This February half term the Spark girls headed off to Sussex for a few days to spend some time bonding and learning new skills over exciting team-building activities. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, quite a few adventures getting the heating and plumbing of the cottage we stayed in working, and – most traumatic of all – poor phone signal, the girls had a great time!

We spent Wednesday at Hindleap Warren, an outdoor activity centre associated with London Youth, where we did some problem solving activities, team orienteering, the crate challenge and – most testing of all – the high-rise zipwire! The girls had to work on acting and communicating as a team despite the mental and physical pressures of the challenges. Everyone was out of their comfort zone, but thanks to some really friendly and encouraging instructors managed to get through despite the cold.

The girls were eventually glad to get back to ‘civilisation’ – i.e. somewhere they could use Whatsapp – but a debate we had on the role of social media in young people’s lives drew out the positive side of a bit of a detox: “sometimes you stop talking to people face-to-face and you’d rather just send them a message” – spending three days without phone signal was another real challenge, but one which made sure we spent quality time together.

We cooked meals together, we watched and discussed a film, we had a study session focusing on what applications to college should include, we listened to a lot of music (and the leaders were probably the only ones who spent much time sleeping). We also spent a lot of time talking about issues facing young people today, and made the most of the great outdoors and the beautiful countryside around us.

The girls had some really positive feedback about their time away: “I learnt to be more patient and listen to others”; “I made friends with someone who at the start I thought I’d never get on with” – so we’re confident that the Summer Residential will be just as popular!