Erasmus+ project MattE+r of Inclusion, funded by the Agency for Mobility and EU Programmes, took place in Zagreb from 17th to 26th of November 2021.  The main purpose of this youth exchange was to help young people realize the negative impact of discrimination and motivate them to stop it.

“Before coming to the project, I understood there were a lot of issues in the world regarding discrimination, however I have never felt it in my life nor seen it as it is commonly presented. That made me interested in hearing other people’s perspectives and experiences on the topic.”, said Filip (26), a participant from Croatia. And Evija (21) from Latvia added “We knew that discrimination is a common problem in our society and it can happen in every situation. A lot of discrimination types were known. We knew approximately how to prevent it, but we often didn’t think about it, rather we forgot about how it affects others and the outcomes in general. This project reminded us how important it is to try to prevent discrimination.”

Most people could agree with Filip and Evija. We are all aware of discrimination and its types such as age, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation; but too often nothing changes because those are all other people’s problems. To change this point of view and way of thinking, there are projects like MattE+r of Inclusion. They give an opportunity to young people to develop themselves by learning from one another.

“I’ve discovered that in each country people have a different perspective on specific topics that you may consider more or less important. I’ve learned to listen to others by opening my mind and adapting my ideas to those of other cultures.”, said Adonis (20) from Spain. Participant David (22) from Norway has another point of view: “I learned that the level of discrimination varies in a high degree from country to country, and it was really interesting to see how it differs when talking to people from other countries. Can’t say that my opinion has changed, but it was interesting to hear of other people’s experiences and to confirm that although I don’t experience it much, it definitely still affects people around me.”, he concluded.

Obtaining knowledge by using non-formal methods is shown to be working. Mateo, Luana and Marko, from the hosting organization Institute of Youth Power, were pleased with their project. “One of our goals was to encourage young people, the participants, to share the knowledge, attitudes and skills they acquired during this project with their friends, family and locals once they got home. We believe that spreading the message and the positive energy created on youth exchange will increase an already positive trend of these projects and result in more interested young people. Changing daily habits, breaking some stereotypes and increasing tolerance and proactivity is something that happens to most participants, and looking in the long run, that’s the change for the community we would like to see. We would like to use this opportunity to thank everyone who decided to participate and invite the youth reading this to take a step out of their comfort zone and enjoy what follows next! Learn from your friends, listen to them.”

Hosts also invited young people to check Institute of Youth Power – IYP social media and to apply to one (or more) of numerous hosting and sending projects and to take the ability to improve key competencies and feel the experience of learning through workshops. Most participants highlighted the intercultural nights as their most interesting sessions because they could learn about other countries, their languages and their history. Filip added: “It was also the time we could talk freely about all topics which is in my experience the best way of bonding with others and the whole point of Erasmus+ projects.”

Maria (22) from Romania pointed out the workshop she found to be most interesting. “I think that my favorite session was the last one with Ines Sinčić as she is a psychologist and we had a very productive activity where we found out who we really are and how much we appreciate ourselves. I also had the chance to express a lot of my thoughts and some real cases from my life related to the topic of people with disabilities and also to help another participant with some recommendations on how to be more organized. All of us exchanged positive vibes and emotions which made this session very memorable. I enjoyed all the sessions with Ivan Tomasić as he is a very polite and optimistic guy.” Maria also said that she has already started doing more charity activities.

“I hope that I can apply everything I’ve learned during this project in my daily life. I believe that this has helped me to grow as a more tolerant person within society, and I hope that one day I can help others to have a more tolerant view of the world too.”, stated Adonis.

Overall, there were 32 participants from five different countries. Institute of Youth Power’s partners on this project were Asociación Juvenil Almenaras from Spain, Asociatia Centrul pentru Dezvoltarea Instrumentelor – Structurale from Romania, Do Great Things from Latvia and Creatorium from Norway.

Mateo, Luana and Marko had this to say about the work of their organization, the Institute of Youth Power: “Since its founding, the NGO has mostly worked in two directions, entrepreneurship and social inclusion. At numerous exchanges and training, our participants were sometimes discriminated against, faced obstacles and we realized that it would be best to act on this issue. To create one project that will give everyone equal conditions and the opportunity to participate. Also, through 2019 and 2020, we included three visually impaired persons, two persons with cerebral palsy and over 30 young people from rural areas in exchanges. Just before the first Covid-19 lockdown, we had an exchange in Spain where we were supposed to send four people with disabilities, but the exchange was postponed due to the epidemiological situation. The MattE+r of Inclusion youth exchange was created by several leaders and members of various associations that deal with similar topics, share the same values, and promote a more equal society. We would like to thank the partners from Romania, Spain and Latvia the most. We also got ideas about this kind of  project from some partners who were not part of the story this time, but they gave us additional motivation and desire for realization. We hope that this is just the beginning of a beautiful story that will be made by all those who are interested in this kind of society and the opportunities provided by the Erasmus+ program”.

If their words didn’t encourage you enough to apply to some of the projects, maybe Evija’s conclusion about the MattE+r of Inclusion youth exchange will. “I can definitely say that this project was a great way to upgrade my social skills in communication with other young people. Especially given this Covid-19 time that affected our socialization. Language skills, the elimination of shyness, the quick promotion of different ideas and initiatives in different situations – this is what is on the list of improved things. At the same time, I did not know much about the Erasmus projects, about the various opportunities that can be used by anyone interested. A particularly interesting option seemed to be the possibility of volunteering in various types of work throughout the European Union. I think it’s one of the greatest opportunities to learn practical information on many specific topics and to learn about different countries, cultures and everyday life.” But did some of her attitudes or opinions change “ I think so. As this was my first project of its kind, I never thought that in such a short time it would be possible to get to know so many different young people from all over the world. This is indeed a valuable experience.”, Evija concluded.

Fotografije: Institute of Youth Power