„This is our Europe!” – this sentence from a social media content shared by one of the participants became the slogan of that 30 youngsters in an Erasmus+ youth exchange where the common objective was to get to know each others’ social systems and culture.
Six-six young people from Greece, Lithuania, Hungary, Portugal and Romania participated in a project supported by the Erasmus Plus Programme of the European Union. The project title was: NEETs for Children in Need. This was the third youth exchange organized by the Er hangja Association since 2015.
There were enough challenges for the organizers starting the project week.. The arrived participants were of different tempers, there was a much worse weather at the beginning as it was expected, and the ways of cooperation with the kids of the children’s home was a complete mystery for everyone until we met them. Then, with a magic like from a fairy tale, everything went incredibly well.
After the late Wednesday night, or early Thursday morning arrivals, on the first morning all the participants met each other, and became ready to get to know one another and the city. It was an important point of the first day to set up the rules of coexistence during the week ahead of us. During this activity there were sentences proving that these young adults have many in common, they think similarly about certain things. The pronunciation of the Greek, Portuguese or Hungarian names was not a problem during the day, but the cold weather and the rain pushed the organizers to improvise and re-plan the city tour. After a little bit of steep and the final evaluation the intercultural night began. The evening was a proper occasion to see each others culture, and the atmosphere was perfect too for building a team out of a crowd of strangers. We had Hungarian Dobos-cake, Portuguese savory snack, olives and Lithuanian honey cookies. All the people were really seeking to get to know more about each other, so the next national nights stirred the curiosity even more. For example during the Romanian night the country’s history got big interest, while there were huge surprises during the Hungarian inventors’ video, and then next the Greek team made us a nice reminder how many things can we be grateful for to their ancestors, but the peak was the tzatziki-makers’ contest – won by the team of Romania. The Portuguese group created the real feeling of an original fiesta, while the Lithuanian team proved that it is worth traveling to their colder regions too because it hides many amazing landscapes with lovely people.
Thessaloniki, Kaunas or Coimbra were just a few of the cities from where the participants arrived to the one week long exchange organized by the Er hangja Association. Thirty youngsters united their knowledge to get acquainted with their countries’ social systems, especially with child care, and to bring a few extraordinary days into the kids’ lives who live int he Child Jesus Children’s Home of Sacueni.
The functioning of the childcare systems were presented by each team separately, on some points giving food for the thoughts, on some points revolting the youngsters. For example: while the Hungarian state strives for keeping the families together, regardless on the unfulfilled everyday needs of the children, Lithuania has approximately 15 windows in the country where mothers can put in their child, and after ten minutes of thinking they can take him or her back, or they can leave the child forever. Greece might be somewhere in between, because there big houses serve as children’s homes and the educators, employees try to take care of the orphan or abandoned kids like they would be a real, large family. The presentations were delimited with consistent discussions on the role of the family, the state, the churches and faith, hospitals in these situations. These ideas were processed also during the afternoon activities by the mixed groups.
After the first days „official” and personal discussions it turned out that these enthusiastic, goodwilling people have never, or less times experienced anything related to the processed topics and questions. They never experienced how is to be abandoned, orphan, or to run for meters to get a hug.
They had the opportunity to find out how this works by the non-formal method of the forum theatre. During the few minute long scenes they presented situations about child abandonment, child labor, domestic violence and early school leaving. The point was to change the usually bad ending of the scene into a good one, into a reasonable solution by stepping into the scene instead of a character. We closed each short sessions with a conclusion and at the end we affirmed that in each of the participant countries there are living such societies that have too big, and too negative influence on having a child and on the children’s fate. Here can be enlisted such topics like: situation of stigmatized women because of unintended pregnancy, the silently regarded ill-treatment of children, the children who are becoming parents because their parents are pushing them, or the life of the parents who are exploited by their employers in their everyday fight for making a living.
Among these thoughts the participants opened a shorter discussion about the kids of the migrant crisis because almost each of the represented countries encountered the phenomenon, mostly Greece, where the homes and school took care of the immigrant kids as they were theirs. Hungary, on the other side could not say the same because the refugees had very mixed experiences in the country.
The mostly theoretic, or non-formal workshops there came next the more expected part of the week: the first meeting with the kids of the Child Jesus Children’s Home. The first day was so touching we waited the next day even more.
Most of the we spent with the kids was filled with games and laughter. Tagging, recycling were all parts of our days, but the most exciting afternoon was the one spent with the EU-games when the children not only learnt about the EU member states, but enjoyed themselves at their bests by playing with the participants. The kids did not even let their place cool down in the lap, neck or the arms of the youngsters of the project.There were hands holding each other inseparably. On the end of a day the participants asked the organizers to call the catering to the children’s home so they don’t have to leave for lunchtime and they can share their lunch with the kids.
The absence of the common language was no problem even for a second. The kids, the teenagers and young adult understood each other very well on the language of love, mindfulness and playing. One of the results of these beautiful moment was the pretty hard leave-taking that got the participants on the knees.
And these bonds and experiences are exactly the things why the sentence mentioned above became the slogan of thirty people. Because we imagine Europe to be a continent where there are no boundaries talking about aid, helping each other, entering each others’ feelings, taking care of our children and accepting each other as we are. We might be young and naive, but we believe in a Europe full of affection, that was created in Sacueni on a small scale during the project.