The global work of the Youth Section

The global work of the Youth Section

05 July 2024 62 views

by Ángela Millan, Jacinta Gorchs, Merle Doesburg and Tamara Mbuguni

An introductory image

Once upon a time, there lived a group of blind people in a village. One day the villagers heard that there was an elephant in the village – which they had never experienced – and they went to meet him. As they did, they reflected:

“Hey, the elephant is like a pillar,” said the first who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! It is like a rope,” said the second who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! It is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third who touched the trunk.
“It is like a big hand fan,” said the fourth who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” said the sixth who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that they were right. Suddenly, a wise old villager who was passing by and saw this, stopped and asked, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree on what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise old villager calmly explained, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched a different part of the elephant. So, the elephant is part of what you all said.”

A traditional Indian story

Ángela - When I first joined one of the calls with the global network of the Youth Section, I thought of this story, which for me represents the diversity in which the different youth groups perceive the Youth Section as a being, and how the global Co-Workers’ Gathering is a moment of sharing, putting in common our perceptions to try to grasp it as a whole.

"God created the world, and the Dutch created the Netherlands" – said our guest speaker Rik ten Cate as he cheerfully began his contribution on the first evening at this year's Co-workers Gathering. This is where we met! 4 meters below the sea level with the soles of our shoes full of mud, in a land made of very young soil. A fact that surprises foreigners like us.
We were 38 young people from 25 youth initiatives. Some of us had already been to the Youth Education Days, others had just arrived on May 25, to live and share 4 days with colleagues from all over the world, people who make up the great being of the Youth Section – the elephant.

The "Youth Section Global Access Fund" - founded at last year’s Co-Workers’ Gathering - supported many of the co-workers to come to the Netherlands this year. This was an initiative born out of the question: what can we do to support the Youth Section’s global Co-Workers’ Gathering without weakening the local work?
We followed up on this question, revising our intentions, projects, and commitments for the coming year.

- During these days, young people who are connected to youth work and Anthroposophy in their own ways, came together from across the world. We are all part of the “one” Youth Section, which is spread across the world and made up of individuals who work together.
During these days we got to know each other better, the work we do, what our driving forces are, and what our challenges entail.
Long, full, inspiring days with conversation around art, music, movement, spirituality, and youth work among other themes. As the name well explains we “co-worked”, prepared, and shared meals. We talked, listened, thought, and laughed together. But we also worked practically. How can we bring our fire into the world, perceive what is needed, and help each other?

- Everyone shared about their local youth group, relating their work to the series of articles that we had been reading from Maria Röschl-Lehrs, the first leader of the Youth Section which was founded 100 years ago by Rudolf Steiner. Some shared how their work is focused on study, others on social work, others on artistic projects, and some on accompanying finding their vocation. But no matter how different the qualities and personalities are in each of the groups in relation to their environment and their needs, there is something greater that is shared: an intrinsic language of trust, of courage, the constant cultivation of an open space to grow as a human being, a group that is built in pursuit of a hopeful future.

– After each presentation, we collected questions which we worked with in smaller groups over the last two days. We grouped them into four different areas: Education, building bridges, inner development, and organizational questions. Here are some examples of what we worked with:

Education: How to make space for a healthy development of anthroposophical study? What is the role of pedagogy/teaching younger people in the Youth Section? What can be done for someone within the grey condition of soul?

Building bridges: How can we make space for the next generation to step into? Potential and challenges between anthroposophical country societies and youth groups. How can we create bridges between cultures in youth work? How do we understand the process of bringing Anthroposophy into the world? How can there be a stronger connection to Waldorf schools?

Inner development: What sparkle lights up the living thinking? How is screen culture related to the emergence of pictorial thinking and what would responsibly working with it look like? What would I need to act from my heart? How to work with individual empowerment?

Organizational questions: How do you connect over great distances? How to hear the purest necessity of each group? What are the qualities of special interest youth groups? What does it mean to be an active member of the Youth Section?

Behind these questions also lies the time dedicated to exploring questions about the original tasks of the Youth Section, which were meant to be developed by, with, and for young people between the ages of 16 – 28. What would it take for the Youth Section to 1) Create a youth school for young people between these ages, 2) Re-write the basic books for young people fostering pictorial thinking, and 3) Develop further youth courses on Anthroposophy that would be accessible and of deep interest to young people?

How do we stand today before these tasks?

Out of conversations around these themes with the worldwide network, and with further reflections that came out of the “retreat” that took place at the Youth Section House in Dornach only a week after the Co-Workers’ Gathering in a smaller circle, a number of new initiatives are about to be born or are just now coming into being.

There are currently international groups of co-workers working on:
The Global Access Fund, communication and documentation, the Class lessons and inner work, entrepreneurial ideas, study, youth volunteering exchange programs, and camping excursions with adolescents among others.

- It touched me to meet these people who are all around the world, working on the same initiatives as I am. I noticed that through the exchange, and hearing how people deal with their projects and initiatives, I became increasingly nourished. I was able to reflect on what I needed as well. You get to know yourself best through others. Something that happened a lot in these days.

- The May 2024 Co-Workers’ Gathering was both a productive and enjoyable event, making me feel part of a lively, loving family. The teamwork was the highlight for me, as I enjoyed collaborating with everyone and getting to know each other better. The networking
sessions and insightful workshops deepened my understanding of anthroposophy. I left with a strong desire to share everything I’ve learned with my colleagues, to initiate new projects that will help me connect more with my community, and to maintain a strong connection within this large family, I am eagerly waiting for the next gathering.