Get to know us, get to know me, get to know yourself!
Just recently, the partners of “Myself&EU” project reassembled in Latvia to complete very important part of their project – running a capacity building activity with the aim to test and present methods how to welcome and introduce the European Union to our newcomers – refugees and also young people, who due to the different reasons were not engaged in average activities. All methods will be compiled in unified toolbox.
Themes of the toolbox for the youth cover such fields as learning about the foundations and structures of the European Union, democracy and citizenship, employment and social rights interculturalism and challenges of the 21st century.
Most of the experts have thought of many interesting and interactive ways to teach about Europe and issues related to the EU. But what about us personally what about people? EU is around 500 billion people. What is the glue or possibility, what makes us feel alike, what makes us feel belonging to the European Union? As we know, all citizens of the EU countries are automatically EU citizens. Thus, if you are the citizen of an EU country, you have to bare it in mind – you are a European. And what, if not? How to explain to newcomers that we are open, respect and care about each other?
The capacity building seminar was attended by representatives from seven countries – Belgium, France, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Portugal. Regarding the presentations and discussions, the countries seemed to be far from each other and with various issues of interest. The meeting in Latvia may be considered as a small experiment – what makes us to feel belonging to the EU. At the end of the day – we rarely knew each other before, a part of some we met only in this project.
Without knowing ourselves, we cannot teach others to open up to trust and to follow, to be part of the community of the EU. Namely, with the project activities we want to ensure that young people will improve their knowledge and also become more open and more engaged in democratic processes – simply in their community as active citizens, maybe associations and foundations, maybe elections etc. – to sustain the principle of the EU alive.
First of all – ice breaking! I know that for those who attend “millions” of seminars it might seem there is nothing more boring than trying to remember somebody’s name. Especially when you know that very often you meet this person for the first and for the last time… However, we also all know that the first impression about a person is made at the first minute; hence, if somebody noticed that you are kind and open – most probably you will have possibility to meet these people again. The ice breaking without any doubt is very important not only for the sake of group dynamics, but also for each individual in the group. Therefore, regardless the audience, always be prepared to make good and engaging ice breaking session. Main task of the ice breaking session is to listen, because many people open up and say about their talents when they are relaxed and think that introducing themselves is not work, but at the end of the day these introductions turn out to be like a finding treasures.
Can there be more challenging issue to speak about belonging to the EU if recently there was BREXIT? Not at all – this is about the time to speak about competences of the EU and also personal satisfaction in the context of EU. Have you ever thought how much we have gained by becoming partners in the EU “club”, which was founded to organize business better and avoid wars? The founders of EU could never imagine that they would bring for so many people possibility to gain freedom to travel, freedom to learn, live and get old wherever they want – it is possible only here in the EU – this fact was reminded to us by our trainer from Spain – Marta.
Maybe there are some people, who still remember that crossing border could take hours and hours, but now we are free to go wherever we want. Simultaneously citizenship is also responsibility – it was reminded to us by our French partner and trainer Beatrice, who run the session about the democracy and citizenship. Citizenship is like a ticket to get in to the car, but at the same time, you have to be competent to drive or at least to know that to be safe, you have to fasten the seat belt, which is both driver’s and your responsibility.
Ensuring employment and social rights may be obvious in the welfare countries, yet the aim of business is to make profit, therefore, in order to protect workers’ rights citizens need to be aware about them and stand up for that. Coline and Et-taoufk asked us to solve the problems at an imagined company producing teddy bears. The task seemed easy and understandable, but when there are different interest groups – administrative staff, workers etc. – the dialogue becomes complicated, the solution should fit for all. All of us deserve safety and care at work place; therefore, knowing your rights is very important and requires knowledge you can get only by engaging in understanding your rights.
What is your DNA? Do you know where your routes are from? Am I a pure Latvian, are you pure Belgian, French, Italian or Spanish person? You will be surprised if you find out the truth. And you will wonder that the rejection of other people, prejudices and stereotypes come from your inner fear. Overcoming the fear is crucial to understand that people may have different origins, different life experiences and different patterns of behaviour. Only when you start thinking to whom you will let your apartment (if need be), you realize – life with different people in the same community can be rich and great, if you are open to change some prejudice. It was amazing to listen to Dalmar’s (a trainer from Italy) own experiences (some very humorous) as a black person being Italian. Nevertheless, changing attitudes is very often struggle for many people and we can be the ones to help others overcoming this obstacle.
Challenges in the 21st century are so great and little, at the same time. If we consider that our generation lives more comfortable than our grandmothers and grandfathers lived 50 years ago. However, we seem to be more focused on finding problems than living a simple, decent life. Of course, security and cyber security is an issue in this century, when half of the life or more is spent with gadgets. This life style brings along cyber bulling between the youngsters. It also brings us obligation to think whether we are all equal and have the same possibilities. There is one question to ask – do I have ability to think critically, because overcoming challenges is the issue of my readiness, willingness and courage.
Yes, there are many topics to think about, but simultaneously possibility to be friends and learn about yourself is openness and smile to everybody who approaches to you. I did it we all Uldis, Pauls and Liva Agnese did it – we were open to our colleagues coming from other countries, I shared with them all good we have here in Latvia – Jurmala, Jelgava and Riga and it will be unforgettable experience and good and inspiring memories for the rest of my life and at the end of the day – maybe to others as well.
If you did read it – thank you, but now- back to work!
Rasma Pipiķe, team member from “Myself&EU” and Zemgales NGO center.