The endless lake, golden sand, restless sun, and young power! Between the 10th and 18th of August 2021, Volunteers Centre Skopje hosted Youth Exchange “CUTE: Cooperate Understand Tolerate Empower” in Struga, Macedonia. The project was organized by VCS’s partner from Hungary: Hang-Kép Kulturalis Egyesület and funded by the Erasmus+ program.
For eight days, 32 young people from Macedonia, Hungary, Romania, and Poland worked on their personal and professional skills regarding intercultural cooperation and self-awareness. Youth exchange can be a learning, rewarding, and life-changing experience, but what were the main aims of the CUTE Youth Exchange? As the acronym for CUTE goes – promoting the fundamental values to the youth – cooperation, understanding, tolerance, and empowerment. All the activities such as workshops, exercises, debates, role-plays, and outdoor activities were focused on implementing these values. The participants proved that they are excellent team players and leaders. “As a leader of the group, I had to consider the concerns of my teammates and aim for improvement, as well as participate and enjoy the time myself. It was pleasing to see young people being enlightened by the discussions and broadening their horizons through different activities and tasks,” says Merima Saracevic from Macedonia.
For Istvan Gal from Hungary, it was the second youth exchange but the first visit to Macedonia. When asked about his experience, he didn’t hide from me that he had high hopes before arriving in Struga: “The feeling of unfamiliar surroundings was a bit strange at the beginning, but soon I managed to get in pace with the local lifestyle. As I hoped, the participants were outgoing and open to other people, so no surprise we got along easily. I gained many experiences, memories, and knowledge through various events.” What unexpected did he learn during the project? That “The whole world is a bottle opener” and “There is always a Polish who dance better than you.”
One of the project’s objectives was to empower youngsters to realize their needs and encourage them to take action and make a change in their smaller or larger communities. During the exchange, the participants learned how to manage projects and step by step organized the beach clean-up. “Macedonia is much more beautiful than I expected. Unfortunately, it has a problem with littering. But thanks to our exchange, we could do something good, we managed to clean maybe a small area of the beach, but I think this small act inspired us to do more.” says Aleksandra Kołodziej from Poland.
During youth exchanges, there is also time to have fun. As youth exchanges are focused on intercultural dialogue, the program could not be missing cultural nights. Forget about boring presentations. In Struga, the participants presented only the best things. The evenings were accompanied by short movies, quizzes, singing, dancing, and richly set tables with delicacies from each country. The participants could experience a real taste of Macedonia, not just thanks to the food they tried but also thanks to exploring the country’s natural beauties. Merima agrees with other participants, that “the most joyful part for everyone was the trip to Ohrid and St. Naum and visiting the national park of Vevčani. The magnificent springs and clear water were something you don’t see often.”
What was the participant’s overall experience? “The experience was unique, starting from location to participants and organizers. Through training, were addressed vital topics, like understanding, tolerating, and supporting each other. In my opinion, in this Erasmus+ exchange were trained, conscientious citizens.” says Nicoleta Tatarenco from Romania, and others agree that they had an unforgettable time in Struga.
Thousand of photos, new friendships, and memories that will be cherished for a long time. Dear friends, remember to stay CUTE forever!