Youngsters - a Bridge for a Better Europe

"VAN" (Europe Bureau - Aleksey Vesyoliy) :: Youth exchanges bring together groups of young people from two or more countries, providing them with an opportunity to discuss and confront various themes while learning about each others' countries and cultures, participants are learning new skills and get new life experiences.

Youth exchanges allow groups of young people from different countries to meet, live together and work on shared projects for short periods. Youth exchanges take place outside the school environment. On a youth exchange, you can expect to participate in activities such as workshops, exercises, debates, role-plays, outdoor activities and more. Participants' learning experiences are recognised through a Youthpass.

Erasmus+ Youth Exchange ‘’Youngsters - a Bridge for a better Europe’’ took place in Denmark, from July 25 till August 3, 2019. International mobility gathered 42 young people from 7 countries: Denmark, Latvia, Poland, Greece, Italy, Romania, Cyprus. Latvia was represented by Ļevs Rusilo, Lāsma Zelča, Jūlija Bugrova, Irēna Zvidriņa, Rihards Strautmanis and Ērika Skārda.

The main objectives of the youth exchange were:

  • Foster solidarity and tolerance, promote mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation between young people coming from different religious, cultural and social backgrounds;
  • Prevent negative impact of discriminatory actions, fighting against exclusion and marginalization of young people with fewer opportunities;
  • Encourage young people to be more active citizens;
  • Promote understanding of the European values and freedom of movement;
  • Highlight the connection between European citizenship, human rights, democracy and intercultural learning.

During youth exchange participants were able to experience different non formal education activities, such as team building activities, like “Marshmallow challenge”, “paperclip challenge”. The First day was dedicated to team building and learning more about each other. Participants had really fun “speed meeting”, where they were able to learn about each other in a funny way. On the fallowing days youngsters had several discussions and activities on specific topics and they learned about other countries. During activity “Iceberg of culture” participants realized that they represent so different values, behaviours and social standards. For example, in Italy the entire building of apartments live like one big family, they know each other and can come to visit any time. Also, in Italy you can’t put salad on pasta. It will be treated as disrespect. Also when you make a “hand wave “ towards Greeks, they will be offended. It is not how you greet people in Greece. You need to be aware about intercultural differences, before going to another country - values, norms of behaviour.

How to build dialogue between generations? Intergenerational and age gap were topics what were discussed during the youth exchange. It has become a problem in many countries. There is a need for young people to teach older generation. As Italian representative said, to be patient with them and to understand that for parents and grandparents it is not an easy task.

Participants had group discussions within little groups and it gave an opportunity to share opinions and experiences. Youngsters realized that discussions in smaller groups were more productive. Activities helped to discover social differences in societies and also cultural differences. Participants realized that in their societies people with special needs and fewer opportunities do not get enough support and there is a lot of work to improve this situation to prevent the negative impact of discriminatory actions, fighting against exclusion and marginalization of young people with fewer opportunities. As well, it is important to foster solidarity and tolerance, respect and mutual understanding, dialogue and cooperation between young people coming from different religious, cultural and social backgrounds.

During the youth exchange participants had an opportunity to explore Aarhus and Copenhagen. Both are very beautiful cities. Copenhagen is Capital of Denmark and Aarhus is second largest city in Denmark. Aarhus is a vibrant mix of youthful energy and a living history what makes it a city with an energetic beat. Located right by the sea, bustling Aarhus has so much to offer, whether you are seeking experiences in beautiful nature or culture, historic sites and loads of entertainment. Aarhus is home to 335 000 people and being a student city, Aarhus might be old at heart, but definitely is young in spirit.

One of the most important things what participants learned during the youth exchange: we are better together; we have much more chances if we are united. Also, it is crucial not to judge other people, especially, when you don`t know the facts about what happened and why people acted the way they did. If you don’t have communication with other people, it is going to be less chances to be united.

Also we have to respect each other. Activities Highlighted the connection between European citizenship, human rights, democracy and intercultural learning, together with the underlying values. In case of misunderstandings between cultures it is important to communicate and give detailed explanations about actions. If people don`t communicate, they make wrong judgements. It is very important to promote tolerance between young people coming from different religious, cultural and social backgrounds.

