Erasmus + project in Curtea de Argeș takes young minds by storm

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Erasmus
Source: personal archive

Young people from different countries got together in Corbeni, Curtea de Argeș, to spend several days discussing human rights in an Erasmus + project named Scapegoat.

The project was organized by Euroactive which is a non-profit organization founded in 2019 with the purpose of creating positive change at an European level.

Scapegoat had participants from Romania, Greece, Turkey. Italy, Spain, and Hungary. The project lasted from 31st of July to 9th of August 2021.

Brief insight into the world of Erasmus +

Erasmus + is an EU program that was created in order to support things such as education and youth in Europe. According to the official site of Erasmus +, the program will place a strong focus on social inclusion, digital literacy, and active participation in democratic life, between 2021 and 2027.

There are eight main skills that participants can gain during Erasmus +: multilingual competence, learning to learn, digital competence, entrepreneurship, STEM, cultural awareness, and expression, literacy and citizenship competence. Depending on the nature of the project, all skills can play a part or only some of them.

There are four types of Erasmus + projects, each with its criteria. Scapegoat is a Key Action 1 project, and it is part of the Youth Exchanges category. In this case, according to 2021 program guide, the age requirement for the participants is between 13 and 30 and for the leaders to be at least 18 years old.

At the end of a project such as Scapegoat, the participants receive a Youthpass Certificate that can be useful and it is recommended to not exclude it from the CV.

A long way to the project

According to Cristiana Onea, part of the Euroactive organizer team, the project was initially scheduled for March, but because of the pandemic, they had to postpone it to August. A shadow of the original dates was seen in the schedule sent to the participants. There, on the 5th day of the project, the activity was to exchange games with the children from the village, but the schools are closed in August and so, the participants ended up having to do a flash-mob in Curtea de Argeș. At the end of the activity, everybody got a paper in their hands to send the message of the project to the people watching.

Furthermore, Cristiana said that the idea for Scapegoat came from one of the organization’s volunteers after their little brother was harassed because of his religious beliefs. As a result, the purpose of the project was to reduce the level of discrimination and intolerance for the youth.

After the project got delayed, Cristiana and Adrian Dobrin, also part of the Euroactive organizer team, had to monitor carefully the pandemic situation. They both had a hard time as they had to be careful when choosing participants. “Let’s not forget how emotional I was whenever one of the participants had to take a PCR”, said Cristiana.

A week full of learning

The participants arrived on Saturday and the first activities began on Monday. On the first day, the focus was on getting to know one another and through that, the participants also got to write their fears, contributions, and expectations on post-it notes and stick them on a whiteboard. Besides that, a poster for the Scapegoat project was created and also, a set of rules.

Erasmus
Source: Mehmet Oduncu; participant

The next two days were full of activities that leaved open doors to deep discussions. The activities varied from creating sketches that would represent stereotypes to becoming a human library that was ready to be listened to. Before the stereotype sketches, Cristiana and Adrian had an interesting discussion with the participants regarding what comes after a stereotype. Through that, everyone learnt that stereotyping is only the first step into creating a problem, because after that comes prejudice and lastly, discrimination. On the other hand. The human library activity was more personal as each one of the participants had to write a part of their story and then share to the one who would sit down in front of them.

During the fourth day the participants visited the Vidraru dam and Lake Bâlea with the purpose of learning more about Romanian surroundings. After that day, they felt ready to continue the project. The activities that took place during those days were oriented more on the refugees situation and how hard it is to achieve a perfect society, by having a discussion on the differences between terms such as inclusion, segregation and assimilation. Besides that, in the last day of activities, the participants had to make videos that would show what they had learnt during the project. The actual final day in Corbeni had a more organisatoric approach.

Moreover, during most nights the intercultural evening took place. Participants from each country got to talk and teach the others about their country on their selected date. After a game of Kahoot that came with tempting prizes, the participants were invited to learn some traditional dances and try some traditional food and drinks.

Expectations and what’s to come

People joined Scapegoat for various reasons. For example, Louiza Nigro, a 24years old Algerian girl that teaches in Hungary, decided to join this project to learn more about inclusion and meet people with different background. At the same time, Gökçe Gamlı, a 21 years old girl from Turkey, expressed that she decided to join because she wanted to expend her horizons.

The expectations varied, from wanting to have deep conversations in a safe environment to wanting roleplays that would tackle different issues. Ana Badea, an 18 years old girl from Romania, said that she didn’t have any expectations, but during one activity she realised that she wanted to learn new things about herself. Nonetheless, all the three girls expressed that there are content with how things turned out to be and that they are thinking of joining projects from Erasmus + in future.

At the same time, Cristiana mentioned that her only wish for this project was that there would be no incidents. “I received more than I wished! The team was amazing, active and we spent a lot of quality time. I feel bad now that it’s over, time flies by so fast”, said Cristiana.

Furthermore, she also stated that she believes every participant is different and by that, the things that they had learnt may vary, while some gained some self-esteem, others got more comfortable with speaking English and that she hopes they all learnt new things about inclusion issues and discrimination.

The Scapegoat project is now in the dissemination phase and with time, it will become a happy memory for those who took part in it as new projects just like this one will take place in the years to follow.