Thursday, September 6th 2018

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Stand Up Peer Leaders Week in Camas


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A trip to Camas on the Island of Mull is not the easiest to participate in.  Although less than 150 miles from Glasgow, it takes the best part of 7 hours to get there by train, ferry and bus followed by a 1 hour walk across bog land and scrub before you can finally put your bags down and your feet up.  Is it worth it?  Yes! Is the overwhelming response of the young people that took part in Stand Up to Sectarianism’s Peer Leaders week 2018.


Stand Up Peer Leaders week is a partnership between Stand Up funded groups that have done some work around anti-sectarianism, the Iona Community’s outdoor centre, Camas on Mull and Stand Up.  Camas was chosen as the venue due to its philosophy of a simplified existence, where people who visit there live lightly and where little is enough.  The group relies on each other as a necessity to keep safe, share tasks and chores, and learn to live in a common space within a stunning and beautiful environment.  Participants learn the benefits of a simplified existence taking on meaningful roles for the good of the group and making connections with others that will last a life time.



The Camas set up is about being together.  Although there were 6 different groups from Stand Up including the Camas community, it was difficult to see different groupings as everyone got together very quickly.  The power of Camas is breaking down barriers, it could be the simplicity of the lifestyle and feeling close to the surroundings which opens the way to conversations not usually had at home.  For 6 days, 35 participants took part in activities that explored sectarianism and hate behaviours in a way that they wanted to talk more, making sense of prejudice and discrimination in their own communities.  Activities in the outdoors served to prepare the ground for workshops and conversations around the impact of sectarianism in the communities and how to recognise it.



A group from Glasgow led the workshops on anti-sectarianism and how it impacts on the community.  To their surprise, their experience was a catalyst for discussion as it soon became apparent that young people from Edinburgh and beyond understood how sectarian banter and hate could be transferred into football rivalry and territorialism.  Glasgow participants had seen a lot about sectarian behaviours in the media, whereas the Edinburgh groups had seen less, but were no less aware.  The exercises around the use of sectarian words brought up the influence of families making the use of such words acceptable and were used often without thinking.  One participant said that they had used words in the past because that is what their family believed and yet as an individual they believed in something very different but it took friends to show them that it’s not OK to behave in certain ways to certain people.

The thought of spending 6 days in this environment isn’t easy for all and as a result a number of the group panicked – concern about getting things they were used to like shops or phone signals or charging phones etc.  Others were concerned that they may be misunderstood or judged because of where they came from or issues affecting their lives.  Camas used games, chats and ‘structured informality’ - it all felt informal but there is a reason behind it to make people feel safe and at home!  Youth workers made sure they went at the speed of the individuals in the group, giving them the time and space to let learning happen – a shared learning experience where teaching and learning go hand in hand.

When it was time to leave, there were tears, swapping snapchat and Instagram addresses and a promise to meet again.  For a group of 14-19 year olds, their view of sectarianism and different communities in Scotland had changed and become richer for the experience.  They are all looking forward to the next time.   





















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