FN: reflections on a trip "home"

Peggy Bonnington bonnipeg at m9.sprynet.com
Mon Oct 19 05:27:45 JEST 1998

Tina Helfrich in England sent this personal account to our Friendly 
Nuisance list and kindly agreed to my distributing it more widely.  
Some of you may receive it twice, since I am not sure who may or may not 
be part of SAYMA's list.  I may also be omitting inadvertantly some 
Friends who should receive it, so please pass it along to such if you 
know of them (SAYF-involved Friends of all ages).  My SAYF-specific 
email list is kind of dated (but I'd love to get an updated one, if 
anyone can send it!)  I'm going to request the full report Tina 
mentions (bottom portion), and I could pass that along as well.

As I was reading Tina's reflections on traveling to the States with 
young British Friends (Quaker Youth Theatre, or QYT) this summer, the 
struggle SAYMA has experienced / is experiencing concerning our own 
Young Friends (SAYF) group came to mind: 
(> But I was shocked at how foreign I felt in the American culture. I 
>was confronted by many of the attitudes and conditions which made my
> adolescence insufferable - the pressure to conform and uniformity, the
> rules, the sense of being different and that was my problem. The sense 
>of not being "heard" when I spoke of finding the accommodation 
>difficult. )

I thought SAYMA Friends might like to read what Tina had to say about 
traveling among our Young Friends groups here in the USA and her 
memories of growing up in our country, as opposed to her experience of 
working with the youth ministry and living in Britain presently.

I will also add some of the additional personal comments Tina made when 
she replied to my request (not all of it, but I will send it in toto to 
SAYF-planning Friends who may wish a fuller account); it will follow the 
forwarded section (original message) below:

------------- Forwarded Message -------------

From: "Nancy M. Whitt" <nmwhitt at samford.edu>
To: Tina Helfrich <helfrich at globalnet.co.uk>
Subject: Re: FN: reflections on a trip "home"
Date: Wed, 7 Oct 1998 07:49:54 -0500 (Central Daylight Time)

Tina: Thanks for your reflections.  I'm sending them to the 

When I've lived in England, I've felt like the clumsy 
American sometimes, stepping on more refined toes, but 
folks there have been very generous with me.  Mostly, I've 
felt at home there, more British than American in my 
socialist leanings, and in my appreciation for British 
leftist solidarity and, even during Thatcherism, more 
government care of the individual.

I can think of lots of "Best of Birmingham, England": the 
art, the theatre, and of course, WOODBROOKE!

Cheers, Nancy

On Tue, 6 Oct 1998 14:27:59 +0100 Tina Helfrich 
<helfrich at globalnet.co.uk> wrote:

> I went home this summer and for the first time it was more than just 
> visit my family. I have lived in Britain for 15 years now. I have 
> adapted to a different life style and way of working. Much of my work 
> qualifies as "youth work" in Britain as I work with the Quaker Youth
> Theatre (QYT).
> I have sort of thought of the practices and policies behind the youth 
> I do as having been drawn from the Quaker ethos of the Leaveners. It 
> also similar to national youth work practices. So when I came back to 
> America with 10 members of QYT for them to run workshops with young 
> in Philadelphia, I expected much of the same ethos and practices. I 
> read PYM's guidelines for community living and for Friendly Adult 
> which were similar to our own. As a matter of fact I have copied some 
> their advice into QYT's guidelines.
> But I was shocked at how foreign I felt in the American culture. I was
> confronted by many of the attitudes and conditions which made my
> adolescence insufferable - the pressure to conform and uniformity, the
> rules, the sense of being different and that was my problem. The sense 
> not being "heard" when I spoke of finding the accommodation difficult. 
> struggled to hold on to my belief in myself and found myself having to
> remind myself (and others) that I may enjoy or do things differently, 
> that's okay - I'm different not wrong.
> I now realise that the practices and ethos of my work is that from the
> British youth service, and much of it stems from having a national and
> government supported network of youth workers and youth service. And 
> this still seems to be lacking in the US. It has also grown out of 50 
> of socialism and belief in filling needs, not promoting individualism 
> uniformity.
> America continues to juggle a paradox of promoting individual rights 
in a
> multi-cultural society which also deperately seeks uniformity in "the
> American way".
> I long for a day when youth work and adults can celebrate the 
> diversity of human beings; to be able to accept that differences do 
> need to be threatening but can be stimulating and exciting; to have 
> person have such self confidence in their own identity that they can
> welcome differences in their friends and colleagues.
> I have certainly returned home feeling more British and less likely to 
> back to the US. Which ironically is what most of the young people I 
> with have frequently told me: "we think of you (meaning me) as being a 
> with an American accent."
> love & peace,
> tina helfrich

----------- End Forwarded Message -----------
Dear Peggy,

I have read in Friends Journal a bit of some of the discussion about 
youth work in SAYMA but only one article. I have heard that it is 
ongoing and we were all a bit disappointed that Young Friends from SAYMA 
were unable to come to Camp Onas this summer. (Cookie Caldwell of PYM 
had said that around 10 or so SAYMA Young Friends were expected but they 
couldn't get adult chaperones to travel with them)

Yes you can share my message with SAYMA. The QYT members who went are 
doing a full report of the trip which included a week at Canadian Yearly 
Meeting for 5 of them while the other 5 worked with PYM's middle school 

Part of what I found particularly confusing was the way "exclusive
behaviour" was defined within the assumption or presumption of a 
potential sexual relationship arising. So hugging, kissing, hand holding 
etc between two young Friends known to "be a couple" or potentially 
dating was not allowed. However this behaviour was acceptable between 
"friends" for whom there was no presumption of a potential sexual 
relationship. (I personally feel this is all entangled with the 
American/Puritanical hang-up around sex.)

We tried to explain that during group work sessions this behaviour was
exclusive no matter the relationship between the individuals. The Phila 
YFs assumed we were embarrassed by their physical affection. We weren't
embarrassed we felt it wasn't appropriate during group sessions or 
meeting for worship. So it seemed to us that the rule was about 
preventing potential sexual relations and not actually about behaviour 
as being exclusive or inclusive. (As QYT projects are for those 16 years 
and over, we have no rules against personal relationships on projects as 
they are legally of age to have heterosexual relations under British law 
- but that said we do have strong guidance on saying NO and have a rule 
of single sex rooms.) 
............................ (omitted)

I will send you a copy of the complete report if those working with your
young people would find it helpful. Overall despite the differences and
difficulties, my young people all agreed that we should definitely do 
more work with Young Friends from other Yearly Meetings - we'll just be 
clearer about how we work and hopefully a bit more prepared for the 

Yours in friendship,

tina helfrich

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