Reflection seminars for the junior youth programme in Vancouver and Toronto

Posted: 2014/05/22

Canada is home to two learning sites for the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme, in Toronto and Vancouver. These communities will soon be welcoming friends from clusters across Canada and the United States who are involved in the coordination of the junior youth programme. Toronto’s seminar is taking place from 21 to 26 May and Vancouver’s from 6 to 15 June.

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Cluster coordinators, animators and junior youth went skating together during the learning site seminar in British Columbia in late December.

To further our understanding of the purpose of a learning site and what takes place in these seminars, we are including an excerpt from an article on this topic by Ilya Zrudlo, published in a previous issue of Bahá’í Canada, as well as an account of Vancouver’s first learning site seminar, which was held in late December. Sanaz Niagan, the resource person for the Vancouver learning site, provided this account.

Sites for the dissemination of learning

The concepts of “learning sites” and reflection seminars for coordinators, closely followed by the Office for Social and Economic Development (OSED) in the Holy Land, are relatively new. The Universal House of Justice described their relationship to the development of the junior youth programme in their 2010 Ridván message:

“To help others advance swiftly in this direction [sustaining over one thousand junior youth in the programme], the Office is establishing a network of sites in all continents, with the assistance of a corps of believers, that can be used to provide training to coordinators from scores upon scores of clusters. These resource persons continue to support coordinators upon their return to their respective clusters, enabling them to create a spiritually charged environment in which the junior youth programme can take root.”

Coordinator gatherings are typically held twice a year at the learning site. The structure and content of these training sessions respond to the needs of the coordinators and are constantly evolving as we engage more and more junior youth. They generally involve an in-depth reflection on the past six months of action by the 10 or so clusters associated with the learning site; an attentive study of recent guidance and documents issued by OSED for coordinators and resource persons; various field visits to animators, junior youth groups, animator gatherings, institute campaigns, and any number of relevant and practical experiences that would enrich the coordinators’ understanding of such visits; and several detailed planning sessions in order to prepare for the following six months.

Vancouver emerges as a learning site for the junior youth programme

After two years of intensive learning about multiplying vibrant junior youth groups and accompanying junior youth in the programme over a three-year period, the Vancouver cluster recently emerged as a site for the dissemination of learning for the junior youth programme, one of six in North America.

The five other learning sites for North America are located in: Toronto, Ont.; East Valley, Arizona; Triangle Cluster, North Carolina; San Diego, California; and Atlanta, Georgia. There are currently some 40 sites for the dissemination of learning worldwide which serve about 400 clusters.

The Vancouver cluster is associated with a network of other clusters across British Columbia, Alberta and the northwestern United States.

The first learning site seminar – called to assist those involved in the coordination of the junior youth programme to reflect on their experiences and to make plans for the next six months – was held in Vancouver in late December. The seminar focused on training new animators and on sustaining junior youth groups once they had begun. The participants consulted on their experience over the past six months in light of Book 5, visited junior youth groups, planned and facilitated animator gatherings, visited the homes of families of youth and junior youth, and offered training on the texts of the programme, such as Spirit of Faith and Learning about Excellence.

 The seminar participants sought to learn to create environments which foster the participation of more and more people in unified action. In this regard, it was fruitful to reflect on the experience gained from mobilizing large numbers of youth to attend the youth conferences across the world. The participants noted that the conferences generated enthusiasm and a common sense of purpose among groups of youth. A purposeful environment imbued with love, trust, and discipline, in which everyone truly listens to one another and supports each other, fosters joy and understanding.

One of the participants described what she had learned from the seminar: “Purposeful friendships are built through service. We all care about each other and we want to see each other advance in different aspects of our lives. And in the last six months we have been learning to do that with a wider range of individuals.”