In the UK, I have worked with young people for the last 7 years. I am a qualified youth worker and feel pretty comfortable in most situations in my field of work. Where others might shy away from a large group of young people in the street - I would see this as an exciting challenge, asking myself, 'How might I engage with them in a positive way?'. Then I arrived in Honduras.. and I realized what it really means to be out of my comfort zone.
Previously, I´ve never been unable to use language. I've never been unable to communicate verbally. I´ve never realized how much I rely on language to express myself, my skills and my enthusiasm for the work I do. I have worked with young people who struggled with communication and I have worked with adults with Autism, but to stand in front of a room of young people, wanting to say so much, but unable to say anything; now that’s a challenge.
In La Esperanza- Intibuca, we travel out to rural communities in the region to facilitate the learning and development of young people and the wider community through delivering workshops. We cover a variety of subjects such as self esteem, skills building and gender equality, amongst other areas. We have initiated a women´s support group in each of the communities we work with and also teach English. Now, before I get ahead of myself, I hear you asking ´How? How can you possibly deliver a workshop without speaking the same language?´.
When working with young people, as volunteers and professionals, we are constantly encouraging learning and development, through setting examples and modelling behaviour. We build relationships through actions, not souly through language. In the UK, I practice this approach and believe everything we do impacts on others, particularly young people because they can be easily influenced. For me, a big smile and an enthusiastic greeting means more than a thousand words.
Don´t get me wrong, when I first arrived in Honduras, I felt useless. It was as if all my experience, skills and, as a result, confidence, had been taken from me without warning. It took me time to accept the fact that I would have to rely A LOT on the support of others (particularly the national volunteers), to do the work I felt was important with the young people we were working with. Furthermore, as a leader, this was even more frustrating because I felt I had to meet the high expectations set by myself and others. However, with hard work, a lot of patience and by embracing the ability to laugh at myself, I began to grow in confidence. With confidence (and with a little help from my good friend, the Spanish language) came an increased ability to work with young people in the ways that I feel are necessary.
Over the last 6 weeks, I have developed in ways I never thought possible- both personally and professionally. I have not been able to rely on the skills and experience which I previously treasured. And as a result, I´ve developed new means of communication, new abilities, knowledge and an inner confidence I never thought possible when I first arrived.
Written by UK leader Hannah Tugwell