Feeling that we share similar experiences and relate to others serves as a motivation to overcome challenging situations in our daily lives. Companionship becomes a key to comfort in social situations and can be a catalyst to personal growth. Receiving encouragement from a colleague and achieving tasks that we didn’t think possible can lead us to break down psychological constraints and experience a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Companionship and freedom can come together to create a viable environment for positive personal growth.
La Manga del Mar Menor was the second stop of Sun Tribe in Spain. It was an exciting location since we received much needed support from local collaborators. Furgoneteo opened the doors to their home welcoming us to stay with them, Maskite was our work base and the cooperation, energy and good vibes of the team was unmistakeable, and the scuba diving school, Balkysub, became our lenses into the underwater world by offering the girls snorkel classes on no wind days. We couldn’t ask for more in order to set off an enjoyable two-week journey.
During the unfolding of Sun Tribe in La Manga companionship was an element that seeped through every crevice. Only two out of the four girls had known each other before the start of the project. For days of kitesurfing lessons, the groups of girls were divided into teams of two, with each attending classes alternating days, while no wind days were used as an opportunity to bring all of the girls together and engage in other activities such as Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) and snorkelling.
The first time we witnessed strong companionship between the girls was during a SUP lesson. We started the class from the beach with the mission of reaching a nearby island, Isla del Ciervo, to then paddle back to shore. A few meters after leaving the shoreline one of the girls fell behind and was overwhelmed by a feeling of abandonment. Andrea stayed with her encouraging her to continue and showing her that she wouldn’t be left alone. I stuck nearby with the other three girls who were concerned and didn’t want to leave their paddle buddy too far away. When she regained her strength and caught up with us, the rest of the girls celebrated by splashing her with water in a fun water game of reassurance.
While we continued through the route other examples of companionship surfaced as the conditions on the water became more challenging. The wind picked up and coupled with the current, we were getting pushed away from shore. One of the girls fell repeatedly from her board and another paddled towards her without hesitation, helping her to get back up. The wind got stronger and after falling once again the paddle was lost. At this point teamwork became our biggest strength. I tied my board to one of the girls, gave her paddle to the other who had lost hers and Andrea and I guided them as we paddled away from the deep water. The two other girls, who had already developed a skill for the sport, quickly headed back to shore together. The feeling of companionship after finishing the lessons was memorable. Although it was a tiring experience, we all gathered for a meeting afterwards and shared words of encouragement. The girls pointed out each other’s strengths and nurtured an environment of personal growth.
During the kitesurfing classes companionship persevered from beginning to end. The kitegirls pumped kites and set kite lines together, double-checking each-other’s work and ensuring their safety before launching. As one flew the kite, the other assisted by advising the pilot on mistakes, sharing experiences, and encouraging in times of frustration.
“I felt free like a bird!” said one of the girls after flying the kite for the first time.
“It’s important to enjoy the moment. I have a lot of routines, habits, and rules… I have learned to change them!” exclaimed another Sun Tribe girl.
Snorkelling with Balkysub gave the Sun Tribe team the opportunity to experience the magic of the ocean from another perspective. One of the social workers joined the activity with the girls, describing it as one which felt “timeless”. The girls shared her sentiment, saying that they felt as if time didn’t exist while under water. They hadn’t imagined that there was so much sea life, and although one of the girls got sea sick, she was able to take control of the situation and get back to shore while continuing to snorkel.
After the last class in La Manga we underwent the Sun Tribe tradition of a final meeting, and shared thoughts from the time we had spent together. We grabbed the Sun Tribe backpack and asked the kitegirls to share something that they have learned during the project and to drop a coin into the backpack as a representation of that experience. Here are a few of their sentiments:
“Companionship… even though I didn’t know two of the girls that didn’t matter, I still felt companionship with them. I was able to conquer my fear of the kite falling on top of me.”
“I learned that I can do things I never thought I could- kitesurfing for example!”
“Choosing between being tired and giving up, or stepping on seaweed… I chose the seaweed!”
“I learned to enjoy the moment!”
“Even though I wasn’t great at it I didn’t mind because it’s not about competing, it’s about enjoying…”
“You cannot give up, even if something is difficult you have to continue going forward.”
“I’ve learned companionship. I am not good at making friends and I started (Sun Tribe) thinking that I wouldn’t have things in common with rest, but I have learned a lot from all of you.”
“I felt free… I lived in the moment!”
The mission of Sun Tribe was reaffirmed by the responses we received. The kitegirls were placed in situations that were out of their comfort zones and they conquered them. They learned that they have the ability to overcome challenges and from that feel a sense of freedom. They shared the similar experiences with their team mates, learning from one another and encouraging each other to persevere through challenges.
Through the development of companionship and the conquering of personal goals, the Sun Tribe girls felt liberated and empowered to overcome difficult situations. The common narrative of “I can’t” changed to “how can I?”. All of the girls left with a coin… a coin that comes from a backpack of experiences shared with team mates. A coin that represents failures and successes.It serves to remind them that they have the ability to overcome challenges and to achieve what they propose.
Click here to read more about Sun Tribe in La Manga from the words of the Social Workers who collaborated with us.