stays with us as their contribution to a trip is now so obvious by contrast to the Catalan model, that I will never take them for granted. School trips are a partnership, not a reason for teachers to leave their charges in the care of activity staff. The relationship between student and teacher is often transformed by an interactive residential, if both has had the opportunity to see the other in a different light and a new context.

I’ve learnt how much I like my little hostel, in its damp, occasionally sunny, corner of the Yorkshire coast. I’ve experienced things I’d never have had the chance to, and worked with some incredibly talented, dedicated and seemingly tireless staff.

And that’s really all I have energy for. I’m down to one finger typing. I’m exhausted beyond words. I hope (in vain) to be refreshed for my final 24 hours in the amazing Barcelona. If anything else occurs during my hours of long slumber, that I remember, I’ll post them tomorrow.

But this is almost bye bye Barca, hello again Boggle.

18th June 2016

Bye bye Barcelona. Hello Boggle. I’ll be home tomorrow afternoon, but The Boggle will still be in quarantine being de-loused in Leeds Bradford. Nothing left to say. Thanks for watching. And good night.