Jenna’s story: Growing Wings Through Self Acceptance

Jenna Waite is a Guidance Counselor at Ferncourt High School in Jamaica. She took part in the One Love Youth Camp in Jamaica in 2016 and 2017, organized by PYE in partnership with the Bob Marley Foundation and Ben & Jerry’s, and in the Culture Jam camp in 2017 organized by the Oregon Country Fair. Jenna shares her experiences with us below.

We had three days of Creative Facilitation training before the One Love Youth Camp where we learned the skills and tools we would need to follow the Creative Communities Model and formed a strong bond of community among the staff team.  I was surprised at the intense enjoyment I felt from participating in the activities and this joy gave me the confidence to present these activities to the camp participants.

I watched closed, scared and shy students transform into friendly, confident risk takers over the course of the camp.

The community building games and creative workshops helped to build a sense of safety and acceptance. This combined with the warm and comfortable environment at the camp site made for a real group bonding experience. Students used dub poetry, singing, drumming, knitting and dancing to create an electric Music and Dance evening. They really opened up to each other, the facilitators and I believe to themselves. I watched closed, scared and shy students transform into friendly, confident risk takers over the course of the camp.

Speaking to Mrs Roxanne Williams, the principal at the Bob Marley Primary and Junior High School whose students went to camp, she shared that “the camp participants have become more sociable and more willing to get involved in school activities.”

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Photo credit: Ella Cooper. Campers “signing” the community agreement they drew up with a hand clap.  These community agreements are co-created with the camp participants and help create a safe environment in which young people can express themselves.

The Creative Facilitation training has taught me so much about myself – strengths and weaknesses, about working with other facilitators and managing and responding to participants’ needs.

This year [2017] I took part in the second level of Creative Facilitation training [CF2]. We learned so much about how to conduct workshops, lead different activities and create the right environment for participants to have a fulfilling camp. The Creative Facilitation training has taught me so much about myself – strengths and weaknesses, about working with other facilitators and managing and responding to participants’ needs. It was fantastic!

All these lessons were put to test as I experienced being a lead facilitator at One Love Youth Camp 2017. I conducted workshops on building positive self-esteem and poetry writing. I not only enjoyed leading, it was a joy to once again watch the transformation among the participants and facilitators.

In addition to the One Love Youth camp in Jamaica, I traveled to Oregon this summer to be at Culture Jam 2017.  The new culture brought with it a whole new perspective on the Creative Communities model and opened my eyes to many more ways I can engage youth all over the world. I led a poetry workshop and participated in activities that expanded my horizon.

DSC07371Photo credit: Jenna Waite. Participants creating poetry in Jenna’s workshop at Culture Jam Camp.

As I sat in a youth-led workshop on slangs across the world, I mused at the thought that there were so many different cultures in the one place and as we shared and explored we learned more about ourselves and others and that changed me for the better. I came to understand how much I need to release myself and allow others to do the same. The environment was mindblowingly peaceful, the youth were astounding and the staff were all amazing. I see myself expanding and growing in this model and I never want to stop experiencing these camps.

Beyond Camp

My Creative Facilitation training was not only invaluable at camp, it has also helped my work as a school counselor. I frequently encounter students trapped in a culture of shyness, low esteem and fear of self-exploration compounded by an environment that fosters children’s silence and offers little opportunity to participate fully. As soon as the students recognize that they can indeed “be their true self” they take on wings and it is magic to watch.

Being able to change the energy of a session through the use of music and the arts has paid off immensely with students who are more engaged and productive.

The Creative Facilitation tools I learned have helped me to create more diverse group counseling and lesson plans. Being able to change the energy of a session through the use of music and the arts has paid off immensely with students who are more engaged and productive. Noticeably, my parenting workshops have become more exciting since the inclusion of more fun games, goals and agreements and opportunity for each person to play a role in the session.

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Photo credit: Jenna Waite. Jenna dancing on stage with Andre Wilson