From March 10th to March 18th 2018 in Pamukkale, 42 participants from Turkey, Macedonia, Romania, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Spain took part in the Youth Exchange “Human Libraries: Let’s Create Socially Inclusive Society through Dialogue”, funded by the Erasmus+ Program of the European Union. Through this youth exchange the participants enriched their knowledge on social exclusion, discrimination and hate speech, and strengthened their skills realizing the concept of the “human library” and learned how to directly contribute to the process of creating socially inclusive society.
Thanks to our sending organization, Volunteers Centre Skopje (VCS), the Macedonian team consisting of Liljana, Angela, Jeton, Anastas, Ogi and Ivana arrived in Pamukkale on March 10th. Our team instantly got closer together and spread a positive vibe around. We were a real team, always taking care of each other, not afraid to talk about our fears and hopes, but at the same time sharing our energy and friendship with the other participants as well.
Accommodated in a wonderful hotel in Pamukkale, we spent the first days in different games and activities in order to get to know each other better. We learned about stereotypes, discrimination and hate speech, tolerance and respect, etc. At the International evenings we had the chance to show our cultures and traditions. During those evenings we tasted typical foods from the participating countries, danced traditional dances, watched videos and photos of places we had never seen before, but that are now definitely on our bucket list.
One of the most challenging activities was when we were supposed to meet a local person and talk to them about their personal life. Meeting a local was a nice idea to get to know the Turkish culture better. We met The Ice-Cream-Guy, The Fortuneteller and many more, and heard a lot of their stories. We also enjoyed the Turkish bath, Turkish cuisine, friendliness and nature. After various activities, we began to deepen the topic of hate speech. We also created a newspaper and started a social network campaign, so you can see some of our activities on Instagram: @humanlibraries.
We also had a free day, when we visited the ancient city of Hierapolis –a stunning site, Denizli and the “Cotton castle” – Pamukkale. The whole area was rich in springs of fresh and mineral waters, as well as thermal baths. In the afternoon when we left Hierapolis and Pamukkale, by “Teleferik” (cable car) we went to the top of Denizli, where we spent time in the beautiful nature surrounding the area.
The youth exchange ended with one interactive Human Library held on the last day in the Denizli Youth Council, where we met many local volunteers and had the chance to hear the inspiring speech of Ozan Ulusoy, entrepreneur with Down syndrome. After that, we had the opportunity to hear 7 different stories told by one “book” from each national team. The idea was to have a conversation with a Human Book: a person who has experienced some prejudices due to different issues, such as disability, sex, gender identity, background, age, etc. The reactions of the visitors and books themselves were very positive. Unlike a traditional library, where the exchange of knowledge is from the book to the reader, the Human Library was shared in both directions.
Even though the days were full of activities and the planner full of tasks, every moment was an occasion to get to know each other better. We had a week full of joy, and we are glad that we were given the chance to participate in this exchange. Until next time!