What a beautiful autumn we have had so far! Although the days are drawing shorter, we have had glorious sunshine and blue skies much like our trip to Barcelona with the Baytree girls in July of this year. As the year closes to an end, it feels like a perfect time to reflect on our trip and give you a good sense of everything we got up to in the beautiful country of Spain! We feel extremely blessed to have been accepted funding from the Erasmus + programme, allowing 12 of our Baytree girls to take part in a cultural exchange with another female youth group called Fundación Canfranc. By taking part in this amazing opportunity, our girls were able to meet, make friends and learn from girls who come from a different country. Furthermore, we were able to explore the rich culture, sights, food and lifestyle that Barcelona has to offer. The project a huge success, we came away from the trip feeling as though our girls had grown in confidence, had developed an appreciation for the things they have and explored their identity in a positive light. With so many amazing workshops, sites and stories to tell; we have collected the best bits to give you a colourful picture of our time in sunny Barcelona! 

The week began with our Into School manager and tutor Caley, leading a practical and thought-provoking performance art workshop on identity. We were very lucky to be given a workshop space at Metafora Studio, allowing us to explore how different artists express, challenge and creatively look at the theme of identity and the development of stereotypes. The girls channelled their creativity by using a series of props to come up with their own performance art piece, and this included things such as dramatic mime to show the effects of social media. 

On our second day we met the girls from Canfranc and had a lovely workshop in Parc del Laberint d’Horta. Although for many there was a language barrier, the girls exchanged interests, taught each other about their countries customs and took part in a race to the centre of the Labyrinth. This was a great way for the girls to challenge their communication skills, develop their confidence and bond with other young women like themselves. 

After two days of busy workshops and site-seeing, it was time to wind down and no better way to do this than meeting the lovely Zoe at Lashala yoga in central Barcelona. Zoe facilitated a mindful exercise class, considering how we set goals, how we perceive ourselves and rather than exploring identity from an external view of others, how we think about ourselves internally. We practiced a relaxation breathing technique and came away feeling very reflective and zen. 

With Barcelona having already offered so much and our girls having been very lucky to experience a variety of things, it was only right that we gave back to the local community, and so next on our agenda was to volunteer at Cottolengo; a home for many people aged 6-99 with a variety of disabilities. The home is managed by nuns and everything is kept running by both volunteers and donations from the local community. Many of the resident’s mobility is limited, and there is a great need for assistance when it comes to eating, drinking and getting around the home. We arrived late morning to help serve and feed many of the residents, whilst helping with the lunchtime routine across the home. The experience was very hard hitting for many of our girls, the level of dependence that some of the residents have on others can be very high and for the whole group, we came away feeling very grateful and humbled by the kindness of others.  

Later in the week we got to admire the intricacy and scale of Sagrada Familia, an absolutely stunning cathedral designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The colours of stained-glass windows create a glorious and mesmerizing atmosphere from inside the building, the structure of the cathedral is inspired by nature and taught many of the girls about how ambition and foresight can create something so beautiful.   

With the week drawing to an end, we took a day trip to Altafulla, a costal beach and town in Catalonia. Here, the girls were brave and strong willed, taking dinghy’s out to sea and use their team building skills, play games on the water and undergo challenges with the sailing instructor. We then had a picnic on the beach followed by a lazy day of sunbathing, jumping in the waves, sipping Coca-Cola’s and indulging in ice lollies. 

Across the whole week the girls really developed their ability to work together, cooking most nights for everyone and having to adapt to sharing their living space with one another. We walked A LOT! Although at times this was a struggle in the intense August heat, the youth team were so proud that the girls kept their spirits high and persisted through any challenges they faced. We are so grateful to have been blessed with an amazing opportunity and both the staff and girls came away having developed relationships, feeling more united and with a greater sense of self. 

Thank-you Barcelona! Ciao for now!