International Youth Exchange ‘Bridges not walls! Migration’ KA1 Youth Mobility Project financed by the National Agency in Ireland Leargas under the European Union Program Erasmus+. Participating countries: Ireland, Lithuania, Spain and Italy. Hosting and coordinating organisation- Eurobug.
Event took place at Innovator’s Valley in Lithuania on 12th-21st of July, 2018
Migration is far from being a new phenomenon, however, recent shifts in the political landscape in Europe and around the world highlight a need to urgently address the issues of migration and to create counter narratives in support of migrants. Most studies show that migrants contribute much more to the public purse than they extract from it, so what really needs to change is our attitude and perception towards migrants and that was the main idea behind ‘Bridges not walls! Migration’ project. This International Youth Exchange also reflected our organisation’s values, beliefs and vision ’To empower young people to actively participate in building more peaceful communities where diversity is celebrated and every single person is valued for who they are.’
I believe that by taking an active part in this project young people not only became more aware about the issues of migration, but also got inspired to bring change into their local communities, as it starts from individual or collective actions. I have to admit that ‘Bridges not walls! Migration’ touched my heart deeply as I saw young peoples’ passion and commitment for social justice, equality and the protection of human rights. We can talk about migration and related issues as long as we wish, however, to gain real understanding one needs to live through it and connect with people who are coming from different walks of life, which was made possible through this Erasmus+ project. The most powerful part of this project for me was to observe the connections that young people made with each other and how quickly and openly they started to share personal stories related to emigration, immigration and asylum seeking. I hope this magazine will give readers a little insight into what happened and will encourage other young people and youth organisations to take actions in creating more peaceful societies, as every small piece is a part of a bigger picture!
Special thanks: ‘Bridges not walls! Migration’ was a collaborative work, therefore I want to thank our Partner Organizations for their commitments during the planning, implementation and evaluation of this project. I also want to extend special thanks to Kelvin Akpaloo, Cristobal Bi Moreno, Aiste Kazokaite, Laura Alciauskaite, Ingrida Iskenderova, Laura Ruiz Navarro, Jessica Martínez and Zivile Paskonyte who took a very active role in this journey of ‘building bridges’. Thank you! Eurobug Director, Aiste Slajute
“I, as a migrant, wanted to give it back to Ireland and my community. In order to do that, we decided to create an international project about integration and bringing the communities together. I felt it was very important to know more about the reasons why some people move to other countries, and how they adapt to different environment and to The main aim of this international youth exchange was to clarify the fact that migrants should not be abused, but understood and supported instead.”
Kelvin Akpaloo, Irish Youth Leader and one of the authors behind this project
The main aim of this international project was to raise awareness about the complex issues of migration through creative self expression and performing arts.
The main objectives were:
- Highlighting the reasons behind different types migration;
- Sharing personal stories of seeking refuge and/or experiencing migration;
- Looking at the effects that migration (forced or voluntary) has on young people;
- Providing space for intercultural learning and self expression through arts;
- Creating a performance piece for raising awareness about the complex issues of migration;
As a result of taking part in this international youth exchange participants gained the following skills, knowledge and attitudes:
- Knowledge about the history of migration, its roots and primary causes;
- Awareness about different refugee and migrant situations in participating countries;
- Understanding of the difficulties that refugees and migrants are facing an ability to emphasise;
- Through living and working together in the intercultural environment young people gained all range of soft skills, such ability to connect with people around us, ability to listen actively, and to communicate effectively using verbal and non-verbal communications;
- Learned how to be flexible and to adapt in different environment and how to consider different cultural and social norms;
- Through various workshops, organised by participants themselves, their skills of public speaking, leadership, facilitation and making presentations improved;
- Skills of action-planning, time and task management and how to use social media to raise awareness about important issues;
- Team work, collaboration and networking skills were also improved as a result of this project;
- Skills of creative thinking and creative self-expression through performing arts grow, as well as ability to deconstruct problems in creative way;
- Participants enhanced critical thinking through discussions and their ability to make joined decisions and solve conflicts have improved;
- Through on-going evaluations and reflection session’s young people adopted an attitude of taking responsibility for their personal learning process and ability to self-asses their learning needs and progress; learned to recognise and to follow their personal growth and development;
- As participants’ awareness and understanding of different cultures and complex issues of migration raised so is their attitude to support inclusion of minorities;
- Young people got motivated to become change makers in their local communities and to promote diversity, intercultural dialogue, and common values of freedom, tolerance and respect of human rights;
- Gained a sense of initiative through their active engagement in this project and a sense of European citizenship and European identity;
- Furthermore, these personal journeys of self-development, new competences gained, and improved English language skills will increase participants’ employability in a long run.
