Each year the yLead team curates a conference called, ‘yConnect’. The only conference on the yearly calendar crafted specifically for the yTeam (volunteers). Year in, year out, yConnect proves to be a space where members of the yLead community feel we can shine, learn a little more about being the best versions of ourselves, connect with other yTeam from all across Australia and New Zealand, and come together to remember why the work yLead does is so important.
This year, yConnect 2022 was themed, ‘Know Fear; Discover Your Light’. To give you an insight into this experience, following is a recap of our time together across the three days, and the five things that had the biggest IMPACT.
Written by Mika Francis & Eden Hayes
On day one we were fresh to the experience, groups arrived at different times from across the country – some in cars, some on interstate flights. The first few hours were spent laughing and reflecting through icebreaker activities and answering eye-opening questions. We shared giggles and responses with old, and brand new friends.
The evening was spent dipping our toes into what it meant to overcome our fears; from using all our senses (which you can imagine meant eating and smelling some pretty strange things), to karaoke, laser tag and buspool karaoke to finish. We acknowledged fear and built new connections along the way!
Waking bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5am, we split up into groups based on where a 3km run sat within our comfort zones. United, we made it to the beach to see a beautiful pink-orange sunrise and, as one big group connected by fear, ran into the freezing cold ocean.
After showering and getting ready to take on the rest of the day, we came together to listen to the incredible Monique Bortoli-Williams, a local from Port Stephens, who shared a truly inspirational journey. Monique spoke of the importance of baby steps when setting out to achieve big things and encouraged us to think about what can go right, instead of how many things can go wrong.
After this newfound motivation we made our way to where we were educated on some beautiful sea creatures at Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters, who are often misunderstood, and initially feared by many of us. We got to pat, feed, and even watch these creatures swim with yTeamer Stacy Chung who celebrated her 21st birthday at yConnect (how special!?).
Upon our return to The Retreat (our weekend home), we were greeted by martial arts experts who encouraged us to write down our fears on a wooden board. The team from Titan Martial Arts then guided us through instruction to break the wooden board and smash through our fears along with it.
As the sun set, we sat down and explored a new concept to many, ‘Human Design’, facilitated by Kirsten Morrison. The workshop helped us understand just why we react in certain ways and in certain situations, furthering our journey to discovering our light.
To finalise this huge day of growth, we had a beautiful family dinner and celebrated all the yTeam. Many different awards were presented to those who have had an incredible impact on the yLead community within the last financial year. It was a night full of celebration vulnerability, finishing with an activity like yLead’s infamous ‘Seeing the Good’ session facilitated with students, it had an incredible effect, as it always does.
Sunday was a bittersweet final day. Finalising many gratitude letters, meditating, and visualising our future selves, as well as fear setting with yTeam royalty, Joe Walding – Karatiana. By lunch we said, “Goodbye for now”, to the people from places we were unfamiliar with and began the long journey home. As we left there were hugs and tears that without words, said ‘thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this experience of growth and self-discovery with me’.
Without a doubt this experience was one we will hold close to our hearts for years to come. Let us share with you why:
5 Things that had the BIGGEST impact at yConnect:
1. Discovery of Self
“Personally, I was hit by some hard realisations over the weekend – fears that were much fiercer, and much more controlling than I thought, came bubbling to the surface. Upon first look into the depths of my fears I felt frozen by them, which evolved to acknowledging them and eventually being able to stare them in the face. I will forever be grateful for the people who guided and supported me through it.”
Discovery of self at yCon was all about knowing fear and learning that only when we push through fear, we can truly discover our ever-shining light within.
How did we do this? Before attending yCon all participants were asked to name one of their fears, for example spiders, snakes, heights. However, onsite at the conference, activities lead us to a deeper understanding of some of our underlying fears, fears that can be challenging to face and even more challenging to share. Things such as fear of failure and fear of not being enough.
yCon2022 created an ideal environment for discovery of self; surrounded with honesty, vulnerability, and support. It was a space filled with people who aim to teach and motivate everyday leadership in others, and this space enabled us to imagine our full potential. Through situations such as the interactive stingray and shark activity and running into freezing cold water early in the morning, we learnt that as an individual, if we push past that initial fear, the outcome is worth it.
Personally, I was hit by some hard realisations over the weekend – fears that were much fiercer, and much more controlling than I thought came bubbling to the surface. My reactions to them throughout the three days evolved, as did the conference, and the connections we built. Upon first look into the depths of my fears I felt frozen by them, which evolved to acknowledging them and eventually being able to stare them in the face. As a true testament to the strength of the connections formed this weekend, the next phase was sharing these fears with others, which was coupled by feeling some very real and raw emotion. This process hit me hard, in the most wonderful, all-encompassing, and beautiful way, and I will forever be grateful for the people who guided and supported me through it. (Mika)
In a letter of affirmation activity, we were asked to not only write a letter for people around us, but also to ourselves. Writing to myself I realised how over the weekend, I did discover that light inside, it unveiled to me the fear and light, I was unaware I had. (Eden)
2. Discovery of Other
“yCon reminded us that every person in this world has a story, a different perspective, individual values, and a unique personality, and that is a very special thing.”
