Programme & action: ERASMUS+, Key Action 1: training course
Venue: Ohrid, Macedonia
Dates: 7-14 August 2015
Participants: Alan Třešňák, Bronislav Vysloužil, Lam Thi Que Huong
Hosting organisation: R.R.O.M.A.
Participating countries: Germany, Turkey, Romania, Latvia, Austria, Estonia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Italy
If I had to group all experiences of the week spent in Ohrid, Macedonia for the project Creativity as a Tool for Youth Empowerment into one word, that one and only word would be: perfect. Why exactly “perfect“ when they often say “nothing is perfect“? It seems to me that the meaning of the word „perfect“ can have different levels of meaning depending on how each individual of us defines it. For me I could say that being a part of this meaningful project gave me a wonderful opportunity to fully experience what it takes in order to be called “perfect”.
What seems to build up 30% of that perfection in this project is the people. For me, it was the first time in my life to meet so many wonderful young people from different countries across Europe. They are so kind, fun and creative in every activity, as the name of the project has it J Together we had 2 main and wonderful organizers, Mustafa and Daniela, plus 40 participants – 40 unique minds coming from 12 countries, including us – the Czech Republic. From the project I have learnt how to communicate effectively in groups and improve conversational skills with other young people in my age. I also got a chance to know more about Roma culture and history as it was one of the main goals of this project. And as the project’s name reveals, I could say I had a great opportunity to share my experiences, knowledge with creativity from the past self-organized activities of my organization. I also learned about what creativity actually is, how it works in our human minds and for us to apply it in real life to any possible daily activity. In order to discover, challenge and make progress with our creativity, we had a lot of activities which mainly consist of games that push our imagination to extremes and go beyond our comfort zone to be unique and more importantly to be “U”. A few to be named are morning energizers, group brain teasers, problem-solving skills, creating our own t-shirt patterns, branding ourselves with our own logo and many more. One of them that has truly improved our creativity is the process of creating our own and original t-shirts with the technique called “stencil”. It was not about the results how the t-shirt would look like in the end but it was about the t-shirt-making process which we enjoyed so much and during which we could learn more about ourselves. Also, with the intercultural night, we got to know more in details about other countries, their cultures and traditions. Every team brought to the project their very own color, with the best national specialties, different kinds of food and traditional customs they could offer, to the colorful picture of our international diversity.
Another 30% of perfection are given to our living and working place. When it comes to accommodation and food at the hotel I would say it was truly beyond my expectation. I was overwhelmed by the kind and friendly hotel staff that would help us with every little request or question we had constantly with a smile on their face. We got to live with roommates from other countries and it was an excellent experience. I stayed with two Latvian girls and you won’t believe how amazing our daily multicultural conversations actually were. We got to know a lot of things about ourselves, about the country where we come from. Thinking back I still feel how happy and lucky I was to have them as roommates. And therefore saying goodbye to them on the last day was the most difficult thing for me. Regarding board, for me all kinds of meal they offered in the hotel restaurant was relatively delicious, always beginning with noodle soup and salad, after that main dish and finally dessert and/or some kinds of fruit. There’s only one thing that I would definitely like to change, and that’s the presence of meat at almost every lunch and dinner during our stay. To be honest it was a bit too much for me. However, breakfast for me was always the best meal of the day because we had such a wide variety of foods and drinks to choose, ranging from yoghurt, oatmeal to salami or ham and drinks like coffee, tea, juice or milk. And I was more than satisfied with how they invariably had fruit for every breakfast offer.
Regarding the organization, it was simply outstanding and made up to the 40% rest of the success of this project. Most of the activities took place according to the program timetable, some of them had to be rearranged for another more suitable day due to unpredictable changes relating to the arrival time of the participants or sometimes because of the complications of weather. Mustafa and Daniela always gave us a lot of time for discussion especially when working in small groups. The goal of every task was very clear, straight-forward and close enough to challenge our creativity which hides inside each of us. During the open debates and discussions in small groups, not only could we remarkably improve all of our 4 skills of English (speaking, writing, reading and listening), but they also taught us how to work and communicate effectively in team comprising different people with different minds and cultural backgrounds. In these opportunities of teamwork, I have learnt that I shouldn’t be afraid of possible judgement from other members about whether my opinion was right or wrong, and should instead always speak my mind, say out loud things which I stand for and which I believe are correct. If the others don’t agree with you, you have to somehow convince them and defend yourself until they all agree or otherwise your opinion would be invalid. Each of us of course had really different opinions, but together we created a colorful picture full of new experiences and knowledge. Also, thanks to these teamwork skills that were learnt in this project we created an impact on the local people in the beautiful city Ohrid. It was the topic of the final creative work, or how we would call it “the public action”. We, the Czech team, were divided into 3 different groups with friends from other countries and each group had to make a poster with which they had to go around the city center and find at least 5 people to take pictures with it to show their support. The day that this action took place was also the International Youth Day whose topic and messages our posters were based on.
Beside workshops and seminars, we also had quite a good deal of free time to go to the beach or to the city center (especially at night :D). During the project we also had a day off to go on a boat trip to the other side of Ohrid where we could spend the whole day visiting a lot of local monasteries or go swimming in the lake and take photos together to keep as memories. The view from the boat was breath-taking, the rocky mountains are on one side and the crystal clear lake water on the other side. Together they create the stunning beauty of Ohrid’s nature.
Moreover, at the end of the project we had a really good discussion about whether or not European Roma Youth – being the most populated minority in Europe – should be seen as a problem to the society or they can become the main force to the labor market. Everyone had their own opinions about this issue but we all agreed in the end that it should be an opportunity for them. In order to reach this goal, we should properly and equally educate the Roma youth first, then help them integrate into the society, find a job for them or give them one if possible. Until then they will be able to see the importance of education to devote more time to it. A lot of interesting questions were raised, for example whether they would feel offensive or somehow insulted when someone calls them by “cigán or gypsy” and the discussion following this controversial query actually took more than 3 hours.
Besides the topic about the Roma people, we also focused on another different but equally important among young people. And that was how non-formal educational projects like this can actually make a big impact on the society and can contribute to raising awareness about an issue a lot faster than in formal educational forms. Plus, creativity can be seen as an indispensable part for the success of these kinds of projects. It is because the most effective way to be creative is to think out of the box and to be you. I could say that it was the most important thing that I have learnt from this project.
During this youth training course, not only have I made a lot of new friends, new international connections between our organizations, but we have also shared a lot of stories, experiences and knowledge from our normal life as well as from our different cultural backgrounds in order to better understand each other. Therefore, my one and only piece of advice for you is that if you are chosen to be part of these kinds of projects, don’t hesitate a moment, just say yes – pack – go and you’ll gain countless unforgettable memories to remember for the rest of your life. Youth, now is your time, get ready and action while you’re still young because you only live once, as the common hashtag has it #YOLO.
Lam Thi Que Huong