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JYFs - Junior Young Friends

Junior Young Friends are aged 13 (or year 9) to 15 (or year 11).
There are about 80 JYFs in New Zealand with 30-35 attending events. Annual Gatherings are held (usually September or October) around the country hosted by different Monthly Meetings.
The purpose of these gatherings is to bring Quaker teenagers together at the age at which many disappear from Meetings. This is an opportunity to help them understand some Quaker philosophy and activities, give them an experience in a Quaker group, as well as an opportunity to get to know each other and have a good time doing things together. JYFs are encouraged to participate in daily Meeting for Worship, Business Meeting, a work programme and writing the epistle.
A theme is usually tied to a gathering. This creates a focus for discussions and workshops. Young Friends as well as several adults, help to organize the event and take the role of leaders during the gathering. Young Friends leaders make sure that the day-to-day activities take place.
The gathering structure is generally to have sessions in the morning with talks/activities drawing on Quaker values, attitudes, concerns and/or history. This is a time to talk at a deeper level. Afternoons have a variety of more social activities, such as crafts, community help, visits to places of interest, films, shopping etc.
Epistle from Junior Young Friends Camp, Totaranui, Golden Bay, 2006
Even with two JYF camps already under many of our belts most people who attended the camp could not deny that the weaving of activities and location with the theme was perhaps the tightest merging possible. In an isolated environment like Totaranui two hours away from any convenient store or cellular telephone reception, people were forced sometimes unwillingly to engage with their immediate surroundings and do as the theme suggested “more with less”. The outdoor activities were mostly generated by the imagination of Albie Burgers who pulled many people out of their immediate comfort zones. Be it kayaking in the open sea, planting 120 trees or doing a 15-minute ropewalk through the bush without the use of our eyes ignited the glorious spirit of adventure.
By providing the camp with a highly relevant theme and compiling people that usually would never have the chance to meet, people ended up relishing the differences from their usual company. With such an accepting environment many people were able to be themselves and express their own opinions to accepting and open minded listeners. This ranged from highly scripted and predictable to highly intellectual and politically aware discussion. When compared to other camps, Totaranui was far less structured, which was a welcome contrast to the previous year.
The lush native bush, great golden sands and beautiful blue sea surrounding our location was certainly inspiring to many environmental activists, and was aided by the flamboyant guest speaker Green MP Mike Ward sharing his ideals. But perhaps more inspiring was Albie Burgers’ demonstrating simple yet effective and bizarrely cheap methods through his inventions to save electricity in the realm of solar heating.
Without any interruptions from combustion vehicles or other creators of unwanted distractions, Quaker silences were actually… silent. Many people took this opportunity to gather their thoughts and emotions, this process aided people by supplying them with the courage and determination to express themselves in whatever way they saw fit. Overall most people would be hard pressed to argue that JYF Camps didn’t make them a more complete, kinder and when all was said and done, a better person. Hopefully.