TOPAZ Issue 1 / 2001
An insight into Stress
Garden of Remedy and Easement
New Science Eyes
Hildegard von Bingen
Pioneering youth project
Film Review: The Unbreakable
Sustainable Development

From beauty clinic to pioneering youth project

Kira Andersen tells her story about a beauty clinic that has given rise to a pioneering and successful youth project for teenage girls aged 14-18.

Kira Andersen, Manager of Ung Vaerdi in Copenhagen "It all began seven years ago with a beauty clinic called Athene based in Copenhagen, Denmark, the basic idea of which was to establish a setting where a person could receive quality beauty treatments in a friendly and special environment", Kira explains.

"We began with small means, much enthusiasm, imagination and a large amount of creative skill. Athene quickly became a charming place and often people dropped by just to enjoy the attractive atmosphere. Alongside the beauty clinic, we began using Athene for different projects such as exhibitions and selling crafts. But what was to soon become a matter very close to my heart was a youth project involving teenage girls aged 14-18; girls who, for different reasons, could not adapt to the world around them. At the clinic they began to find a haven where they could find themselves and out from this I was inspired to launch what became known as the UngVaerdi project".

UngVaerdi (Young Worth)

Kira Andersen, 35, and manager of UngVaerdi, which translates as ‘Young Worth’, situated in Willemoesgade in Copenhagen, explains that the idea of this project developed from her work in the clinic. She chose to follow this path and to let Athene continue, under new ownership, as the popular beauty and skin care clinic it is today.

UngVaerdi is a project for teenagers who for different reasons cannot adapt to traditional cultural values and the educational system, young people who generally have suffered violence, abuse or a difficult background. The training programme of the project is based on the principles of respect and a belief that every person has unique and untapped resources and possibilities.

"When a young person approaches me", Kira explains, "either on her own or by referral from the social services, the first thing I see is a person not a problem. The next thing I see is a young person whose possibility of leading a quality life has been impaired. Basic principles that I try to practice in my life and work are to live and let live and that each person deserves to be valued and to be given opportunity by the fact of their existence, whether young or old, rich or poor, famous or unknown.

"The results that have come from practising these basic principles are remarkable even in a relatively short period of time. The young person soon exhibits openness and trust because they experience that they are not perceived to be a problem. If you treat a young person as a problem then you lock them in the situation they need to break out of. On the other hand, if you show them genuine respect, then a bond of trust is grown which is invaluable in helping", Kira explains.

A different kind of training programme

"Within the training programme of UngVaerdi, the first quality the young person is introduced to is ‘inner quiet’. Inner quiet plays a very important part in the life of every person but especially for the young because the art of developing ‘inner quiet’ requires balancing both the mental and the instinctive part of a person. This calls for, amongst other things, settling worries and causing a stillness and settlement in the instinct of the person". Kira explains, "The first time they come to UngVaerdi they are invited to a ‘welcome interview’, introducing them to its mission, history, function, its ways and golden rules. Last, but not least, I explain that at UngVaerdi they are given a clean slate and a fresh start. As an example I don’t read about their history in their case files and I don’t want to know anything unless they themselves choose to confide in me. The interview ends with the person re-confirming that they want to attend the place, so that it is their choice to engage in this programme. And it is this choice of theirs that from that time on I refer to.

Copenhagen "The result so far has been that virtually all of the young people on the programme now have a more fulfilled life. They are either studying, have a job or have started a family. It is important to understand", Kira continues, "that we’re not trying to change the person; we simply strive to bring forth the best in them, the natural and the resourceful potential of the person."

One success leads to another

UngVaerdi is the culmination of Kira’s many years of work and research, and today it is both a project for young people and a course and workshop enterprise for project leaders from youth projects, institutions and schools.

"I have a deep and unshakeable conviction that it can be done. I believe that every person is an uncharted continent and that we all have a highly developed tool our body and its faculties. If we push the right buttons a world of fine feelings, thoughts, abilities and much, much more is revealed, and it is very important for me that these young people should have the opportunity to experience this", Kira says.

"One of the concepts I have researched for the last seven years is what I call ‘The human foundation of worth’, Kira explains. This consists of drawing together knowledge, qualities and principles which constitutes a foundation of worth out from which everything else can flow. It’s very inspiring to witness how different components such as human foundation of worth coaching, workshops, experimental activities and teaching can come together and form a pattern that assists the young person to find greater success in their life, and my experience tells me that one success leads to another."

"I feel that I have only just begun in this project", Kira says. "In our modern and fast paced world, basic natural values are often side-lined and it is a challenge to be able to help others to find self-respect and to lead a life with clear values. In the end, having experienced this new opportunity for themselves, it is then for each person to begin to make the choice of how they would want to continue to live the rest of their lives."

An interview by Rolf Christofferson and Yvonne Briand Christensen.

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