Danish youth Group
By Nina York
For the second consecutive year, a new three-month educational program, originating in Denmark for personal development of young people ages 18 to 30, has chosen the Virgin Islands as their training site. After a few days in New York City in mid-November, the team of 25 young people and two leaders/instructors heads for St. Thomas where the agenda calls for three weeks of learning team building, followed by one week of optional activity. This is followed by three weeks of personal growth training at the Ridge-to-Reef Farm in the hills of the northwest corner of St. Croix, where the group will also be celebrating Christmas in as close to Danish style as the tropics will allow. Last year, the participants spread cheer by visiting homes for the elderly or disabled and singing Christmas carols - English as well as Danish, and sharing joy and gifts with the children at the Queen Louise Home for disadvantaged youngsters. The subsequent week of leisure allows them to attend the island's seasonal festivities, from food fairs to parades, concluding with another three-week session in St. Croix at Discovery Grove in Estate Canaan, offering volunteer service in the community. This program allows Danish visitors a way to give thanks for getting to know the islands, their beautiful scenery and weather and for friendships with the local population. Last year's group helped maintain the Ridge-to-Reef farm as well as painting buildings at Island Center. Similar activities are in store for this year. A final week of leisure is spent on the island of St. John, a perfect vacation spot. The program is repeated a second time for another group for March through May.
The concept of this training, known as the Folk High School, had its origin in Denmark over 150 years ago. It was seen as a continuing education program that emphasized personal growth and enlightenment rather than academics. Originally, it gave the many persons involved in farming a way of acquiring an appreciation of Danish culture and history during slow times at the farms. Courses featured literature, art, and songs, as well as gymnastics and crafts. Sessions at the Folk High Schools contributed to making Denmark a highly literate country, which of course also can be attributed to the free cost of higher education there.
The Folk High School idea also appeals to senior citizens, groups of which travel worldwide after preliminary course attendance in Denmark. Over the years, a number of these groups have benefited from visiting schools as well as farms in St. Croix, as well as the more typical attractions for visitors. A deep interest and curiosity about the sites they visit allow them to reap a bountiful harvest of knowledge and enjoyment.