„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“


28th April 2020

YMCA Slovakia with YMCA Czech republic have gone together an important part of their journeys.

So, what do Lighthouse keepers do in the middle of Europe?

Well, some have just been trained and ready for their mission in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Is it due to climate change?

Well, not quite. YMCA Slovakia with the YMCA Czech Republic have gone together an important part of their journeys. Since their visit to YMCA George Williams College in London in 2016, they have been exploring the possibilities of long term education for their volunteers / youth workers combined with support / supervision as a tool for learning, reflexion and growing personally and professionally.

But how to establish a system that requires much more energy (personal and financial) than they actually have? That is why YMCA Slovakia applied for Erasmus+ grant which enabled them to work closely with the YMCA Czech Republic and 2 other specialised organisations during 2018-20 (Exploring supervision in youth work)

Together they have devised a flexible system that can grow continually with the needs, demands and available resources in time. The consortium has started:

  • new online platform www.youthworker.sk with information on available courses, trainings, contacts to professional and voluntary supporters;
  • designed and tested 3 new learning courses (trained 60 participants) focused on Local coordinators (secretaries), Youth leaders and "Lighthouse keepers" who are also open for people from other organizations. Thanks to no language barrier they could share lecturers and keep the courses Czecho-Slovak in the future.
  • with inspiration from Czech YMCA the project established e-learning platform edu.ymca.sk where courses and online learning modules can be added gradually;
  • the organisers trained the first 20 Lighthouse keepers for Slovakia and Czech Republic, a new position with a strong mission.

So who are they and what is their mission?

They come from various backgrounds, ages, have some experience either as volunteers, youth workers, from social work or general work with people, or they are already informal supporters at their local YMCAs. On the two weekend course with distant learning and practice in between they have learned the basics of:

  • supportive / helping dialogue based on open questions, focused on supporting client problem solving abilities, gaining overview into their work situation;
  • some techniques of supervision and coaching with clear distinction from professional services of accredited supervisors or coaches.

Training is interactive with direct practice of learned topics with professional supervisors present and reflecting with learners. Thanks to the knowledge of Marek Jargus from organisation Trendum (CZ) (main author and lecturer) and Peter Kulifaj (Mladez ulice-SK) and with Slovak and Czech YMCA people who have devised a flexible, tailor-made semi-professional tool for non-formal supporters - "Lighthouse keepers".

Lighthouse keepers are focused to support mainly voluntary workers on an individual basis. Ethic codex defines their limits and responsibility to transfer issues beyond their scope to professionals. YMCA Slovakia and Czech Republic have also established a Guarantee who serves as support, contact point for clients and Lighthouse keepers in case a problem arises.

To get support (either professional or informal) is still quite uncommon within our circles. Therefore the organisers need to work on the whole culture of our organisations to promote it, so our volunteers, youth leaders will get to learn they need support and that it is an important and natural part of their work.

At the moment, the new system is only starting. As the demand and the needs grow, YMCA Slovakia would prepare new courses and train more supporters not only for YMCA, but local churches, other NGOs.

The organisers are happy to share with any other YMCA movement the findings in more detail.

Author/Source: YMCA Slovakia