Coco, originally from Yunan Province in China and now a resident of Beijing and an Operations Officer in our Beijing Hub, had the chance to go to Europe for the first time via Germany’s Into the Wild Conference. She will be rounding out our Germany participants’ reflections for the JUMP! blog starting with a quote:
“My commitment is to devote my whole life to social work, specifically working with youth who lack resources and information in China, a country where more and more children need help from both the government and individuals” I stated confidently in front of my new international family—a diverse group of passionate experiential educators from South Africa, Malaysia, the US, Germany, and China, just to name a few countries.
This was my first trip to Europe. A whirlwind to say the least. On our first three days we visited 5 different youth centers in Chemnitz, Dresgen, and Leipzig. As we walked around I was in awe at the multiplicity of activities and the spaces offered: performance stages with instruments, open kitchens, dining rooms, gyms, offices for social workers, and several bedrooms for youth and homeless people who needed temporary residence. These centers were not only open and communicative spaces for youth to play and share, but were also used as a working base for social workers. It was here that I could relate JUMP!’s philosophy with the integration of learning, play, and mentorship all centralized in one place.
I learned that on average there is a youth club for every 3,000 youths under 18 years old in Germany. These youth come to the centers to spend time and have fun with others in their community, or to seek advice and mentorship from the center’s social workers about problems at home and school. The role of a social worker reminded me a lot of JUMP!’s philosophy on facilitation and the role of the JUMP! facilitator. These social workers define themselves not as “parents” or “teachers”, but as individuals who, through their relationships with youth, are trusted to mentor and guide individuals to find solutions: they are like J! facilitators, facilitating and guiding youth through dialogue and play to realize their true potential.
After learning more about the German youth centers’ vision and mission, it was obvious that the all of Germany is invested in developing and supporting youth in their communities. There is not only a pervasive passion amongst the individuals involved in the centers but also very strong support from the German government to invest time, energy, and resources in order to create this open, communicative and safe space for youth. I couldn’t help but think about what this could look like in China. What if the Chinese government supported the development of youth centers similar to these? What would future generations look like then?
Social work in China is a commitment to my home country that I want to devote my life to. Finding a lifelong career dedicated to meaningful work is like finding a home for my soul, which is my biggest takeaway from this journey. I’m excited to start exploring what all of this could look like with the rest of the JUMP! China team.
On my last day, I overheard one of the social workers say, “Youth are the future of our country and youth education is crucial for social progress.” I couldn’t agree more.