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Connecting and reflecting

2018

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to make space here for people to talk generally about their experience at the recent 3rd International CYC Conference: Nurturing Hope. Even if you did not attend the conference, I would like to hear your thoughts on CYC conferences in general. I feel very grateful that during my career these international conferences have begun. I missed the first one in Newfoundland but feel very fortunate to have attended the 2nd and 3rd in Vienna and California. I do not want to leave out provincial or other CYC conferences either – all of these experiences have been valuable beyond the words I have to describe them. These are incredibly special occasions, and really, the word 'conference' just does not do the experience justice for me.

I was chatting about this with colleagues while looking out over the Pacific Ocean on El Matador Beach on Thursday, and we decided words like 'gathering', 'connecting', and 'reflecting' were more appropriate terms for what we experienced. Heather Snell described it as, "Where curiosity meets wisdom and wisdom meets curiosity." These descriptions, I feel, are the essence of what happened for me last week.

The last presenter of a workshop I attended said she had been to a number of conferences, but this was the first one that felt different for her – it wasn't rigid, intimidating or business-like. Rather, it was warmer – more welcoming, engaging and friendly.

I think as CYCPs, we embody the values of our practice with each other at these 'gatherings' in such a way that we transform ourselves with each experience. This is how I feel anyway – energized, enriched and excited for the potential of our field. I could also feel that in others.

Besides the many stimulating conversations and new information I was provided with, I was overwhelmed by the new relationships and connections – in a good way. I made something like 20 new friends on Facebook. And, I can truly say these are all real friends who I am honored to have in my life and look forward to seeing again soon.

So, I guess what I am asking is this: please share any experiences you had or new things you learned. And, if you did not attend, perhaps you can ask questions about the experience – is there a topic covered you are interested in? Perhaps we can share resources or information? Are you feeling apprehensive about attending or presenting at a conference gathering? Do you feel there are barriers to attending? Can we discuss those here openly to try and help?

I feel the theme of this last conference was 'love'. I know this has been discussed at length here in this discussion forum before, but have we discussed it in general as practitioners or toward our colleagues? I feel genuine love and respect for my colleagues and I feel safe saying that here. I think that is because of my experiences at these gatherings. That is something truly special for me.

There were so many highlights for me. I will share one for now: meeting Lorraine Fox after waiting 12 years – hearing her words of wisdom in person was incredible! I'd be happy to share more.

I hope others join in the sharing, and I hope that this can also be a safe place to talk for those who did not attend. I used to be very nervous and shy. I was also afraid to dream of the possibilities to travel to these wonderful places – letting money and other barriers get in my way. That is ok too – these barriers are real. For me, anyway, it helped to talk about them.

These are just my thoughts and I look forward to yours!

Nancy
...

I’m with you Nancy! I like the word gathering. For me, also a family reunion. Over the course of my career I have found that meeting with others in the field at conference gatherings was extremely important in maintaining my motivation to “hang in”, and I always learned so much from other colleagues. For me CYC conference gatherings have always been filled with warmth and I have never tired of the experience of being with others who care about the same things I do. There were people at this gathering that I have been gathering with since the 1970's (Sister Madeleine from Ohio) and others from Countries that I am separated from until we gather together at such a forum – Canada, Australia, Ireland. I think one of the most important features of such coming together is to reinforce that we are part of a very large, worldwide, caring community who love the children and families that so many others do not. It has always been both a challenge and a privilege. God speed to all I encountered there.

Lorraine Fox
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Hi Nancy and everyone,

Thanks for initiating a space to discuss last week’s experiences and insights. It was certainly a formative few days for me!

I too have been thinking about the conference and reflecting on what happened, what thinking it has spurred and how this has made me feel. A very salient piece that I keep returning to is: my expectations for the week versus the experiences I ended up having.

Traveling solo to a conference of this size was a little daunting. Besides the practical piece of trying to fly out of a mountainous region with a departure rating below 50% in the winter and hoping to fly into a region recently devastated by wildfires and mudslides, the act of traveling alone into the unknown is, well, unknown. Due to the independent nature of the trip, I was pretty focused on my offering to the conference: my presentation. The professional part of myself put this act of performance on a pedestal and conceptualized it as being paramount to my overall experience.

Luckily, this idea of the conference being some kind of independent performance and ‘siloed’ learning experience was challenged from the very first few words of Jaiya’s moving keynote. Moreover, the fact that I knew next to no one in attendance (BC’s CYC scene was noticeably absent) turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to connect and network with practitioners and educators from around the world. In fact, a certain group of recent Ryerson grads were kind enough to take me under their social wing.

I did my presentation but of course it was a minor portion of my overall experience. Much more prominent were the learnings I took from others, especially those that have been thinking about aspects of CYC education and pedagogy for many years. As a novice CYC educator, the presenters who addressed the nuances and challenges of aligning our teaching to our practice seemed to be speaking to me directly. It should go without saying that Heather’s narrative during the banquet was quite moving.

Also contrary to my expectations, some of my favorite moments and most salient learnings took place outside of the hotel conference rooms. The informal conversations I had on beach walkabouts and with other audience members following a presentation are times that stand out as especially meaningful. Could this be an example of formative experiences occurring in the natural life-space? As you astutely noted, we tend to embody the values of our practice at these gatherings in ways that can be transformative. This was certainly my experience.

I can’t say that having expectations are a bad thing, and certainly they are unavoidable for me, but it is interesting to compare and contrast what one expects to what one gets, following a transformative experience. You know what they say about assumptions…?

Best,

Matty
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Hello everyone,

I am enjoying everyone’s reflections!

