YWAM NIKO Urban Paris
The TLDR is this, we made our YWAM DTS students homeless on the streets of Paris for 3 days.
In telling you all this I am breaking my "vow" to never share what happens in a NIKO camp. Ridiculous. I say "YWAM" but technically this is facilitated through "Kings Kids," a sister organization to YWAM. Whatever the case this was standard for all of our DTSes, including a Crossroads DTS that had elderly students.
I participated 2x as staff and it's one of my biggest regrets, that I was so brainwashed I not only felt this was acceptable but actually beneficial for my students. We begin by telling them to only bring their Bible, good shoes, and warm clothes. The whole thing is shrouded in secrecy.
We show up to a basement, cave, in Paris and have prayer and worship. They are given the "choice" to participate. A line is drawn and they are asked to cross it if they are to continue. This is hideous because absolutely NO ONE knows what it is they are agreeing to. They are given plastic shopping bags from a very low priced french grocery store and told to put everything they will "need" into the bags. Many regret putting anything in the bags at all. Then we take them into a park as it gets late in a very bad neighborhood of Paris, and play team building games while drunks and drug dealers cheer us on. Then they are told to get everything they will need to sleep. With no further explanation. People scatter into the streets gathering cardboard, trash, once they even found an abandoned mattress. After this we take them to an abandoned railroad track near a bridge where they all sleep for the night. After some time we give them army issue sleeping bags. "See guys we will take care of you, trust us." No one believes this is really happening. Anger and tears all around as we go off for a staff meeting. It's fall so its rainy and around 36-40 degrees.
The next day they are marched through the city with various spurts of running and the Paris monuments are pointed out. Again no explanation is given as to what or why this is happening. The staff call it the death march. It's 26 miles (42km), the length of a marathon. It takes all day even up until midnight. Those grocery bags with their belongings are like torture devices at this point and gradually begin to tear a part and items are discarded. The students suffer because they aren't prepared whereas the staff have been working out for months to get ready for this one day. Many former students still suffer from this. One girl lost her toenails, they never grew back right. Another now has arthritis in her knees, she's in her 20s. They failed to obey the "bring good shoes" rule. So it's "their fault." That night to everyone's delight they sleep in the cave. Paris caves are little better than the outside. But at least everyone feels safer.
The next day we have a rigged lottery where staff draws "Bs" and students draw "As" out of a hat. The Bs get a lavish french breakfast and the As eat stale baguette (rock hard) out of a trash bag with water. This is to illustrate unfair privilege. Later that day we take them to a notorious train station to "talk" to people. Homeless people and drug dealers. Extremely dangerous. For lunch they have to panhandle in an outdoor market and aren't allowed to tell the people why or what they are doing. Just that they need food for lunch and have no money. Sometimes they're given discarded food, sometimes money. Often they are berated by angry tourists for being penniless Americans in Paris. Because they can't speak French they have to beg in pantomime or ask tourists.
That night we feed them spaghetti. The next morning it's stale baguette again and they are taken into an abandoned railway tunnel where you can not see anything and asked to run through it on "faith." Many fall and get injured. Then they have to scale a 20 foot fence. Or go back through the tunnel. Of course many fail and have to go back through the mile long pitch black tunnel. Then we debrief. Any complaints are met with stern beratement from the staff about them not appreciating this valuable lesson. Of course those who think it was all wonderful are highly praised.
We take them for showers. Everyone is SO EXCITED until they realize they are showering in a homeless shelter with other homeless men and women. Again lots of confusion as to why 18-22 year old Americans are showering with French homeless people. It's done and everyone is taken to Chinese food for "graduation." They are given diplomas and attaboys. Told they are to swear an oath to never tell anyone about NIKO, even their families. Then we take them back to the base.