Programme & action: ERASMUS+, Key Action 1: Youth exchange
Venue: Sakarya, Turkey
Dates: 11 – 20 December 2016
Participants: Simona Petrů, Veronika Lasotová, Aleš Kozdera, Kateřina Rožnovjáková
Group leader: Petr Křístek
Please read the info-pack.
Participating countries: Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Turkey, Italy, Romania
Hosting organisation: Change Makers
More and more young people are leaving schools unprepared to deal with economic, social and environmental changes. Pupils and students standing at the doorstep of maturity must sooner or later shake their hand with responsibility. But here comes the question if youth of today are ready enough to take responsibility and be decision-makers, or actors of the future who will choose the way how Europe will look like in hundreds of years. Inviting people to global conferences, installing interactive boards to schools and running campaigns “Tablets to every class” are (or not) possibly the ways how to engage youth with decision-making process. However, the solution is not hidden somewhere in a digital world or international discussions. Most of the time when people are invited they become passive spectators. They have a lot of possibilities to formally learn but no options to share own inspiring ideas. The world gave us wider freeways but narrower viewpoints that is why European ERASMUS+ program decided to gather young smart people from a different cultural background on one place and give them a space for expression of own ideas and thoughts. Being part of the project Get Into Green, I have to confirm that EU programs empower young people, in the way that its participants are not observers but they become active thinkers who shape the project from the beginning and put theory into practice.
Everything starts on 9th December at Sabiha International airport in Istanbul. From the soft landing we find out that the only travelling is the way how to learn self-reliance and become personally developed. Before the project starts, our Czech team decided to spent one day in a magical city Istanbul and a real adventure is always standing on our side. Together we admire traditional Turkish dance and dish we have near to the most famous mosque Sultanahmed, enjoy two hours adventurous bus ride from the airport to the hotel, sail through the Bosphorus, hang around historical part of the city, unfortunately experience the bomb attack at the police, nervously look for the bus that goes to the site and negotiate with the ticket vendor (as the last bus coming to our Karasu town is desperately full and we don´t feel like on spending the night at the station).
We are lucky. We found the right coach station, found the bus that takes us to the site and Turkish people, the most hospitable nation I have ever met, are everywhere around us. When we get to Karasu, it is the night and a bus driver offers to give us a lift to the hotel. However, he stopped few kilometres from the hotel and thinking we are finally in the project, the first building we go to is hospital. Adrenalin in our veins is still on a high level and it takes a few more minutes before we get to our hotel, a place, in which I find a lot of inspiration in upcoming days.
The first day of the project is here and activities such as Ice-breakers and energizers are on the schedule. I meet 32 new people, everybody is smart, friendly and easy-going. Everybody is different, have interesting ideas and everybody is inspiration for me but what is more, together we consist of one great team. Collaboration, tolerance and space for expression own ideas are our attributes. Somebody is slower in English but it is not any problem. For everything we support each other, enjoy collaboration and come up with interesting ideas.
The topics of our project is about ecology, environment and healthy lifestyle. A reader can imagine a lot of learning. Really, there was a lot of learning, happening on unconscious level, delivered by non-formal activities such are role-playing games or discussions in a circle. One moment we are asked to perform a play so that for a while I become a caring mother who has a trouble with the children that are not eco-friendly. We all play a theatre, the best play I have recently seen. From a drama we skip to discussion and lead a talk about environmental affairs in our home country, about the green energy or about Sindabad and others, a strategic game that makes us critically think.
Almost all the activities are shaped by participants. One day we create a strategic plan on a unique garden where we cultivate plants on which we had previously agreed. After we are finished with our job, I have a notion that our output could be implemented into real, our results are overwhelming. The next day we build birds houses from wood. When we are finished, my eyes are so impressed that my mouth are unable to say something else than “wow, oh yeah”. Together in a small team we agreed on plan, worked on it and made it happen.
Even though the weather on the coast of Black sea is miserable, team spirit always stays positive. One moment I challenged myself and with five other cool guys went swimming to the 7 Celsius hot water, when snow was on the beach.
Quite a different activity was City game. All the tasks must be completed, there is no time for hesitation so that we leave the hotel the way city center and talk to locals, find out about the Turkish culture, have a break with Turkish famous coffee, or even visit police station to take few selfies together. Talking to people and completing tasks in a time limited space, we build the foundations of problem-solving skills, decision-making ability or communications.
The rubbish on a beach does not make us calm and because our primary topics is about ecology, we take the plastic bags and clean every single meter of an area around the hotel. Then we transform the rubbish into usable form and create magnificent products.
Although youth exchanges are all about participants, every project must be facilitated. Our coordinator Ibra did really good job to provide us fruitful experiences, to show us Turkey without prejudices and borders. We visit a local municipality, government and share our stories during lunch we together have. After we are full of impressions, we move to the local farm untouched by modern digital technologies. It´s breathtaking to see how people here are polite, hospitable and helpful in every situation. Even discussions with local journalists are enriching and during the question “how I see Turkey in 10 years” I realize one thing. That picture we have from media about “undemocratic” Turkey is not fair, is totally different and the country and its people are open for dialogue. The integrity of Turkish people can be best seen on a peaceful march against terrorism that we also supported by our participation.
Together, we have experienced a lot of fun, friendship, experiences and learning on unconscious level happened. I was coming home with unforgettable memories, motivation and inspiration for organizing even the project like Get into Green. Admiring the rich history of Istanbul where I stayed after the project was over, I was visited by the feeling that I am ready to stand on my own legs in the era of changes and be the one who will choose how the world will be led tomorrow. The only thing I had to do for that was to stick my head out of the sand, find courage and leave the comfort of my home. Then I got into green and experienced a lot.
There are people who make these things happen. Umut and Ibra, Turkish coordinators, Lori, Joanna, Evi, Sandra, all the participants who were inspiration for me in Karasu and enriched me by much energy. And the Czech dream team, Katka, Simča, Aleš, Verča, the team that every group leader wish to have. We all made it, Got into Green and left the story in Karasu, story that will never be forgotten.