Extending horizons on the LIFEbeat residential course

11/10/2016 – Aladdin Benberna, a member of Fight for Peace’s London Academy, recently spent a week on a LIFEbeat residential course, which aims to cultivate the potential of young people from around the UK. Here, Aladdin, a Youth Councillor and budding magician, tells us all about the week’s activities, including the challenges he met and the new skills and friends he gained:

The LIFEbeat course that I went on was held near Exeter in Devon. We took a train from North Woolwich to the National History Museum where we met fellow participants and then took a bus to the camp, passing in Bristol to pick up more people – it was a six hour journey in total. Before LIFEbeat, my confidence level was pretty low and I didn’t really want to meet new people, so on the bus I just stuck to the people that I knew and some of their friends. Four people from Fight for Peace went on the course, including a member of staff or ‘Peer Mentor’ as they are called in LIFEbeat.

When we arrived, we all got introduced to the staff at the camp and shown to our yurts, which are similar to tents and where we slept. We also were given instruction in how things work on the camp and told about the workshops, meals and free time. At the start of the camp they take away your phones and you are only allowed to use them during a two hours of free time that you have every day. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hand over my phone, but I did and actually I did not take out my phone throughout the whole week because I was too busy doing other stuff. You see, this is one of the things that I love about LIFEbeat – that you have no time to be depressed, you are always doing something, either chopping wood, playing Ultimate Frisbee, playing cards or talking to people.

We did workshops during the day, the highlights for me were wood chopping and Ultimate Frisbee. We did others too but those were the big ones. Wood chopping was amazing, the way you learn and the things you feel inside of you when you slice the wood in half cleanly – it is such a good feeling! There were also other activities which I didn’t do, for example there were workshops in dancing and music, and there were some very talented dancers there.

Every night there would be a fire and everyone would sit around the fire and tell stories and it was really fun. I lit the fire with no matches, using only flint, and I felt really good about it. Coming back to London, something that I really miss are those fires. We ate unbelievable things like rabbit and deer and different types of pasta, it was new and different but it was nice, really nice.

The camp was seven days long and there were 80 people there including staff members. I went there knowing the other people from Fight for Peace but we spent the week apart from each other. The fact that we knew each other didn’t mean that we had to stick together all of the time and LIFEbeat taught me that a lot. Just because I don’t know the person, doesn’t mean I need to make that person, that individual, a stranger, I can make that person known to me and me known to them. This was one of the main things that LIFEbeat taught me – people are strangers because you want them to be strangers. You can make them not be a stranger, all you have to do is say hi!

We worked a lot on sharing our ideas and feelings and we had what they call a Gratitude Circle. In this activity, everyone stands in a circle and people walk in and thank people. Obviously at first no one really wants to go in but when you see it everyone wants to go in. LIFEbeat also has something called a Heart Circle where people talk about their feelings and any problems they have.

Saturday is the big night at LIFEbeat because it is Open Mic Night where people show off their talents. People who you don’t think have talent, do! People sing, dance and play music. I did magic tricks, me being the only magician there. Over the course of the week my confidence grew and I ended up doing these magic tricks in front of 80 people. Actually, before my performance I didn’t want to perform and the staff encouraged me and told me that I should perform because I had done my tricks to people separately during the week and people were always surprised and asking how I did the tricks and I felt happy when I heard these words come out of people’s mouths!

I felt nervous about performing in front of all the people on Open Mic Night but, as time went by, more and more people were saying to me you should do it, you should do it and I ended up doing it and surprisingly I did it really well got some people laughing, some people shocked some people screamingly! It was my first ever show so it was crazy, I actually don’t remember too much of it but the fact that I made people laugh as well as surprised, I feel like it went really good. And that has led to me doing another magic show for 50 people!

When I first went to LIFEbeat honestly I thought, what is wrong with these people why are they so happy? I don’t see this type of happiness where I come from but when you look around everyone has a big, big smile and I love that. It’s like it is contagious and now I am like them and then next year someone is going to come along and say ‘why is he happy?’ LIFEbeat helped me realise a lot of things about life, it taught me that I don’t need my phone to be happy, I don’t need to be depressed because when you are depressed you are sad you are looking down and you are gloomy, but if you put your chin up and look up a bit you can see an amazing world.