Life Stories: Slovenia exchange
During our last evening in Slovenia most of the VIA-ME team gathered around on the terrace of the beautiful hotel we were staying in, overlooking the Alps. We came here for a week to learn about Project Learning for Young Adults (PLYA aka PUM in Slovene) which the local organization Ljudska univerza Radovljica employs in their work with teenage dropouts. As it turns out it was also a crash course in Transactional Analysis, a trip to three centers which run on PLYA, a trip to Bled, a great opportunity to appreciate the local culture and food, a platform for being inspired, developing new ideas and so much more.
Since our trip was coming to an end we started sharing stories about how we got here and what we were leaving with. What really stuck with me as the main focus of that night were „life stories”. Perhaps that is both the key in understanding PUM and TA (Transactional Analysis). Everyone has their story. Actually, everyone has millions of stories which shape who they are. Obviously, no person is going to have the same set of experiences, beliefs or values. But this is where transactional analysis comes in.
One of its pillars is the assumption that “I am OK and you are OK”. At first this seems unclear and some of us had many doubts such as “what does OK even mean?!” This concept is based on the idea that we are all in essence “ok” people – no questions asked. There are no bad people, there are only bad behaviors. This seems to be a reoccurring theme both in PUM and in the work that Atalaya does on a daily basis with youth in institutional care.
Both PUM and Atalaya have been extremely successful at what they have been doing because they have managed to create a place where our participants are not judged as being “good”, “bad”, “talented”, “disadvantaged”, “broken”, “fixed”, “difficult”, “well behaved” or “misbehaved”. They are given a blank slate and a fresh start (sometimes more than one). Their life stories are not what defines them but what brings them together. They give them a common language that is just the beginning of creating something new together. They are all “ok” people and we are only there to help them consciously choose their behaviors in the future.
While in PUM Radovljica we asked the youth if they would like to participate in a youth exchange with our guys in Poland. We knew them for less than a day yet there was still a group eager to go regardless (despite language barriers). We then needed to brainstorm ideas about what the project would be about. What would they want to work on with our youth here in Poland? Ultimately they settled on…everyday life stories. They want to find a place where they overlap and use a creative way of sharing these ideas with the world.
VIA-ME was always supposed to be about Values in Action – about taking what is important to you and finding a way to implement it in everyday life. Exchanging methods was a tool for letting participants see how different strategies can be used to achieve the same purpose. During this exchange we all added many life stories to our collection. For some it was a new outlook on a situation we’ve been stuck in for a very long time, for some a chance to redefine key values, for others maybe even a turning point in an important area of our lives.
A big thank you to all the people who took part in the project and made this week extraordinary. Participants! Let us know what you’re leaving with and share your thoughts about the trip in the comments section at the bottom of the page!