WOTS/VDLJ held their summer retreat for squad members last weekend which included a variety of personal development and bonding exercises. Below are pictures taken by squad members and youth coordinators, as well as some art and writing from squad members.
“I’m thrilled and thankful to have participated in WOTS/VDLJ Summer retreat for the past three days. It was a great experience but it was a learning one too. We stayed in a Cabin in Maggie Valley, NC and we did many activities. We did a quiet hike the same day, I found it to be both calming and adventurous. We walked to a point on the mountain where we could overlook the land. Seeing so much natural beauty helped me feel at ease, but it also taught me to appreciate it. It made me think about why we harm nature when it isn’t a threat.
It provides many precious resources, but it also defends itself when we disturb it. We made an altar and performed a writing exercise when we got back to the cabin. I felt positive energy as we did the altar, so I can say that the first day went well, and we closed the day by watching a scary movie. The movie was enjoyable, but what I liked most about them was that we were interested in watching them as a group. I’m not a big fan of scary movies, but I watched it with the squad members because they tend to fool around and that always makes me laugh. We awoke on the second day to a fantastic meal prepared by one of our youth coordinators. The food was so delicious that I wanted to sit down and eat it nonstop for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that, but I don’t regret it because my sister and a senior squad member had prepared an activity for us.
They wanted us to create jewelry with certain materials that can be used for healing. I loved that activity because it made me feel secure and motivated me to think positively about outcomes in situations that are currently happening in my life. I enjoyed the activity, but it was the squad members’ chat that drew my attention. They had a fascinating discussion that included movies, friends, and experiences. The day was going smoothly until one of our youth coordinators was obstinate and insisted on hiking on a rainy day. We spotted a gorgeous animal on the side of the road on our way there (picture above), but we soon got stuck in the mud, which was to be expected given that it had rained. I was worried because we were stuck somewhere without service, but luckily, a nice man came by and offered to aid us to get the van back on the road. They managed to get it on the road but humans tend to make a handful of mistakes before learning, so we ended up hiking after all, but thank goodness nothing worse happened.
We managed to see a small bear sometime after we arrived back at the cabin, and we ate delicious food. We ended the day with another scary movie. That day was good but it was quite an experience. One of the things I loved the most about the retreat was the waterfall( Picture Above) we visited on Saturday. The sound of the water made me feel calm and relaxed, but most importantly I felt excited to be there. The trip was great and I learned more not only about myself but with the people around me.”
Written By Kenny Ramirez
“This year, the Word On The Street retreat was probably one of the most memorable as the squad members spent a lot of time learning about alters and how to make them. The experience was precious because I needed to understand the importance of making altars to honor something further. Additionally, we had a healing exercise where we wrote about some of the problems we’ve been facing and then talked about them as a group. It was meaningful and memorable because I realized how many things other people have been holding in, including myself. After our conversation, we all made jewelry with crystals with different healing properties. It was nice to have something physical that I could bring home with me to help my healing.
One of the last exercises we did was go around a circle and talk about some of our insecurities. The activity was probably the most impactful one because everyone had the opportunity to be vulnerable and cry. I think it just made us realize how much we all truly trust each other. It was healing, and I don’t think anyone will forget the space we opened up to each other that day.
Lastly, we, of course, did a lot of hanging out. On this retreat, I feel that we all strengthened our bond. Some of the things we did were: find a place to play volleyball, play hide and seek, play UNO, watch scary movies, and every day we would go on a hike. One time we even got stuck in the mud. These things might seem small to an outsider, but we weren’t all that close before this trip, and now we have more memories than I can count.”
Written By Sharissa
“Hi, I’m Oshun, and from July 8th to 11th, 2021, I went on a summer retreat with Word On The Street for the first time since I’ve become a squad member. We stayed in a cabin in Maggie Valley. I had a great time on this trip. We participated in outdoor activities, like volleyball or hiking, and could switch it up with some arts and crafts followed by vulnerable conversations. Our nights would usually end in a ¨scary movie¨ and before bed shenanigans. On the first day of the trip, we went on a hike from the cabin to a beautiful pasture. On this hike specifically, we hiked silently until we got to the pasture and were instructed to pick up some things from nature (with respect) that resonated with us or caught our eye in some way. While up on the pasture, we talked about ancestors and altars, about how they have all played a part in our lives in different ways. We hiked back down, and when we returned to the cabin, we started putting together a collective altar of our own that included things like flowers, scented candles, herbs, moss, rocks, etc. We, then, reflected upon our surroundings using our five senses and set goals for ourselves throughout the trip. Our beloved staff member Sekou was in charge of all the meals on the trip (they were all delicious), and those meals often lead to great meal-time discussions. They were always fun and memorable in one or many ways. We often spent half of it deciding what movie to watch at the end of the night, which usually didn’t end up getting decided till 3 seconds before we pressed play. We ended up watching the new Fear Street movies on Netflix two nights in a row; they were… yep ok moving on. I had a lot of fun hearing all the comments through the movie. Nonetheless, they ultimately saved the movie. For the next couple days, we continued to do group activities like jewelry making or chasing waterfalls. During this trip, I feel like it brought this year’s group closer together (like I assume it always does), and I had the best time I’ve had all summer on this trip. I genuinely felt like I could be authentically me with no judgment, and we were all just having fun together.”
Written By Oshun