National groups were involved in this project: Ireland, Lithuania, Italy and Spain. There were more nationalities and cultures represented in the participants group: Albania, Finland, Ghana, Latvia, Russia, South Sudan, Egypt and the USA. These participants brought their own touching personal stories and the array of different perspectives which was one of the strongest points of this project. All participants were passionate about the issues of migration and showed interest and experiences in performing arts, such as dancing, singing, photography and magic. The Partner Organizations who took part in ‘Bridges not walls! Migration’ mostly works with topics of integration, social inclusion and human rights. They supported young peoples’ participation through full duration of this project.
PARTICIPATING ORGANISATIONS and YOUNG PEOPLES’ PERSPECTIVES ON MIGRATION
Project coordinator and Youth Worker: Aiste Slajute
Youth Leader: Kelvin Akpaloo
Perspective on migration: Modern Irish migration is often thought to have started off with the great Irish famine of 1845-1852. Widespread potato disease outbreak in Ireland caused hunger. This lead many Irish people to emigrate from Ireland to countries like the U.S.A and Canada for a chance at life. The next major migration event occurred during the troubles (1968-1998). The troubles was a period with high tensions between the Catholic Irish and the mostly Protestants of Britain and Northern Ireland. The conflict turned violent, which led many catholic Irish in the North to move from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland and Protestants in the republic moving to the Britain for safety. Throughout the decades, the republic of Ireland’s economy got stronger and during the peak, the Celtic tiger, many people from Central Europe and Africa moved to Ireland. Due to the Irish attachment to their religion, many didn’t know how to receive the new religions that were introduced through migration. The bust of the Celtic tiger in 2008 caused grave economic stresses, causing many Irish to migrate to the U.S.A, Canada, and Australia etc. During this period, a housing crisis emerged, which caused an increase in the Irish homeless population. The housing crisis continues till today and has caused many Irish to be apprehensive about accepting refugees. Throughout the centuries, it is very evident that migration patterns in Ireland are closely tied to the state of their economy and natural environment just like anywhere else.
LITHUANIA – Institute for Policy research and analysis
The mission of Institute for Policy research and analysis is to contribute to public policies and to develop various actors in this field. The main areas of activities: qualitative research, policy analysis, consultations, operational performance improvement, public and on-demand training courses, international cooperation. Our primary focus in the last few years has been directed to the issues of migration, particularly youth emigration in the Baltic States.
Youth Worker: Laura Alčiauskaitė
Youth Leader: Aistė Kazokaitė
Perspective on emigration: Recent statistical data shows that over 50,000 people emigrated from Lithuania last year and over 900,000 people, or almost a quarter of the population, have left the country since our independence in 1990. All of this has made the Lithuanians one of most migratory peoples in Europe. And in fact, mass emigration is nothing new in the country where waves of migrants have been leaving for centuries. Most of the emigrants head for the United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway, sometimes with their families and sometime without. There are many reason of migration, including economic, social, political and personal factors, but most of people are tempted to move to places where living and working conditions are better.
Meanwhile, independent Lithuania attracted many new immigrants from poorer and/or war-torn countries with the majority of new immigrants come from the former Soviet Union. In many cases, those people fill the gaps in job market left by emigrated Lithuanians who are allowed to freely move into Western Europe. Citizens of the former Soviet Union countries make up 1% of Lithuania’s permanent residents.
SPAIN – Europimpulse
EuropeImpulse was born from the need to provide training for the civil society on the cooperation, European funding, Education, Social Innovation, Culture and Sustainable development. EuropeImpulse is a Spanish project developed through two basic areas: 1. Europimpuls Training: development of learning methodologies, resources and tools (online and off-line) about European project engineering and 2. Europimpulse Network: promotion of spaces for the exchange of experiences, collaboration and incubation of innovative projects.
