The weekend of the 6th -8th July this year, a group of young Londoners made the trip out to the wilderness of Wiltshire for their first ever camping trip. Many of the group had never left London and most had never been camping before. Luckily for them, it was also my first time taking a group to our campsite at Pertwood Organic Farm so we were all in a similar boat.
The excitement, however, was palpable as we piled onto a hot train at Waterloo and was still fizzing after enduring a two hour trip without air conditioning. As we arrived at the campsite and settled in, there was consternation over compost toilets and several screams over spiders in tents. After dinner, we opened the camp by bringing something from home that we felt represented us in some way. Excitement and nerves were still top of the list for emotions as we went to bed that day. Hearing the girls chat away in their tents, however, gave me a sense that they were already settling in well.
As the birds chirped us awake on the second day, we started with a silent walk to contemplate the beautiful landscape around us. We then spent the day in the sun, getting to know each other through games and partner work, getting to know the site through nature appreciation activities and learning more about local wildlife from a local National Trust representative. Right from the beginning, the group was soaking everything in. We talked about ourselves as humans, our impact on the planet and opened up our senses to new ways of seeing and walking, to try and feel how other animals might feel. We also played frisbee and watched the sunset.
By the end of the third day, as we closed the weekend with reflections, what I saw in front of me was a changed group of young women. In a few short days, they had grown in confidence, empathy and connection. They had done things they never imagined and one even admitted to now feeling sorry for spiders. They had shared a common experience and had all stretched their comfort zones. The effect was palpable and they left a happy, slightly burnt jumble of girls with a new shared experience to hold.
Myself, I was absolutely humbled to be able to share such an experience with such a group. I was reminded of the worth of the work that I do and that is being done by Global Generation giving spaces for young people to grow and to do so in the calming presence of nature. I left the camp feeling lighter and more hopeful and looking forward to creating more opportunities like this for young people from London.