October 2012, Bergen, Norway. Juan Manuel Oviedo, the Colombian coordinator for the Con Lupa project is on a visit to discuss the next phase of the project that will take place in Colombia.

Juanma: CISV Colombia really wants you to go to Andinos. It’s a four day workshop for the Junior Branches of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.
Con Lupa: Sure. When is it?
Juanma: In Easter.
Con Lupa: Isn’t that when we’re in El Salvador?
Juanma: Yes.

This is how I remember the conversation leading up to the decision of Ade and myself doing our TTT in Dallas in order to take part in the Andinos workshop during Easter. And what a great decision it was!

Here are some quick points in order to better understand what Andinos is all about:

  • The goals: to strengthen the Junior Branches of the Andes region, to empower the Juniors (the CISVers who are actively involved in their local Junior Branch) to take action, to work with the content area of the year and to facilitate cultural exchange between the participants of the three countries.
  • Approximately 50 youngsters between the ages of 15-25
  • 8 staff that are in charge of the planning and execution of the whole workshop
  • 4 days at a campsite where everyone sleeps, eats and participates in all of the activities
  • Every year the hosting is rotated between the three countries
Planning Andinos in the CISV house

Planning Andinos in the CISV house

Two days prior to the workshop, we met up with the 6 National Junior Representatives (NJRs) from Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, with whom we were staffing Andinos 2013. We got the chance to mingle and socialize a little and to create the full plan of which activities would take place, when and who were in charge of what.

As the sun arose Thursday morning, we went to meet all the participants to go with them by bus to the campsite (finca) which was located nearby Sasaima, a small town 2 hours away from Bogota. The not-so-hot-yet-quite-humid air together with the many green spaces, the two ping pong tables and the hammock hanging between two trees provided the perfect countryside-feeling that I find particularly conducive for a four-day workshop with young adults.

Activity time about to begin!

Activity time about to begin!

Although much of the planning had been done in advance, changes and additions were made as we went along with the program to make sure that the flow of the activities went well and that the participants would gain as much knowledge as possible. We held some “get to know each other” games, mapping and presentations of each Junior Branch, the Con Lupa human rights activity, CISV Basics session, a simulation on migration and a “What does it mean to be Andino” activity, to mention a few. The energy and creativity that these youngsters displayed was so contagious and enriching for me (and I believe the rest of the staff would agree), that it became this virtuous cycle where we all took part in the learning process. I was positively surprised by the deep discussions that took place in the debriefing of the activities and that were often continued over lunch and dinner.

Another great thing about being staff was that Adelaida and I got to put into practice all of our recently acquired facilitation skills from the TTT training we took in Dallas, and realized we both feel much more confident in planning and holding activities than before.

The last night we (the staff) decided to hold a sort of closing ceremony to the surprise of the participants. One of the youngsters helped us gather the participants in the big activity room where the light was turned off, and asked them to sit down in a circle. We then entered, walking slowly one after the other holding lit candles in our hands with traditional andean music playing in the background. We told the participants the following story:

“In the foothills of the Andes, covered under the sun from the center of the world, a group of warriors from all dialects came together to join in heart and soul. Children of the jungle, the beach, the desert and the mountains, they lived four sunsets together. The heat of the day served to unite them and make them brothers. Today, their preparation culminates. Today, owners of the light of knowledge, they get to know each other and make a pact with these mountains. With this fire in their hearts they return home committed to take care of it and to keep it alive.” (Written by Matias Espinosa, NJR Ecuador)

This was evidently an analogy to the workshop and its participants. While holding a lit candle, one by one we all made a commitment to ourselves, the group or our JB. Finally, we finished it all off by performing a completely absurd and silly dance to the youngsters amusement.

It is incredible how much can be accomplished in four days, how much can be discussed and how much can be shared between people from different places. As a staff, I too learned and participated. I too felt part of this memorable experience.
We must have gone through more than 20 different energizers, 400 small packs of chips and a thousand hugs over the weekend, all of which added to the already fantastic bonding that took place during Andinos. As some of the participants told me, it felt much more like a camp than a workshop. I couldn’t agree more.

Andinos 2013

Andinos 2013