There was also an activity where 3 people had tied hands (the ones in the society with fewer possibilities – lack of finances, disability and so on). In this task the host throw money on the floor and everybody had to grab as much as possible. Of course, the ones with tied hands were not possible to compete with others. Participants had to help the ones that are around us.

Participation in this youth exchange was an amazing experience and allowed to meet very interesting people, to get new knowledge about situation in other countries which were represented in this project. Participants from Latvia had a chance to share Latvia’s good practices and challenges. Youngsters realized, that most of the countries have numerous common challenges, for example, Latvia is facing depopulation due to low birth rates, problems with European Union law implementation, increasing import from other countries and decreasing production of local products, and the export is also is decreasing. Young and skilled people are leaving rural areas and country mostly due to economical obstacles searching for a better life in bigger cities or abroad.  After youth exchange youngsters realized that they have become more aware about many issues, for example, that there are a lot of stereotypes in our societoes and we all have to act to break them. Activities and intercultural learning process were ‘’an eye opener’’ about stereotypes in our societies.

One of the most interesting part of the youth exchange was intercultural nights. Youngsters presented their countries in very different ways. For example, Latvian participants made a very attractive and educative Latvian night. They presented 3 dances, beet-root soup, garlic bread and other traditional specialities.

Participants were welcomed by very friendly Danish host team. There were no problems with accommodation, transfer and meals. Danish people are very nice, organized and open minded.

English was the official language of the youth exchange and each participant received Youthpass.

Impressions and opinions from some of the Latvian participants about their time spent in Denmark. Ļevs: “The public library DOKK1 in Aarhus is truly a place for everyone - small and large. Here everyone can come and do whatever their heart and mind want - read, study, relax, draw, paint, play every possible game (from the board to all kinds of computer games), meditate, eat and have fun. The little ones even have wardrobes with soft dolls and their clothes, can make a theatre. There are also many interactive wooden games and activities to develop logic and thinking. Various seats, high-speed internet access, typewriters, computers, art objects and books are all within easy reach of people with disabilities, so books are also accessible to people with disabilities. There's a visual art studio and also a television studio for some TV recordings. Amazing and inclusive! Well thought out design, materials, layout and mood I suggest you visit and implement any of these ideas in Riga and Latvia! ”

Rihards: “Well, I want to say that I had a lot of fun in Denmark and this was my second time taking part in Erasmus+ project. The very first was in Malta. The topics in Denmark’s weren’t as serious as in Malta, but at the same time there were serious topics like racism, gender equality or equality in general discussed during the youth exchange in Denmark. These topics are spreading everywhere nowadays. I do believe in some way these projects could help shape the world or the European Union into a better place. As well, that people can change for the better and be more socially active and talkative. It was nice to use my English skills to finally communicate with people. Many people, including me are introverts then social interactions can be very problematic. But still, it was great to talk about the topics we had in Denmark. I also liked that each country had a chance to represent themselves every night. Although for us Latvians it was challenging to do such a thing, because our country isn’t very well known. It was fun experience and I would like to go for another Erasmus project at some point in the near future.”

Julija: “I really enjoyed this project. First thing that I'd like to mention and what was different from other projects in which I've participated – a lot of group discussions and very few writing. It made project more dynamic. Also project place was great. We had opportunity to spend our free time in many different ways from playing ping pong to piano. I'd like to have more time-building games in the beginning of the project, because our team was large and it took time to get to know each other. Thank you for a great work, hope to meet you again.”

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International Youth Exchange "Youngsters - a Bridge for a better Europe" was implemented within the European Union program Erasmus+ KA1 in cooperation with non-profit organisation based in Denmark -Danish Youth Team. International mobility partner from Latvia  was Non - Governmental Organization "Donum Animus". Erasmus+ KA1 program provides opportunities for individuals to improve their skills, enhance their employability and gain cultural awareness. Beneficiaries are able to spend a period of time in another participating country gaining valuable experience of life, study and work with the aim of increasing the opportunities available to them in the future. KA1 is the largest action in Erasmus+ with focus on increasing mobility and skills.


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