The summer of 2016 was a historical one for Poland! Every third year, millions of youth from various Christian traditions from around the world gather at World Youth Day. They hear encouraging messages, engage in multi-cultural worship, experience fun program events and participate in Holy Mass with the current Pope. Last summer Poland hosted World Youth Day 2016 (WYD2016) in the city of Kraków.
Kraków is not far from the city of Poznań, where Young Life Area Director Kristyna Kvasničkova leads a group of 20+ volunteers with Young Life clubs across the city. Young Life Polska saw a strategic opportunity to partner with WYD2016 and worked to organize a Young Life service project. As they made plans with the Diocese it was decided the project would take place in a small town outside of Poznań called Grodzisk Wielkopolski.
The week of service finally arrived and Young Life groups from New York, Iowa, Wyoming, Czech Republic and Poznan came to serve with the hope of building positive relationships with the local parish and schools. The teams spent the week painting classrooms, sanding and restoring playgrounds and interacting with teens from Godzisk. They were supported by a Young Life Expeditions team that helped by sorting materials, preparing the sites, cleaning up at the end of each day as well as completing several other projects at the end of the trip.
One of the highlights from the week was the nightly Young Life club. The first club had nearly 300 people including local Grodzisk teens, families and town officials. Other World Youth Day Pilgrims from Qatar, Philippines, and India even joined in on the Young Life fun. In order to engage everyone in the room, a bilingual, multi-cultural, multi-generational Young Life club was planned. A Poznan Young Life leader, Filip Nowicki, led program in Polish while a YL Expeditions team member from Virginia, Nick Despins, led in English. Together they bounced around the stage, made people laugh and highlighted kids, leaders and priests, who were there to check out the craziness of Young Life. At the end of the week the work projects were completed, new friendships were formed and the spiritual foundation was set for everyone to continue on to Kraków to be a part of WYD2016.
The project brought an energy and excitement to the town of Grodzisk and during the week Filip was building relationships with the locals by inviting them to join the club music team and reaching out to parents and school officials in the community. Through tears of saying goodbye and invitations to return, it was clear that kids in Grodzisk were looking for adults like Filip who cared about them in the relevant and real way that Young Life leaders do. Kids began contacting Young Life Polska asking to be a part of the group and the after-effect in this small town is still going on today. As a result of the service project, Filip became the first Young Life Staff member from Poland to be hired. His focus is in Grodzisk, running a new Young Life Club called IMPACT, where kids and leaders do projects throughout the community while building relationships with each other and diving into topics of faith and teen life. Filip’s first volunteer leader is Jakub, whose introduction to Young Life was being on the music team at the service project. Together they are making history by developing Grodzisk’s first Young Life Club!
Written by: Diana Sanderson