Throughout yCon 2022 we were taken on another journey – the discovery of other. Other people, perspectives, places, mindsets, and activities.
yCon reminded us that every person in this world has a story, a different perspective, individual values, and a unique personality, and that is a very special thing. This year, we got to spend time first building trust amongst our peers, and then sharing and learning about fears, and the different sources of light, that each member of the yTeam holds.
I’m always in awe of the power of people and connection, when everyone understands how to hold space for others around them and give others the support they need to let their authentic selves shine. Personally, I’m always really impacted by this feeling in the yCon space, and this year was no different. (Mika)
We were also challenged by the yLead HQ team to discover not just other people, but other places and activities. As has been mentioned, members of the yTeam from all across Australia travelled to Port Stephens in NSW, and it was there we got to adventure through a brand new location and step out of our comfort zones to do activities that we may not usually do back home (did someone say running into the freezing ocean at 7am, or patting sharks & stingrays!?).
This discovery of other can sometimes be forgotten in day-to-day life, and yConnect reminded us of the value that can be found in doing just that.
3. Tangible Takeaway’s
It can be easy to walk away from a powerful experience a little uncertain on how to return to the “real world”; And while we will always wish we could transport back in time to our space in Port Stephens, we were lucky enough to walk away with some tangible skills, tactics and reminders about what it means to Know Fear, Discover Our Light.
Here are a few special ones:
Breaking Boards & Smashing Fears – Together we got to KNOW FEAR, through recognising, and therefore conquering it. Once we recognised our fears, together we wrote them down on a wooden board, and were then taught by Titan Martial Arts how to break them. Many of us took these pieces home as a reminder of this powerful moment we shared.
Fear Setting – One of our yTeam Whānau from New Zealand, Joe Walding – Karatiana joined us as a guest speaker. Joe lead us through Fear Setting; a tactic we can use to feel more comfortable and confident when faced with our fears. Together we spent time defining a fear and then mapping out how to prevent, solve and articulate the cost of its’ inaction. We were encouraged to do this activity at least once every 3 months, or whenever we are faced with a fear in our worlds.
Human Design Charts – After an incredible session with Kirsten Morrison, we all began to understand a little more about our individual Human Design, specifically our energy types and what this means for how we interact with the world around us. Essentially this chart didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know about ourselves, but rather gave us one big permission slip to truly let our light shine in the ways that it is meant to. We walked away from this with a physical copy of our charts to remind us of this session of self-discovery.
Letters of Affirmation – In acknowledgment of the connected weekend that we shared, and the light we saw shine through in others, we spent time writing letters of affirmation for those we connected with. These letters will forever serve as a reminder of the light we discovered together, and how our light is so supported by the yTeam community around us.
4. Re-igniting Our Passion
yConnect always brings us together and reminds us why we all keep coming back to yTeam, and this year was no different. Witnessing the incredible young people that exist within the yTeam served as a reminder that the reason we keep volunteering our time, is to give back to the incredible organisation that continues to bring us all together. It reminded us that without yLead, young people across Australia and New Zealand don’t get to experience what we all have experienced, and that a world without yLead is a much duller place to live. yCon also gave us a chance to come together with like-minded people and re-ignite that fire within.
We also celebrated with the annual yTeam Awards Night, which gave members of our community a chance to be recognised for the effort and passion they continue to put in. It is incredible to share space with those who also hold this passion and are making a difference on the other side of the country – it truly highlights that as one, we make massive impact.
And last, but certainly not least, is the connection we built.
yLead is an organisation that provides incredible opportunity, bringing together some of the most inspiring and compassionate individuals from all across the country. It is not often that we can come together to celebrate the impact we have had as everyday leaders. yCon 2022, brought together some new and some may I say more experienced.
Fear is a tricky thing to navigate on any given day. Some may imagine that being around a crowd of people may make that even harder due to fear of embarrassment or judgement. But it is incredible how bringing together a group of some of the most considerate and empowering individuals can create an environment filled with support and endless encouragement.
This was a space where alumni inspired the newbies, individual states and cities were brought together as one, and lifelong friendships were formed. It was also a great environment to strengthen some of the bonds that had already been created.
In the moment where tears fall at the conclusion of a weekend because of the sheer impact other people have had on you, you know lifelong connections have been made. This is exactly how I felt hugging goodbye on Day 3, and reminiscing while I write this has transported me straight back to that emotion-filled room, full of smiles, hugs, tears and light. (Mika)
yConnect also provided us with an opportunity to connect with yLead staff and facilitators. They were immersed, sharing, and overcoming some of their personal fears, we saw them vulnerable alongside us. When you see a facilitator taking the lead at In School or Altitude Day, sometimes it feels as if they are doing something out of reach, but getting to connect with them on such a deep level at yCon, really does change this mindset.
It was a weekend FULL of impact, and if these points don’t already show it, here are a few words from the yTeam to describe what Know Fear: Discover Your Light meant to them: