by Lynn Van Hoof from NATURE, Belgium
I was asked to write something about how this crazy ATE rollercoaster started. Well, in our part of the world it started out as a European partnership project named ‘Reaching Further’, so let me first take you to through the history of this very partnership project.
In 2012 I met Alex (Spain), Gabor & Nati (Hungary) on the 6th International Adventure Therapy Conference in Prague and felt how great it was that we had the same ideas and kind of did the same work but – sadly – all in different countries and on our own self-created AT-islands.
Two years later, in September 2014 NATURE (Belgium) organized a training for trainers on Andventure Therapy with funding of Erasmus+. The same three people showed up, as well as some wonderful people from two more European countries: Germany and Iceland. We were together for 8 days and talked a lot about our common dream of spreading out the methodology, creating a common ‘European language’ regarding AT, sharing experiences, etc. We loved the idea of exchanging information and feeling connected outside the borders of our country, so much that we decided to try to somehow creating a platform for European practitioners where they would be able to share knowledge, experience and resources regarding AT as an approach.
In January 2015 we came together in Belgium once more to work out this idea and to start writing an funding application for a Strategic Partnership at Erasmus+. At this meeting, again three more countries where added to our beloved group: Portugal, The Netherlands and Italy. The months after this meeting, we worked very hard, skyped every week in order to get the application ready. NATURE handed in our application in April 2015. We were so happy when we heard in July that our application got approved and that we could start this wonderful 1,5 year journey in October 2015!
‘Reaching Further’ was first of all a wonderful learning experience. Our main goals were to provide an AT platform in Europe and to create some common understanding of AT in Europe. In order to achieve those goals we worked in 4 different action groups: Website, Training, Research and Gathering (GATE). This work was done in 5 phases; Preparation phase, Observation phase, Training phase, Testing phase and Dissemination phase. Although many of the partnership participants did all this work voluntarily, we managed to achieve a fair amount of things: we created this beautiful website and published our findings on AT in Europe in the form of an E-book.
We met mostly through Skype during the partnership but 4 real life meetings took place in 5 different countries. During those meetings we worked and laughed hard, discussed a lot, panicked and (mis)understood each other. Language barriers made things complicated every now and then. Little by little, however, we started to form a solid and warm group of people getting ready for our icing on the cake: the organisation of the very first GATE (Gathering for Adventure Therapy in Europe) with over 130 participants coming from 22 different countries!
When the partnership project was finished, we wanted to keep the network alive and include more European countries and AT practitioners. We wanted to be able to keep on sharing information and experiences with each other and keep broadening our knowledge of AT in Europe. Therefore we started to work on a structure for the ATE network and decided to host the GATE every two years so that we can all keep in touch. And so we keep on writing this story and keep on riding the wonderful ATE rollercoaster!