Every year yLead hosts our annual volunteer conference, ‘yConnect’, to give back to the people who make us strong. Last year was one for the history books, hosting our very first online yConnect, ‘EVOLVE’. This year we continued the tradition of re-writing history as we were able to host our very first yConnect on the 9-11th July 2021 across three separate locations: Bornhoffen (SEQ), Woomelang (VIC) and Rotorua (NZ).
yConnect is a three-day conference held for our community, mainly comprising of volunteers, allowing them to become participants again. Every year yConnect aims to answer one of life’s biggest questions… this year the conference theme was REWILD: return to hoME. We asked the participants how they can REWILD, in the wake of such uncertain times and busy lives. We also delved into what home means to us, creating our own definitions over the course of the weekend. yConnect involves a mixture of physical activities, puzzling challenges, guest speaker presentations and always time to reflect.
Our South East QLD conference was held at the Bornhoffen PCYC which was hoME to our first ever Australian Student Leadership Conference back in 1991. SEQ saw us welcome yTeam from across QLD, including some from Townsville! The Victorian yConnect was held on one our volunteers’ farms in Woomelang, Joe Collins, creating an amazing setting for participants to REWILD. In Woomelang we were able to join both VIC and SA yTeam! Our New Zealand conference was run over one day in Rotorua, the hoME of our New Zealand Student Leadership Conference, Rangatira. Whilst we were separated by location, we were joined together by Zoom to hear from our two guest speakers. This also meant we were able to welcome our NSW yTeam who were experiencing lockdown at the time.
Each space allowed the participants to switch off from the outside world, immersing themselves in nature in order to REWILD: return to hoME.
This year we heard from two amazing guest speakers who know all about what it means to REWILD, Lee Trew and Claire Dunn. Both Lee and Claire know what it is like to spend over a year immersed in nature by themselves and shared their lessons learnt during their time spent REWILDing. Lee spoke about how nature is our home, and we should try our best to immerse ourselves within it as much as we can; how the simplicity of nature itself is truly amazing and should be embraced more. Claire has written a book about her journey within nature and holds regular events for people to REWILD their urban souls. Her passion is fostering a deep connection to earth, self, and community in various ways. Every yConnect participant appreciated hearing from both speakers and took valuable lessons away.
yConnect is a way for the yLead Team to say a huge thank you to our incredible volunteers… a chance for us to give back to them for all they have given to us. To have 60 participants join us across three separate locations is a true testament to the strength of our community. We cannot do what we do without our amazing volunteer team, and we are so grateful to create an event like yConnect that can be filled with growth, lessons and reflection. A few of the yTeam who attended have shared highlight moments and their takeaways from the weekend below:
Mihnea Vlad, NZ
My experience of yConnect was nothing short of invigorating, meaningful and motivational. It was a perfect time to reflect on ourselves and the lives we live, something that is so easy to forget about on a day-to-day basis. yConnect provides the perfect environment for you to open up about anything to inclusive people who are willing to listen. We also reflected on what home means. No matter what we do in life or how far we go, we must always remember what home means to us and where feel that sense of belonging. It was incredible meeting people from different walks of life and seeing what home means to them, which makes you appreciate the diversity that exists in this world. My favourite part of the experience was the warm and fuzzies at the end where we wrote something positive about everyone. It’s such a simple task yet so empowering. The conference has really motivated me to spread the positive vibes and become more involved with other yLead events to help give others that same warm and fuzzy feeling. Can’t wait to see what this conference grows into because it has a lot of potential, and it deserves to be something big!
Michaela McMahon, VIC
Every time I look at my keys and see the little key tag we created on the last day I’m instantly brought back to the wonderful weekend we shared together and am reminded to go easy on myself, do something every day for me, and keep searching for the magic!
Jack Drury, QLD
yConnect 2021 was a real eye-opening experience for me, getting the chance to disconnect from the real world we live in and take in three incredible days of immersing with nature, discovering what home really means to me and connecting with a bunch of like-minded people. The three days allowed me to show vulnerability at times and step out of my comfort zone in an environment where everyone’s voices can be heard, as well as experiencing the many unexpected moments and activities that made the weekend one to remember. My highlight of the weekend was gazing at the stars each night and realising how privileged we are to live in such a beautiful world. REWILD will without a doubt be one of the best weekends of my life and I am grateful I got to share it with the most amazing people.
Jess Faulks, QLD
Home is a place where you feel unconditional love, a warmth in your heart and a supportive family by your side through all of life’s ups and downs. Experiencing yCon at Bornhoffen was a first for me, but I instantly felt at home. Through the countless opportunities to unpack what love means in all of its beautiful forms through connection, nature and most importantly ourselves. A grounding and humbling experience that allowed all to clear away the hustle of the city that sometimes clogs our minds and open up to new discoveries both within ourselves, the perspectives of others and the world around us. Whenever I get lost I know I can use the tools gathered from this experience to carve a map back home. Home is within me, and because of yLead and this incredible community I feel more at home than ever before.
Harry Dearing, SA
Home is a space where I can be unapologetically me.