Solidarity and participation of youth in small communities (the training in Tenerife)
What does solidarity mean to us? And what about the participation, putting your hand to the work and our interest in something? Are they empty terms for us or do we imagine something? Will the idea be something specific from our neighbourhood or will it be a classic image used by the media?
In the picturesque coastal town of Puerto de la Cruz, I attended the international youth workers' training Solidarity and participation of youth in small communities between 7th and 14th April 2019. It was a unique achievement with its focus and format. First, we were a very small group of participants. There were only eleven of us. And then the meeting took place in the youth centre in a small island community town that we could interact with locals as much as we could. Pairs from five European countries - the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Greece and Spain - came to the project. All youth workers, i.e. project managers of leisure facilities, leisure time educators or even psychologists working with youth.
The purpose of the training was to clarify the principle of solidarity and the involvement of young people in local communities, in conjunction with the handing over of several appropriate methods. So, we started a week not only by getting to know one another and our home realities, but also by adjusting what solidarity and young people's participation means to us. But then we dove deeper into the storytelling method, living library, photovoice and the theatre of oppressed.
Storytelling is a method of sharing deep human stories based on personal experience. The Living Library is a method created for fight against discrimination and the repression of individual community stereotypes towards some of its members or groups of people. Its participants "borrow" a person with a strong personal experience when he/she was discriminated or otherwise personally affected by negative narative of stereotyping and let his/her story to be told. As if they were reading in a book. As a rule, only one reader reads one book at a time, which is usually limited to 45 minutes. And, of course, this is about trusting and understanding which readers must keep up with their books, because they often share a very difficult and painful story. Photovoice is a method used both with children and adults. Where members of the local community photograph local problems as they see them, and they are then presented to the local council.
Of course, we did not just stay with the theory, but we were able to try all the above-mentioned methods ourselves. We divided into groups and tried to implement these few methods on our own. We have discovered how hard it is to involve more people in the process, and how it can be difficult to know the local reality when we are not fully involved. And even though we had spent the day watching and locating information from the locals, it was not easy. Even though we were just a small group dealing with the topic of social problems the whole previous week.
Before and after the project, I had time to see the beauty of the island. And not just as a tourist. But thanks to the Couchsurfing platform, I could spend a few days in the company of local people, which was an unique opportunity for me to see everything appreciated by the locals, learn about the local realities, and see how they live in the area. I am grateful for this opportunity, which offered me the opportunity not only to enjoy the diversity of the whole island (almost desert conditions in the south and the moisture woods of the north), but also to get to know the local culture (for example, by tasting typical local banana wine, mango ice tea, or mango-banana spread).
International training for youth workers was realized through the Erasmus+ program within its key activities 1 Mobility of individuals. The guest organization was P.O.D. Association of Puerto de la Cruz. I went to represent the non-profit organization European Youth Centre Břeclav.