Izzy Huggan, our Youth and Community Development Officer for Tayside, blogs about taking the magic of a youth work residential and making it work online.
Before the pandemic, residential trips were an exciting part youth work. Whenever funding allowed, I always loved to take young people away for trips that would result in lifelong friendships, boosted confidence and speedy team bonding! When we moved all our youth work online, we made a real effort to replicate the fun we used to have face-to-face, including bringing some of our Central and North youth groups together for special events like Christmas and Halloween. One recurring piece of feedback was always that the young people would like these events to be longer. Inspired by this, the idea for our Digital Residential was born!
We planned our Digital Residential for February to coincide with LGBT History Month which would also be our theme. The first step was to recruit some young people into a planning group and send out questionnaires to get a feel for which parts of a residential everyone most enjoyed and wanted us to replicate.
Participating in workshops was a key thing the young people associated with residentials, so we delivered several LGBT History-themed workshops to provide opportunities for learning and discussion. We invited young people to participate using the Discord voice channel, but also allowed them to use the text-based chat channels, as some young people had highlighted that they were nervous about talking audibly in the channel. We didn’t want any barriers to participation. We also posted out event packs to all the young people which included arts and crafts supplies, notebooks, pencils, and plenty of snacks to fuel them through the weekend.
A second key element of a residential that young people told us was important to them was meeting and getting to know new people. We included some more informal activities including a music quiz and our ‘Chill Channel’ where we had lots of great discussion about cats, bread and other important topics!
The balance of online/offline activities made us feel like we had spent an entire weekend together, which was great for helping us feel more connected and combatting lockdown blues. One of my favourite things about the Digital Residential was that we connected over the subject of LGBT history. All the young people discovered an aspect of history they were passionate about and learnt something new. For anyone who is wondering – yes, a digital residential is just as exhausting as a face-to-face one, but I can’t wait for the next one!
One of the young people who attended, Jo Fitzpatrick, wrote this beautiful poem about the residential:
For LGBT History month, we were invited
To a weekend of fun where all groups were united.
What a fantastic event it was to be,
Despite it all being done virtually.
As the history tour was carried out,
We were given a lot to think about.
Information was given from our lovely tour guide
On many monuments that can be found worldwide.
Pictures were created, origami was tried,
Rainbows were made, full of pride.
The arts and crafts workshop was a hit
Thanks to all of the resources in our residential kit.
In a music quiz we listened to
Songs we hadn’t heard and others we knew.
The weekend’s conversations never stopped
With the debate about bread yet to be topped.
So many icons were given praise
As we explored their lives and all the ways
They have impacted our society
And paved the way for Equality.
Now the residential weekend is all done,
It’s a pleasure to look back on all the fun,
The memories, we made together
And the lessons we learned that will last forever.