Youth worker: Jéssica Martínez
Youth Leader: Cristobal Bi Moreno
Perspective on migration: The migration situation in Spain has changed dramatically in the past two decades.
Being an ‘emigrant nation’ with a small immigrant community at the beginning of the century, Spain has now become the European country with the fastest growth in immigration rates. Currently, North Africans, and notably Moroccans, make up the largest immigrant community in Spain, followed by Romanians and Latin Americans. However, emigration rates have stayed high as well, in a phenomenon called the ‘brain drain’, where people are leaving the country seeking for better job opportunities at the root of the Spanish economic crisis. While Spain may be a good destination for migrants, their welfare is sometimes put at stake, with for instance integration centres where the conditions are compared to prisons, and precarious job opportunities and abuse in the Spanish job market.
ITALY – APICE – Agenzia di Promozione Integrata per i Cittadini in Europa
APICE is a national youth NGO for social development, aimed to improving the awareness and promoting fundamental values of the European Union and the principles of the Council of Europe. APICE contributes and supports active youth participation, sustainable development, social dialogue and cooperation, by supporting the participation of citizens, NGOs, public and private authorities.
Youth Worker: Federica Caprio
Youth Leader: Erisilda Bulicko
Perspective on migration: Imigration in Italy has become a really important topic in the political scenario, especially during elections. Some political parties talk about the invasion of migrants from Africa, and most of the people believe to this theory. The national institute of statistics revealed that immigrants are the 7% of population, but most of the people believe that they are the 30%!
Italians are scared particularly of the Muslim immigrants, because of the recent terrorist attacks. This is why they believe that 20% of Italian population is Muslim, but they are just 4%. Most of the people believe that migrants come to Italy from Africa by boat. This is not true because they are just the 12% of population, while most of them come from Europe (Romania 23.2%, Albania 8.9%, and Ukraine 4.6%) and Asia (China 5.6%, India 3%).
INTERESTED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED ON THIS PROJECT? READ OUR bridges-not-walls-migration-on-line-magazine THAT INCLUDES DAILY DAIRY!
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INTERVIEWS WITH PARTICIPANTS
All the participants were incredible and did an amazing job during these ten days, but for interviews we choose to chat with young people who participated in Erasmus+ Youth Exchange for the very first time. Let see what they have to say about ‘Bridges not walls! Migration’ project.
Elena Gabaldon Perez from Albacete (Spain)
“I found out about this project from Cristobal, who was a youth leader for this exchange. I haven’t heard about Erasmus+ project before, so I was very happy he invited me. I’m interested in migration and I believe we should be more aware of these kind of issues. Migration is a big problem that we’re having there in Spain, and I believe we should speak more about it and show more initiative.
This project was a great experience to me. At first I felt a little bit stressed and shy because it was my first project and I had no idea how it’s going to be. But the project was very well organized and youth leaders and workers kept telling me the plan of day every morning and informing us about what are we going to do. So as soon as I realized how it all is going to be, I started enjoying my participation here a lot! I loved the workshops and the group dynamics, all the activities were also very useful for me. I’ve practiced my public speaking skills, which I’m sure I’m gonna use in my work as a primary teacher. In the future I’ll be working as a teacher with small children and I would really love to talk with them about all the current issues in our society. Education is not only knowledge it is also values, and children are our future, so I really hope that during my work I will deliver the right message to them about the importance of human values and how we should respect each other.
When I’m coming back home I will talk with my friends and I’m gonna tell them everything about Erasmus plus projects and maybe we can start some initiatives together in our local communities. I’m also very interested in the EVS and I hope I will use this opportunity in the future.
I would love to thank everyone who made this project possible and for Aiste and Eurobug for organizing it so well. I’m taking all the amazing people, feelings and emotions with me from Antalieptė to Albacete.
Ignas Lapienis from Raudondvaris (Lithuania)
“I’ve heard about ‘Bridges Not Walls. Migration’ from a friend of mine, who wrote and invited me to participate in this project. I didn‘t want to miss this great opportunity, so I quickly applied myself and after some time I got news that I got in. I was really happy about it! J
This was my first Erasmus+ project ever, so I don’t have other projects to compare it with. At first I didn’t really knew what to expect so I didn’t communicate that much, but I soon saw how amazing people are in this project and became in love with the project in the first days.
