Empower vulnerable youth, empower yourself

Life-changing, inspirational, open minding, amazing, valuable – these are just few words that participants used to describe their impressions about Training Course “Empower Vulnerable Youth: Theater, Creative Writing and Emotions in Focus”. Training Course was held in Struga between 15th – 23rd October and was organized by Belgium partner Art of Box together with Volunteers Centre Skopje.

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The project responded on the needs of organizations working with vulnerable youth. It means with young people at particular risk because they have additional challenges to overcome, fewer resources and supports. Besides impact on directly involved participants the project aimed to increase quality of services of partner’s organizations; bring ideas for local, national or intercultural projects as well as to raise public awareness on situations of vulnerable youth. 24 participants coming from Spain, Croatia, Belgium, Macedonia, Greece, Latvia were working, learning and spending time together. The group was very diverse, including the youth workers whose daily work is dedicated to vulnerable youth; future teachers and people who were seeking for new ideas and inspiration. For some of participants it was also first time with Erasmus+ project, glad to know that they chose Macedonia for their debut.

44384126_1120592271449487_3062407249365303296_nDuring first days participants were getting to know each other through various team building games and energizers. Also it was time to discuss project objectives, types of education, roots of discrimination and social exclusion. In mixed groups they could share good and bad case practices from home countries. What was good, most of presentations were based on theater techniques which made activities more dynamic and group integrated. In next day’s also participants took a role of trainers and prepared workshops. Belgium team who consisted of people who work on professional level with vulnerable youth shared with participants some of their activities that might help express emotions and how to manage them. Another day there was more detailed talks about vulnerable youth, trying defining who we can classify to this group, what obstacles preventing youth to get activated and what we can do to change their situation. Then participants had a chance to create the new tools and test them with the rest of group. Ideas that they shared were very innovative and creative; might be used in work with youth without fail. For example one of workshops called “The world of songs” was designed to help in self expression and intercultural learning. Participants divided into teams were listening the songs from different countries. After that they were asked to make a collage used provided materials like magazines, colorful papers. It is amazing how people can perceive differently the same song. Thanks of that, our music horizons broaden as well.

Few participants were asked about activities they found useful the most on TC: “I can still remember the one related to creative writing delivered by Belgium team. Participants, where divided into groups and had to write three sentences each according to a DIXIT card of their choice. Afterwards, collaboratively each group conducted a poem and presented it on plenary, based in one sentence that each of the participants wrote. This workshop drew my attention due to the fact that in a very creative way, participants expressed themselves, by sharing personal emotions and thoughts through creating a poem. In the end it produces  a different meaning to each and one individual ,according to his/her experiences” – says Michalis from Greece.  On the other hand Tamara from Croatia found interesting different workshops: “The most useful activities were the ones related to theatre because I believe that through theatre you can truly express yourself and it may be easier to youth to express their emotions when they’re playing someone else and having fun. I didn’t have a chance to use those activities yet but I will try to implement them in my work with not only vulnerable but children and youth in general”. Also, she shared what skills project developed in her: I believe that I gained more confidence in working with vulnerable youth because I learned a lot of tools which might be very helpful in work with this group when but also youth in general. I improved my organizational skills regarding preparation of workshops, project writing skills, skills related to addressing strong emotions, self-confidence and self-awareness.”


44439063_10217224530109117_8624019186173083648_nLast days were dedicated for getting to know better the Erasmus+ programme, their key actions and in result participants had to prepare draft version of own projects that they would like to organize in the future. Let’s hope that some of these proposals will come true next year. Except hard work, during Training Course we had several leisure activities. Intercultural nights were especially the most awaited events. A lot of delicious food (e.g. Belgium team prepared famous French fries), salty snacks, sweets and national drinks. What’s more each team prepared games or quizzes to check the knowledge about their home countries. They sang, they danced and simply had fun all night long. The weather in Struga was excellent so during one sunny day the group was taken to Ohrid – pearl of Macedonia. Another evening, we were invited to restaurant for traditional Macedonian dinner. Everyone could experience how Macedonians spend evenings with accompaniment of tasty food and cold drinks.

In the end I asked about the most remarkable moment that happened during this few days in Struga. “For me it was the talks we had in between. Talking about their culture but also how their point of view was on vulnerable youth. Also when we gave the workshop ourselves, I learned a lot from it. But the goodbye was the hardest thing because you know that maybe you’ll never see some people back and after all you’ve lived together for a week.” – says Lotte from Belgium. But for Michalis one of the best moment was activity prepared by one of the team: “Participants formed a circle and in circular basis had to make a statement for a personal experience or attribute that they shared, which made them unique and then make a step forward. Whoever of the rest of the group, shared the same experience or attribute, was stepping forward as well. This moment was really remarkable and unforgettable for me; hence participants started sharing several things with the group, from the less crucial till the serious and important ones. It really touched me, the fact that many of us were feeling comfortable with the group in general, and therefore took the decision to share meaningful issues in public.”

Training Course finished with handing the Youthpass certificates to participants and filling positivity boxes with nice notes for everyone on the project. The goodbyes are always the hardest moments but who said that you will not meet again? Partners on this project were Association Mundus from Spain, Media Terra nea from Greece, Talsu novada fonds from Latvia and Mladi za Marof from Croatia. This project is funded by the Erasmus + program and the Belgian National Agency.

Paulina Gołębiowska

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