I am still processing! I attended my first of many CYC conferences in 2000 and it honestly changed my life. I met many people who became mentors and friends and from these connections came many opportunities. The opportunities and connections keep happening and growing – so much hope and possibility! I am always excited to attend CYC conferences and l always leave recharged and invigorated! I am already looking forward to the Canadian National in Vancouver in early May and the Alberta Provincial in late May!

Last week was a wonderful way to reconnect with friends that I have known for many years but more importantly, I was able to meet many new people, people I know will remain in my life because they are part of my ever growing family of CYC. Lots of stories, laughter, shared moments ...

The highlight of this conference for me was being able to support and mentor a MacEwan University student, Janelle and MacEwan University Graduate, Sarah. Attending the conference with them made everything feel new again and reminded me of how I felt at my first conference. I am confident that it was life-affirming for them too! I encourage you to check out Janelle’s Blog because I think she has captured the essence of the week, her excitement and her learning: https://californiajanelle.tumblr.com

This was one of my favourite conferences for many reasons: it really felt global – the diversity shown in plenaries and workshops – talking baseball with Alex – the energy in gatherings – discussing Aprons – the banter around the silent auction – the venue – the food – the hospitality – the love!

Thank you to the committee on a wonderful week!

See you all again soon...

Jenny McGrath
...

Hi Everyone, 

Thank you for adding to the discussion!

I just have to say it was a pleasure meeting each of you at this gathering and it is so nice to read all your reflections. Janelle's blog is incredible! 

(You can read it here:  https://californiajanelle.tumblr.com  – Eds.) 

As I see more and more people getting excited for the next conference in BC, I cannot help but feel extremely envious – a serious case of FOMO as my friends and students like to say! My barriers to attending that one in BC are work and money. I look forward to the day when I can take the time for these experiences when I feel the desire and need. I am saving up for South Africa though. 

More highlights for me were presenting with my extremely talented co-presenter Falon Wilton. With Google Hangouts, we were able to make it work by video conferencing her in. We all sure missed her in person though! I also enjoyed meeting all the new CYC College/University students who are the bright future of our field. It is extremely encouraging to know that our future is in the hands of such talented folks.  

And, of course, hanging out with all of you and my new CYC family. As Lorraine said, I am excited by our motivation to hang in this work together. Our love for our work makes us a truly unique group who, I feel, will look out for each other in our mutual journey to improve the well-being of young people. Matty noted the meaningful moments that took place in informal spaces outside the conference walls. I agree that these moments are likely the most important (without, of course, taking importance away from the depth of wisdom included in the many presentations). I agree Matty, these moments are where we live and breathe CYC in the lifespace with each other. I see this parallel process everywhere now – the characteristics of our practice extend far beyond our work with young people. CYC is certainly a way of life and I am so incredibly grateful to have joined this journey with all of you! 

Thank you Casa Pacifica for creating the space for these moments to happen! 

Nancy
...

Hi folks,

I just wanted to say I also missed everyone, and am so grateful for all efforts to include me!

I don’t think I’ll be able to go to the BC conference (finances and unsure of transportation), but at least I may see some of you in Ontario next year :)

Not making it all the way to Ventura from Toronto – by bus and train – really pushed me to pursue some self-healing that I was putting off. So in a way, I am grateful for the bump in my road, too.

All of you are doing such innovative and compassionate work, and I am proud to be a part of CYC praxis.

With care,

Falon Wilton

Kia Ora Everyone, and special greetings to friend Nancy Marshall!

Yes, it was a very special time at Ventura Beach with the 3rd World International Child and Youth Care Network Gathering of family and extended-family members of a special tribe of peoples.

On my drive home during the last leg of my journey to Lake Waikaremoana after the long flights back to New Zealand, I found myself reflecting on how notions of disability, whether as a label or as an identity, miss out on the idea of capability.

I listened to a radio interview with a young New Zealand woman who suffered life-changing breakage of both ankles as a teenager competing in interscholastic competition.

Ten years later and mega reconstructions, set-backs, surgeries, etc she has become a competitive Paralympic rock climber. Capability is what she argued that family, friends, schools, work colleagues and everybody around her needed to nurture, encourage and celebrate.

What happens if "We Do Capability!" became our new mantra?

Leon Fulcher

Hi Falon,

May I just say I believe 'bumps' in the road are an important part of any journey. I believe your path will lead to many great things! You have such dedication and passion for this work and we are behind you all the way.

Hi Leon,

It was a pleasure getting to know you better on this trip and I look forward to more encounters! I am pleased you are reflecting on disability as I hold this topic very close to my heart. You are right, we do not talk about disability in strength-based ways enough. Some disability advocates argue that words like 'disability' and 'disabled' are, in fact, strength-based and nothing to be ashamed of. Understandably, it is difficult for many to see this and perhaps it is a discussion for another thread. One argument I read says that the 'dis' in 'dis-ability' refers to societal barriers 'dis'-abling individuals. This is the basic premise of the social model of disability- they are disabled by society, not their individual impairments.

I believe understanding pride in disability is such an important step forward for CYC practice. My wish is that all individuals take pride in their capabilities, no matter what they are. Not everyone will become esteemed athletes or other achieve other such feats, nor should they. Some of my students, for example, feel bad when they hear these kinds of stories. They feel like they will never 'measure up' to that standard.

In a way, I wonder if, "We Do Capability" and "We Do Disability" can hold the same premise you talk about in a cyclical and holistic way. Hmmm, I feel another article piece brewing in my head. As always, thank you all for the inspirations :) I look forward to more reflections about this conference!

Nancy
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