I have learned a lot of things during these ten days and not only from the leaders, but a lot of stuff from the participants too… I think the most important my personal improvements are that my English got much better, I became more aware of the migration problems and got knowledge how to solve them, I started learning Spanish, etc… Most of the skills I got in the project I‘ll use in the future for sure.
I think migration is a really big problem and more people should get informed about it, because it will be easier to solve the issues if more people will be included. I, personally, was shocked and touched when I heard these stories of people who were directly affected by the migration. I‘m still in high school and I don‘t make my own money yet, so I can‘t help the refugees financially of somehow like that, but I‘ll try to contribute to solving the problems with the ways, that are in my power, like informing local communities or volunteering to help refugees. Helping the refugees or other people affected by migration issues is one of my plans after this project.
From the project I’m taking back this adventure, motivation and friends for life and leaving my insecurity behind. I feel very satisfied with the project and I look forward to go to more Erasmus+ projects. I hope they’ll be as awesome as this one.”
Jasmin Walshe from Kilkenny (Ireland)
“Well, I really decided to do this project about two weeks before leaving, one of my good friends (more like a sister) told me a small bit of information on what the project was about, where and how long we will be gone for, how much fun it would be and how much her and also the Irish team would love to have me tag along!
To be honest, when Kelvin (Irish youth leader) told me this would be the best project ever I was slightly skeptical but I must say that thought of mine was definitely gone as soon as we arrived in Lithuania. I just remember being so nervous about meeting new people and I have never in my life felt so much acceptance and love from a group who were complete strangers to me, it was amazing! The project itself was absolutely fantastic but I honestly wish it lasted longer. And in terms of achieving my goal, well let me tell you if that was a test I would have got an A+, I never thought at the start of the week that I could gain so much in such a short time and I know for a fact that I not only amazed myself but my little European family and I will be forever grateful for the help you all gave me.
The main thing I’ve learned here is that I’ll carry with me forever is to slow down! As well as that I’ve learned to be accepting of different cultural habits, I can now communicate better than before and I can now work stronger in a team which I was never able to do. The list of what I have learned from this project is endless and it’s mind-blowing to not only to have learned about the issue of migration but also about how many skills I have acquired and how I can be one of many to help make a difference.
In all honesty, before the project, I was taught very little about migration and in my opinion that definitely needs to change! These days it’s very common for migration to occur whether it be voluntary or forced it happens and people that are foreign to the topic need to be correctly informed that it’s okay for this to happen and like us, people who migrate need/want safety, they don’t want to live in fear of being harmed, and as a parent, sibling or relative they simply want a better life. I know that sadly forced migration is common but there really is no need for it and learning that this dark side of migration really exists makes me see that there needs to be a change and also that we need more voices so the people that are living in fear because of this can be gifted with safety so they won’t have to worry about families being torn apart and lives being lost. I remember fondly being shown a video during the project about the chilling dark side of migration and even though it’s heartbreaking and very hard to watch it’s what needs to be shown to inform people all over the world so they can view for themselves how severe this issue really is and how it’s up to us to help these parts of the world feel safe again not only for these native people who are struggling but also, so children can play outside without an attack occurring and so no more people will have to deal with such an unimaginable emotional and metal weight on their shoulders.
I know that the solution to solving the issue of migration will not be simple, but I do believe that actions speak louder than words and by raising awareness about the topic/situation will really make a difference. During my time in Vilnius when our performance was finished the number of people that were able to recognize the message we were sending out to the public was crazy. It was astonishing how people thought strongly about what we were doing and applauded us for that and being able to see that there are more people out there that notices a change needs to be made makes me want to fight even harder for that change to happen.
Well with the Irish group I know the first thing we’re going to do was moan about how we miss everyone and how we wish the project wasn’t over. But in terms of our action plan that is linked with the No Hate group/Eurobug members in Kilkenny, we’d like to get started with it right away. Our plan is to take headshots of various members of the group and list what type of migration they experienced, their emotions and feelings when they moved to Ireland, how they adapted to the cultural differences and also their feelings now. All of this will be displayed with a gallery type vibe and if any onlookers were to have any further questions to get to know more about our stories everyone would be more than happy to stick around to talk more about their situations and where they are now.
