Youth in Action Council of Europe European Youth Forum Lifelong Learning Platform Directorate of Youth Sport All different all equal

Interview with Rui Afonso!


Are you interested in becoming a trainer? Do you think you have the necessary skills? If yes, be ready to rediscover the world of trainers from the eyes of Rui Afonso.

1. When did you first become involved in youth work?
I was a computer student in the university when I first got involved in youth work. It was 1999 and one night I went out with some university friends to see a movie and there was no movie that night. So we went to the bars instead. By chance (or maybe not…) there was the party of “ARCA” in one bar. Some people were playing Djembe (African drums) which I also started to play by that time. I join in the circle and after some musical connection they invited me to join ARCA and create a group with music, dance, fire jugglers and other artistic elements. To start working in this Local Youth Association was like becoming alive so I gave a lot of my energy to be involved. I was 27 years old…

2. What was your first experience as a trainer like?
AAAAAmmmazing ! We had a big challenge because the TC was design to bring together Turkish and Greek Cypriots, which by the time they lived a tough situation. And it was crazy, especially because we were in a monastery from XVII century in the middle of a forest. We created several activities with few resources and to record the 1st video ever for “Mission Impossible” simulation we had to use some photo machine without any sound… The process was very intense and the outcome was quite powerful. At the end we knew we wanted more and I became a fan of the simulation method.

3. What is your main inspiration when building a session and preparing NFE activities?
I can say that my main inspiration comes from music that feeds my soul and my ideas. I always build sessions with some food for the soul. Another inspirational motive that I can identify is “people”. People I work with and people that I work for.

4. What are the qualities a good trainer should possess?
Difficult to phrase it in a short sentence… For sure listening, being aware of group process and creativity (which you cannot buy in the corner shop near your house). And it is very important that you are always open to develop yourself further more. Also, it is very important to have a sense of ethics, especially if you are in the educational field. For me a trainer is an educator and he/she should be trained/educated for it.

5. What should somebody do in order to become a good trainer?
There are 2 levels of training: the local level and the international level but, when you work in the youth field the key element is to experiencing the local reality, facing the problems, listening to youngsters opinions about specific issues you want to address. It will be difficult to become a good trainer if you only work in the theoretical field or in the international level. It’s very easy to talk about concepts, like discrimination, social inclusion or other we are familiar with. Difficult is to face it local reality and bring the change that society needs. You must experience the reality to become a good trainer.

6. What advice would you give to new trainers just starting out?
I would say: “Are u sure? Well, you better get ready because it will be a hell of a ride...”
More seriously, I would advise them to read Paulo Freire, a Brazilian pedagogue that talks about education for autonomy and empowering people and communities based on dialog. His famous book is “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and he was personal friend with Algusto Boal, the creator of the Theater of the Oppressed”. It’s been my reading focus in the last 3 years and it gave me a new light about “how to be an educator”.

I would also give them a list of people that they should get in contact with ;)


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