As usual the training started with the introduction. After several words about the project, organization and project Team, name-games were introduced to the participants. The group was international and the names were so different but to work all together we were to get to know each other. It is obvious, that it is much easier to work within a group of people when the rules are set up. So, we worked all together to develop and accept the common rules agreed by all the participants.
Than, a very common Erasmus+ trainings task was given to the participants. They were to think and list their fears, expectations and contributions. Some of the participants shared their results others left them personal. Among the fears were the feeling of boredom during the training, the fear of inability to fully express himself/herself in English, there were people who were afraid of the Netherlands’ weather and who were afraid of coming to very hot political topics that have no answer but are very touchy, there were also some who were afraid of flying back by plane. The contributions sounded mostly common from every participant as everyone was ready to share with the groups all the knowledge, experience and information they possess. Expectations appeared to be also quite similar as all the participants were looking forward for interesting, exciting, informative and practical week devoted to finding methods and techniques for socialization and adaptation of refugees. During the first day we also provided space for information about the first project stage i.e. visit to Jordan. Among the training participants there were people who participated in the first activity, so they shared their impressions. We did it in smaller groups as it gives more space for dialogue and experience sharing. We had four groups and each group had one or two people who spoke about the training in Jordan and every group appeared to have very interesting discussions after the experience sharing. For example, the participants from Estonia arouse a question about the refugee influx, asking why the people leave their countries. Why do not they stay and struggle as many people during the WW2 did. There was an interesting answer that there are a lot of people who are newcomers to the territories, who just moved to the place and appeared to be unlucky because the war started and they just continue moving for better places. They do not deeply associate themselves with the land and just continue moving. We cannot compare civil war in Syria and Iraq with USSR during the period of WW2 as it was the struggle between 2 countries and not the civil war. In the USSR there was a huge territorial resource, so refugees spread within one country.
Now, I think we are to say a little bit about the venue of the training as for the success of such types of projects it is one of the most crucial aspects. Our experience shows that the most successful activities happen usually quite far from the busy city center where there is no disturbing urban bustle as clubs, restaurants, bars, shops etc. but still there is an access to the city center as it is also always an important part of the training program. So, for this training we have chosen Vakantiepark Kijkduin on the outskirts of the Hague. This is cast green park, situated behind the dunes. The beach is located in walking distance and there is also an indoor swimming pool. But this place also gives the opportunity to explore Dutch history as there is an access to the center of the Hague by bus. Thus, it was a risky plan as we could rent only chalets with three bedroom, one big kitchen and a toilet and a bathroom. So, it was obvious that the people from different countries would have to share one house but it would definitely provide a huge space for sharing. There was one restaurant at the Vakantiepark Kijkduin but even pizzas that we got there on the arrival day, unfortunately, were rather expensive for our budget. So, we went on to experimenting. We thought that as each chalet/house had a big well equipped kitchen we proposed to split the whole group into smaller ones and to cook the traditional food of the countries that we had the representatives of. As there were a little bit more nationalities in the group rather than evenings to tasty suppers we combined several countries and for the first evening we had UK/German Team to prepare the food for the group. This experiment, this idea appeared to be really great as developing the menu, cooking and finally eating altogether was a great team-building activity and what is more, rather than having one intercultural party we experienced it every evening.
During the first half of the second day we worked with the verbal portraits. The group was split into 4 groups – the first group was represented by the female participants from EU and their task was to develop a verbal portrait of the typical young refugee men coming to EU from Arabic states; in the second group there were female participants from Arabic countries and they were to create a verbal portrait of the typical young men from EU; third group consisted of the men from EU and they worked with the verbal portrait of the typical young female refugee and the last group represented by male participants from Arabic world worked with the typical verbal portrait of the young typical EU woman. While giving further explanations to the task the trainers put the particular accent on the fact that nothing personal should be seen in these portraits - the main idea was to recreate the existing situation in different societies and the diversity of the participants allowed us somehow to do this. The aim of this work shop was to find out the level of the existing intercultural dissonance and influence of the negative stereotypes as they are one of the main causes of the conflicts. A very important point was that we were doing that work-shop with people who are just not simply EU citizens or refugees they are the representatives of NGOs, part of them are Erasmus+ experienced people, many of them have already implemented their own project and above all a group of people willing to find out solutions, those who support and promote intercultural dialogue and are ready to solve the problems by democratic methods. But, when the results were presented even within this group there were lots of disagreements and discussions. So, even within this group of very open-minded and active people we got the picture of deep negative stereotypes.
