“NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US” Erasmus+ youth in action, mobility project in Slovakia!

At the end of October 2019, from October 14 to October 18, active young people and a group leader from Priekuli Municipality and Youth organization BJC Dari Vari were invited to participate in Erasmus + Youth action, youth project in Veľké Kapušany, Slovakia. The project was organized by the Luminosus organization with the aim to investigate discrimination and prejudice in society with the participants of other countries, Latvia, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
The journey to Slovakia for the seven young people age 13-18 and the group leader started on 13 October. For some of the participants, this was the first experience traveling abroad or traveling by plane. The first stop for our team was in Warsaw, Poland, where we had to wait for the next plane to Krakow, Poland, and then continue the 5-hour journey to Veľké Kapušany, Slovakia. The adventure began when the plane to Krakow was delayed by 5 hours and the Latvian group had the chance to wander around the airport because the entrance gate to the plane changed multiple times! Young people did not panic, even though fatigue and stress did their part, everyone played the games they had taken with them and had fun visiting the souvenir shops.
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When the group arrived in Krakow, everyone was happy to get into the van and make their 5-hour trip through the Carpathian Mountains to the village of Veľké Kapušany, where we were all welcomed.
Tired, around 3 a.m., we arrived at the hotel where we quickly went to bed. Due to our late arrival, activities were not started in the morning, but only at 11 a.m., where without stress we could get some energy and eat late breakfast.
On Day 1, the project began with meeting the United Kingdom team and their leaders, because we were staying in the same hotel, later we were joined by the Ukrainian representatives from the other hotel. Later we found out that Ukraine’s border is only a few kilometers away from the project place.
Together we went to the office of the events of the association Luminosus, and the day continued with introduction games, which had been prepared by all the parties involved. The English representatives were surprised by the good English knowledge of the Latvian team. For many Ukrainian participants, this was their 1st experience in the use of English, in the beginning, they were shy, but by the end of the project, they started talking. It should be noted that the Ukrainian participants were the youngest representatives of the project, and this was the first experience where they had to represent themselves. The Slovak participants tried hard and managed to show themselves as leaders, they took responsibility well, to show everything and to tell everybody about themselves and the city.
On the 2nd day of the project, everyone had prepared presentations about their countries, each showed a lot of material. After the presentation of Latvia, everyone wanted to come to Latvia, enjoy our summer solstice, dance and sing songs and started to talk with leaders about the writing collaboration projects.
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On the third day of the project, the young people were given the opportunity to take a tour and get familiar with Slovakia’s history and culture, and to see the nearby second-largest Slovak city of Košice. The city captivated everyone with its old city and the beautiful cathedral with romantic stories about it. Stories included the charity and kind heart of the local princess, about a king who did not consider himself a superior being than his wife, also some silly stories, about a sculptor in one of the corners of the cathedral, were as rain gutters he installed a sculpture of his wife, just because of his own vile character. It should be noted that, while Latvia had low temperatures and experiencing the storms of autumn, Slovakia spoiled us with +25 degrees and sunny weather, for this reason, the musical fountains of Košice’s old city were also to be enjoyed.
On the fourth day of the project, we had prepared the homework about discrimination and prejudice in our countries, although we have different cultures, different histories, and languages, we were all united by the thought that we are all human and we are the ones who will shape the future and change old habits and stereotypes. Young people were invited to present their homework on discrimination and breaking stigmas in their home countries, each focused on the most painful topic. After the presentations, workshops took place in which young people broke stereotypes by learning different Youthpass competencies, which made it even more apparent that old customs and prejudices had to be changed, new habits and new traditions must be created and society must be built in which everyone is equal. After indoor activities, the participants had the opportunity to go to the countryside where they met a local business- beekeeper. All participants learned about bees, how to care for them, and joined workshops where they made candles. Stepping out of their comfort zone and overcoming their fears strengthened their friendship, helped each other break stereotypes and reach the project’s goal that there is no difference between us!
The fifth day started with the morning energizers and afterward, participants and group leaders went to the local park.  We created the project flag with handprints in different colors, all of them having the opportunity to express themselves and spend the final moments together before leaving. After this activity, everyone had been given a little longer free time to buy souvenirs and local goodies to bring to families. After this activity, everyone joined in together in the last reflection group, where participants were given the task of telling each other what they liked and what they had acquired during these project days.  For some young participants, this was the first time they had used English publicly and was encouraged by all groups. The last activity itself was the story about Youthpass, its distribution to participants including the skills that young people had acquired in the project, and ho they would benefit from it in the future.
Five days had gone unnoticed, and the Latvian group went home reluctantly, having to face a 5-hour journey to Krakow through the dark and foggy Carpathian mountains. After the exhausting drive and flight, we were greeted by the autumn weather in Riga, where the project members’ roads went separate ways, some remained in Riga, some went on to Livani and some went home to Priekuļi municipality!
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We found new friends in the project, gained a wider view of what is discrimination and prejudice, which we now recognize and will be able to avoid in the future, as well as future project partners!
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