25 June 2017. I was patiently queueing between dozens of impatient tourists, yearning for their long-awaited holidays and hustling to the check-in of Brussels South Charleroi Airport. Beyond the check-in, no holidays were waiting for me, though. I was off to Thessaloniki, for an adventure of a very different nature.
Since 2009, one mobile school operates in Thessaloniki, shared between two committed organisations, ARSIS and PRAKSIS. Due to geopolitical shifts in and around Greece, the target groups of the mobile school continue to grow. Hence it was decided to establish a second mobile school, focusing on Roma-communities and facilities for refugees. Mobile school colleague Bram and myself went out to train and coach the street workers for the new implementation. This means immersing the local teams in the principles of self-esteem and the importance of creativity in dealing with street children. The main goal of these interventions is to collaborate intensively with the newly formed teams, on and behind the scenes. We immerse them in all that’s needed to run the mobile school from day to day for the benefit of the most vulnerable target groups.
Having said this, there’s much more to it than meets the eye. Committing to such an expedition is often quite a stretch. You get off the beaten track, have to overcome many obstacles and you evolve in a challenging context. The difficult working conditions are rarely a blessing and the misery can sometimes be exhausting. Listening to people’s personal stories crossing the Mediterranean in shaky rafts only 3 months earlier, puts a human face on an issue that’s still debated and judged in often too generic terms. That results in confusing emotions, and many bottle necks that are hard to overcome. Paradoxically, these experiences are incredibly valuable.
The Mobile School Expeditions are some sort of therapy to me indeed. Most of the year, I seemingly wander from workshop to workshop, and sometimes you loose the perspective. It’s hard not to get entangled with your day-to-day commitments and to avoid black-and-white thinking. Entering a different world, ruled by different laws and prevailed by different leaders, opens your eyes. You get a look over shoulders bearing very different weights than yours, and you are challenged to think about problems that you wouldn’t ever have imagined crossing your path. Hence, once you are back, you look at your own story with a fresh and different mind.
My choice to become Master Trainer was very conscious. It challenges me to change my pespective, to leave the well-trodden paths and to overcome personal obstacles – sometimes because I just feel like it, but also because I am convinced that everyone can use a healthy dose of “expedition” every now and again. That might mean getting a rehab from the workshop-blues in Greece, but it can also mean something totally different. A healthy stretch of the mind every now and then keeps you on the ball.