Talking about things I’m taking back from the project… Well, I know first off I’m taking back all these skills that I never knew I had and with that a whole lot of appreciation for everyone who did this project for helping me dig DEEP to bring them out. Second I’m taking back memories with the most amazing bunch of loving and beautiful people. Without a doubt, we had the best conversations as well as the best connections and I will always remember the fun we had together and the sing songs! And third, I will be taking back the hope that I have that we will all meet again, in regards to wanting to leave anything behind I wouldn’t because from day one I had been living on cloud nine!
And now we’ve reached the end of this project, I’d like to let you guys know one final thing that I didn’t get the chance to say to you before this wonderful project come to an end. When I was asked about the project at first I didn’t really know whether to go or not but I said I would because being out of my comfort zone might do me good. I have and still am struggling with depression but before we went on our travels it was very bad, I guess what I’m trying to say is that during my time at the project I noticed something different about myself that I hadn’t seen or felt in years and that is happiness. I would like to say the biggest thank you to every single one of you guys because for me I didn’t know how long I would have to wait for this feeling to come back, to be able to wake up in a good mood is so weird but I loved it. I know it’s hard now to wake up and know there won’t be 20+ people downstairs to talk to, but I will be forever grateful for the way each and every single one of you guys made me feel and I appreciate the never-ending memories that you guys gave me. I wish you all the best futures and I’m counting down the days till I see you again.
See you soon! Love from Jasmin and all of team Ireland
Alessandro Mosca from Bergamo (Italy)
“I was studying at university in Krakow, Poland with Erasmus plus program, and after my graduation I decided to visit this city again to meet all my friends I’ve met during my study exchange. I told my friends there that I miss international experience a lot, so one friend advised me to look for Erasmus plus projects. When I came back to Bergamo, I started searching for some youth exchange, and ‘Bridges Not Walls. Migration’ was the first one I’ve found. I liked the topic of the project and the fact that this youth exchange will take place in Antaliepte, a small town in Lithuania, surrounded by nature. I wanted to visit Lithuania because I have heard it’s a bit similar to Poland which I loved, and I love nature so much, so I definitely applied for this. I got very excited when I was selected as one of the participants.
During the first day of exchange I felt a little bit uncomfortable because I didn’t know anyone but later, after the name games and getting to know each other activities, I saw that everyone is very friendly. As I’ve said before, during the project we were living in the rural area so me and some other participants had decided to go for a run in the mornings, even despite of the rain. We had a great time together and it made me feel more connected to others.
Honestly, before the project I felt a little bit detached from the topic of migration even though we have a lot migration issuse in Italy. Here in the media every issue is showed mostly from Italian point of view, not always trying to hear how the migrants are dealing with these situations. After the project I realized that we, Italians, also migrate a lot – for example one of our Italian participants has an Albanian nationality, the other has moved to Rome from the southern part of the country… So migration not only about people coming here from foreign countries, it is about all of us. During our activities and workshop I started to understand the motives why people migrate. Lithuanian and Irish participants have shared some personal stories about migration and I found these stories very touching.
Italians generally don’t have a friendly attitude towards migrants but it’s slowly changing. After the project me, Christina and Federica are working on the article about migration and it will be published in Italian newspaper, this is the first step of our action plan. Also I am planning to join a party ‘Piu Europa’, and even it’s a small party, I think there is a chance to learn a lot by participating and be more active in politics. I would also love to find a work abroad, to experience what is like to be living in a foreign country and to gain some new experience in my life. I love the idea of EVS though and if I get a chance, maybe I would like to do it.
Finally, I’d like to say that the entire project was amazing, and all the participants and leaders had something special so I feel I’ve learned so much from everyone. From these ten days I’m taking a lot of things with me to Italy – new friends, guitar playing, beautiful nature and all these moments spent walking around the town, swimming in the lake or sitting by the bonfire… Only things I would like to leave behind are my poor English and rainy weather. But as I’ve said to all my friends already – you definitely should try these Erasmus plus projects!”
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