Once upon a time there was a small family with six children and one mother. The family was from Volunteers Center Skopje. This family originated from a country of kind and warm people. The country was entrusted to the Balkans, and was one of the most attractive places for people who love mountains and nature. It was Macedonia. This small family was challenged by a small and at the beginning a bit scary project titled as: Empower vulnerable youth: Theater, creative writing and emotions in focus. The challenge was accepted. They decided to upgrade their talents and skills in creative writing and theater through non-formal methods. Heroes journey started on January 21, 2019. Their plane took them to the land of the castles, perfect nature and amazing chocolates. Yes, this land was Belgium. In a small town called Lokeren they started mastering our theater and creative writing skills. They were not like a drop in a spoon, they were exploring all this challenge and this is our adventure that, unfortunately, ended on 30 January 2019.
The small Macedonian family shared this experience with 5 others, all with one parent and 6 children. This means that each one of us heard 41 life stories, ones short and formal, ones deep and emotional. At some point we all felt fear, excitement, happiness, nostalgia, empathy, and that’s the beauty of it. For me, personally, the best part was working with Frank van Mossevelde, director of the Theater “Rhetorika” and retired Director of the secondary school in SintNiklaas. We were divided by national groups in which we had to perform a story, either a story from our country or a made up one. The goal was to present and perform these stories in a youth centre in Zele called JuvenEs in front of all the participants and also local citizens. Every country did their performance on an improvised stage, in their own way. The adrenaline was real. Even though it wasn’t a Broadway show, we felt like it, we perform as if in it, we applauded as hard as the end of it. The storytelling activity was followed by tasting of every national dish and drink. We got to taste and experience a big part of every country’s culture. When the lights went off, and the music started playing, the calories slowly started burning. The night ended with a tight sleep after a night full of singing, dancing, acting and sharing every feeling from inside us.
9 days in a completely new country, surrounded by new people and experiencing new things. This youth exchange was a really tough challenge filled with so many amazing memories and friendships. All of the activities we had, every single song we sang together, all the late night talks and stories will always have a special place in my heart and I will cherish them forever. Storytelling, writing poetry & forum theater are some of the many activities that taught me so many new things. I got to know so much more about the international groups, their countries and their way of life which made me think how we have so much similarities, but also so much differences. Visiting the youth center Okapi where we danced and sang along to songs from all of the countries filled up my heart with so much joy and happiness. Now when I look back to those 9 days spent with some of the greatest people, I can’t help but think how thankful I am for that amazing opportunity and experience.
This was such an amazing experience and opportunity where I’ve learned to help and understand the others. Not to judge people without getting to know them and their stories. Through this exchange, we learned what patience is. Hearing the lives of some of the participants was hard, even too hard sometimes. Although, we realized that we have to listen carefully and support each others. I also met new people with many differences, new cultures and traditions but the most important is that I acquired the power of self-confidence thanks to our facilitators. I’m really grateful for this adventure and I know that I will miss everybody.
Being a part of this amazing team of 6 amazing siblings and a mother, real warrior for every our request. Great experience, amazing atmosphere, new friendships, traveling in new country, learning new things and a lot of things are behind us. Meeting Frank and his experience was absolutely one of the best things in Belgium. He is “guilty” for teaching us about storytelling and performing it on a stage in a bar full of people. At first I was scared and excited for the performing but after two or three times practicing I was just excited. Period of nine days is not a short time but for me it was. I hope I will have a chance to be a part of projects like this again. And now in the end of this great adventure I want to thank everyone for the time spent with me and having fun together. I hope the promise that we made will be respected by everyone. To stay in touch and to have many many adventures again in the future.
It’s the memories and experiences that make us who we are today. I will never forget the incredible 9 days I spent with my big family from Spain, Croatia, Latvia, Greece and Belgium. It’s hard to explain how I really felt surrounded by the nicest people ever. I went there having no expectations what so ever. I just knew we were going there for sharing our emotions, learning about Forum Theater and acting. As the time went on I started being a better version of myself by doing things I’ve never done in my life. I started believing in myself in some aspects I never thought I would and started to trust myself more. That’s thanks to the most amazing person there, Frank. He showed us a way of expressing ourselves and our emotions which made me think of things in a different way. I learned that every emotion is valid. He made us see a new path of life, which I never would have seen if it wasn’t for him. On the other hand we visited new places such as Zele and Gent. In Zele we had an opportunity to tell a story in front of an audience. It was the mutual feelings and love we had for one another. We felt like we were one, no matter the fact we knew each other for only couple of days. And then I understood – it’s the feelings and empathy that keep us together, that make us stronger. However, the time was ticking and sooner or later we had to say goodbye to everyone, to everything. Not one person wanted to go back home. But, we like to believe that we’ll see each other again. We made a promise that we’ll never stop communicating and never ever forget about the extraordinary experience we had.
Art of the Box and its president with sad face, but fulfilled heart and memories of thousands smiles and deep hugs among the heroes of this journey said us goodbye. The challenge was successfully accomplished as the evaluation were screaming “Excellent” and heroes of the journey were looking back to the castle and walking so hard on the snow finding their ways back to home, last we said Goodbye, Sino!