Youth Encounter

November, 2013

For several years now, the teenagers from the Maryknoll Seedling of Hope Youth project and from the Deaf Development Programme have had a Youth Encounter, three days away from Phnom Penh at a center where they experience a mixture of learning activities and fun. This year they were joined by a third group from a Methodist Church program and went together to the Catholic Center in Sihanoukville.


For all the activities, including preparing the meals, the youth were divided into eight teams. Here members of one team chop up meat for the supper meal.
Chopping up meat for supper

Then another part of the team takes the meat and cooks it on large gas-fired burners in the kitchen area. For many of the teenagers this is their first experience cooking.
Cooking the meat

Cooking the rice is a special job and a lady was engaged to supervise this task which, on such a large scale, needs a bit of skill and experience. 140 teenagers and additional staff eat a LOT of rice.
Cooking the rice

Keeping the fires going
One member of the team kept the fires going under the rice cookers.

Enjoying the meal
Then it was time to eat and the food was served to the tables of eight or ten (or more!) students who noisily and joyfully shared it with their group of new friends.

Chatting after the meal
It took some time to clean up after the meal, so while the team was addressing that, these boys found time to sit and chat.


The Activities

The theme of the Youth Encounter was knowing yourself and setting goals in life for yourself. The encounter T-shirts helped to emphasize the value and goodness of each of the participants, many of whom had been affected by HIV/AIDS.
Youth Encounter T-shirt

After supper both nights, the whole group assembled on the floor of a large meeting hall on the church compound. The first night, Fr. Sun spoke to them and the second night Fr. Charlie spoke about Knowing Yourself.
Dividing into small groups

The students were divided into eight teams, each named after an animal. Students from the three organizations were mixed together.
Small group work

Small group work
About twenty adult leaders from the three sponsoring organizations came with the young people and helped to explain the activities. The adults are used to simple conditions for eating and sleeping so they do very well at an activity like this which is really very similar to a camping trip.

Small group work
Another of the small groups, filling out photocopied handouts which helped the students to reflect on what they are interested in and what they want to do with their lives.

The deaf students were merged into four of the small groups because DDP could provide only four sign language interpreters. Here the interpreter (in black, kneeling in the center) explains the activity to the deaf participants.

An overview of the work area in the large hall.

At home many of the students sleep on mats on the floor so it is no problem to do the same when they come to a retreat like this one. 20 to 30 boys or girls would sleep in one room like this. There were two rooms for boys on the ground floor and two rooms for girls on the second floor.

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