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Training in the sunny surroundings of Matera, Italy

by Julia Stachura, ARTeria Foundation

In October, my life was completely transformed. As a 20-year-old student, I was given the opportunity to participate in the Master The Act project, which gave me the opportunity to train as a Creative Mentor for Employability.

As soon as I heard about the project, I decided that maybe when I was older I would go for such a training myself….

As fate would have it, I was invited to apply for this project in the magical Italian town of Matera.

The opportunity to take part in the project was given to me – Julia Stachura – a student of Pre-school and Early Childhood Pedagogy, Agnieszka Chrzanowska Małys – an artist, and Mateusz Paszek – a photographer.

Initially, we attended a compulsory online course, which proved to be extremely useful and informative. The materials in the form of an online course, a manual, which were prepared by the organisers of Master The Act – made me feel prepared for the trip. When it turned out that I had qualified for the residential training – I couldn’t believe it.

My day job is at a children’s creative centre, where I am a certified animator.  In my work I come into contact with adults, whom I often train and help so that they too can work with children as animators, but above all I work with children.

In my position, spontaneity, the ability to lead a group and communication skills are very important, but above all I need to know what qualities I should look for in candidates to work…with children.

It’s a responsible task which, on my part, requires commitment and preparation of the candidates for the job. That is why the training I was lucky enough to take part in – will help me even more in this.

The training started on 24 October and lasted for five days, until the 28th.

Matera is a sunny town in the Basilicata region, where the smell of pasta, pizza and herbs wafts everywhere. Circumstances such as these, made me even more pleased to have had the privilege of attending this training.

The training, as I mentioned, was scheduled over 5 days. Each day, a mentor representing a country out of the five, led a workshop for the entire training group.

The plan for each day in Matera, was very well thought out – there was time to learn, there was time to practice and there was also space to meet incredibly interesting people from different parts of the world. Of course, there was also time for the typical Italian “back break” and lunch breaks. During these five days, all our work was filled with knowledge, sunshine, smiles and beautiful sights.

During the first day of the workshop, we were introduced to the methodology of , “Fake It Make It”, in which we took on the role of a recruiter and also worked in international groups.

It was an exercise in which we had to create a mini-presentation about a target within 45 minutes. Each of us had a head full of ideas, but we had to choose a specific one to present later to the whole group of 5 people. In some groups, as participants, we found out who had the soul of a leader, who had soft skills and who had hard competences. In the end, this task was the most fun. The integration between us participants during the preparation for the exercise proved to be a great basis for further group activities throughout the training.

On the second day of the training, we focused on differentiating hard and soft competences on the labour market. Initially, we familiarised ourselves with the division, the characteristics of the given competences, and then we carried out several exercises, in which each of us could individually reflect on our own competences. We took part in theatre exercises – again we could take on different roles, we used the storytelling method, worked in groups focusing on group leadership, communication and negotiation skills.

All participants were engaged in discussions and activities throughout the day.

During the third day of the workshop, we discussed our present as well as our future, both in the labour market and in our private lives. Many exercises allowed us to reflect on our life choices. Acting out scenes in groups, playing the role of mentor, candidate or recruiter, again allowed us to see different perspectives, we practised our skills in training others, we could learn by observation about our strengths and weaknesses. We also learnt about relaxation methods – we planned on breathing correctly, we could also show our creativity, during an exercise in which we turned into different animals. I was extremely pleased with the usefulness of these exercises.

On the fourth day of the workshop, we recalled our knowledge from the online course on how a Creative Employment Mentor should work. We started with a warm-up in which our voice, body and mind were perfectly prepared for the training day ahead. We then moved on to the most important question – , how to manage a group skillfully.  Based on the knowledge gained throughout the training, we trained our skills in this area. We got into groups – we were given a mass of interesting theatrical tasks, and we also worked individually by following instructions sent to us on the WhatsApp platform. This exercise mobilised us to multitask.

On the last day of the training, there was a closing ceremony for all the unbelievably ambitious days. As we did every day, we gathered in a beautiful room, a refurbished cave, warmed up and moved on to the final exercises.

Our task was to gather in our nationality groups together with our mentor, Wenancjusz Ochmann, with whom we discussed ideas for a pilot of the Polish Master The Act training programme. Each of us, in our groups, got involved over the pilot of the training that will take place in Poland. After an intensive and valuable time, it was time for the final task – saying goodbye.

This was by far the most difficult task to complete. Each of us met wonderful people, together during these five days we experienced a wide variety of emotions, made friends, got to know ourselves anew.

At the end we all stood in a big circle  and chose a picture that best described the training. Everyone said a few kind words.

There was a moment of farewell – one of the participants, an artist, played a song for us on the ukulele with a dedication – about us as new mentors. She chose a song by India Arie – ‘I Am Light’. It was an extremely moving moment that will stay with us for a long time.

The training provided by Master The Act, will definitely be useful to me in my work, studies and also in the future. Regardless of where I will be in the future, the skills acquired during the 5-day training are universal.

I am immensely grateful to the organisers, mentors, facilitators and everyone who contributed to such a socially important project.

The Master The Act Training taught me many things about myself.

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