After break we had a session devoted to the issues locals and refugees face. We were lucky as among the training participant there were people with refugee back-ground or those who possess a present-day status of a refugee. They shared their personal stories, explaining all the types of difficulties i.e. documents, language, society and even family itself. Before starting the discussion of the concrete conflicts we already got stuck in a one happening between Syrian and Turkish participants. The dispute was about whose fault is the main one in the happening conflicts. Should we mostly speak about refugees or the main accent is to be put on the locals?
Of course the situation could not be left like this. So, a role-play “false mirror” was introduced to the participants. It is a good method to lower the tension in the group. The idea is to role-play, to perform a conflict situation but the key element is that the roles are given in such a way that those who were noticed to be very active during the happened dispute/conflict become the observes/the audience in the theater. The main roles of the conflicting parties were given to the participants from Sweden and Greece. We were very confident that they will successfully cope with the roles as we already worked together during the training in Jordan. Highlighting the fact that Democracy is not only about the ability to express a point of view but also about the skill of finding compromises we opened our performance. To achieve even more expression while rehearsing the performance it was decided to add two training participants to support the “Turkish representative” and the other two to be on the” Syrian side”. Our expectations were fully met. The participants from Syria and Turkey could see themselves from the side. The role – play appeared to be very interesting and even funny from time to time and the aim was fully reached as the conflict resolution was role-played and at the end everybody saw that in this particular situation a good compromise could be found. We are to say that it was a critical moment of the training but due to the role – play we managed to solve the conflict and further we had a great, united group working together.
We could not but use the facilities that Kijkduin provided us with especially when the weather decided to be really marvelous so the rest of the day we were working at the very picturesque place, the beach of the North Sea. We went deeper into the discussions of the conflicts and how to resolve them. The participants grouped the happening conflicts into the following categories: culture, education, job opportunities, religion, language and behavior. And at the end of the day a very delicious Dutch supper was waiting for us.
As among the fears about the training a lot of participants mentioned the fact that they are really scared of having no opportunity, no time to explore the place, the Netherlands, the Hague. Checking the weather and realizing that the 17th of October would be the last day without heavy rain so, we took the decision to give the space for exploring. After lunch divided into groups and equipped with different tasks among which was to make photos of everything that is not common for the photographer the groups moved the explore the Netherlands. It was also planned that they will have supper in the city, so each group got the certain amount of money and all together they were to decide how to spend it.
The next day started with drawing. Staying in the same groups as they went to the Hague the participants draw their impressions and than presented the Team results. Of course we spoke a lot about bicycles everywhere, about the beauty of architecture but every team also spoke about some very special spirit when people of absolutely different background communicate, work and live together in a very friendly, polite way. We call it the spirit of Liberty. Than we continued our work speaking about socialization and adaptation of refugees but that day’s skope was put onto the youth organizations – what they can do in that field. We had a brainstorming and sharing of the examples that our participants had but at the end we came to the conclusion that one of the most effective tools could play social media. This day finished with the discussion of different ways, different methods of work in Facebook and other social networks. And at 8:00 o’clock a delicious Estonian-Swedish supper was ready to be tasted.
The next day we proposed the participants to shoot films, to give way for creativity, imagination and of course teamwork. This videos were aimed to promote socialization and adaptation of refugees. Finally we had “Grammy Awards” but there were not winners or losers. We had several interesting, impressing, nice videos that can be watched on the site of RI-WEB.
During the last day we spoke about Erasmus+ and applications development, we devoted time to Youth pass and of course a lot of time was given to different types of evaluations. We had a great farewell party! It was very exciting and impressing not only because of the feeling that an empowering activity took place and a united group of people could be noticed in the room but we were lucky to have a hero of the day who turned thirty among us!
The Hague, 14-21 October, 2016