Active Youth Challenge
– Larissa 2019
from Johanne-Laure Chango
In September 2019, I participated to a one-week Erasmus + Youth exchange in Greece under the theme “Youth Participation.”
We’ve been 8 participants from Kassel. I realize now how this experience has been special to me as a volunteer freshly arrived in Germany.
The 29th September, after a whole day of travelling from Kassel to Frankfurt to catch our plane and then from Thessaloniki to Larissa by bus, we were going to join a group of 50 young people coming from four other countries : Hungary, Italy, Norway and Greece. We finally arrived in the very late evening, exhausted, but excited to be in a new environment and yet impatient to meet everyone the next day.
If this first day was mostly about getting to know each other, one of the feelings I keep of our group is it as a safe space to express ourselves and discuss together.
Throughout the whole week, we will share, debate on the possibilities young people can involve themselves on a local level, but on a larger scale, as citizens of a country and more, of Europe. Participation also means to deal with the constraints we can face in our respective countries. From political to cultural differences that impact our way of living, there is also much things we do have in common, that we wanted to figure out about. Each country prepared some activities in order to share with the group during the week.
For the German group, the topic was about e-participation. There are different ways to be involved in our communities, and to be active, especially online. First when we think about e-participation, we think about social medias. But social medias is one way. Creating content like podcasts, experience sharing websites, online petitions, voting platforms…are also different options. Some cities decided to build facilities to share and take initiatives at a local level. These open-spaces are made to help people create their own digital projects, share knowledge, equipment and experiences.
Participation is also about challenging ourselves. That’s what we made quite every day during this week. There was also some up and downs, but we tried to be a support for each other when we could and that was also the thing I loved the most; it added an extra meaning to the word togetherness.
On the third day we went to Volòs, a small town at about one hour far from Larissa, near the sea. In the morning our mission was to find out with some questions about politics how much young people are involved in participation as citizens at a local but also at a European level. It was interesting to hear the different answers, even if most of them were kind of doubtful when it came to speak about politics. When we went to the university we found out that some organizations were really active, but sometimes ‘too much’ for some youths. Some of them admitted they weren’t really involved because they didn’t felt listened or concerned. This was quite a topic to discuss about when we came back to Larissa, because we noticed some differences about it at a cultural level too.
Meeting local authorities
On day five, by bus, we went in a little town called Karditsa. The aim of this visit was to speak with the main actors of the city, working for the youth and educational field. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to visit the town before the meeting which would have made our questions more targeted on the city ; but they highlighted the different youth exchange projects they had the past few years, and also the fact that Karditsa was known as a bike-friendly city. It has always been part of the town’s habits, and they do want to keep it that way by making more bicycle paths and being an example to other cities in Greece. It kind of reminded me my city Strasbourg, which is the city with the most bike paths in France. It’s a cultural matter but putting economical efforts into making more bike paths and promoting this means of transport also contributes to reduce pollution.
To be remembered
We were used to spend most of the days waking up, eating, warming up discussing, trying to sum up our long talks, learning about other countries , debating, making breaks, starting again, laughing drinking Greek coffee: in a short, living this program to the fullest. But somehow, some activities had a strong impact on us.
On the fourth day, led by the Norwegian group, we experienced the one step forward challenge.
This challenge is about endorsing by description the role of a person with fewer or more opportunities, due to status, and condition. An awareness of the differences that can impact a way of living. This activity brought us to discuss about the social ladder of our current society, and for me as a motivation to involve ourselves in our communities in order to facilitate inclusion.
I have also a great memory of the cultural night we had on day 2, sharing food, and special things from our countries. As I was a leader in the German group, it was special for me referring myself as coming from a place where I was living for only two weeks! But we had fun preparing our Little Red Riding Hood theatre piece, to present Brüder Grimm, the Herkules and the main places to visit as well as topical events like the ‘Fridays for future’ demonstrations in Kassel. Apart from learning about the uses and food habits across Europe, it is a perfect way to gather people together and celebrate simply. We ended up the night singing and learning traditional dances.
This memorable youth exchange in Greece was a great way for me to start my volunteering mission in Kassel. Seeing so much youths actively involved around Europe and to hear about their experience was a shot of motivation for me. I’ve met amazing souls and built beautiful friendships and keep preciously these memories of my first weeks as a volunteer.
For more information, you will find the link of the IG page we created during this week :
This international youth exchange took place in Larissa (Greece) from September 29 to October 07 in 2019 with 50 young people (16 – 25 years), organized by Simmetecho Larissa (Greece), Kommunales Jugendbildungswerk der Stadt Kassel (Germany), Comune di Padova – Progetto Giovani (Italy), Oslo kommune Uteseksjonen (Norway), ISZOSZ Kecskemét (Hungary) with financial support by Erasmus+ Youth in action.