Once upon a time, you live meaningful moments that deserve their overall reflection to be shared with those who you’ve lived them with, and with others as a source of inspiration. I decided to start writing testimonials thanks to the pieces testimonials I’ve read online. They gave me the motivation to evolve and the power to do something for the first time in the world of Non-formal Education. Now, there is the story of a youth exchange that played a great role in my 2022.
Today, I want to share a testimonial regarding the experience that I had in the Growing future in Outdoor Life Youth Exchange hosted in Mtskheta, Georgia. It happened between the 12th to 22nd of July 2022, and express my thankfulness to everyone that took part in it.
About the Non-formal education project
The Growing future in Outdoor Life was an Erasmus+ youth exchange project that allowed 40 youths between 19 and 27 from Georgia, Ukraine, France, and Romania to unite in a non-formal education framework on the topics of environmental, climate change challenges & how to enable behavioral changes for individual preferences, consumption habits & lifestyles.
The initiative was created through a partnership between the Youth for the world and the Leolagrange NGOs from Georgia and France. The other two organizations implicated were Aegee from Ukraine and EIVA from Romania. Besides the objectives implemented regarding the participant’s development in different areas of learning, one important objective implemented in the project was to offer a beginning step into the world of the Erasmus+ project for young people that desire to become youth workers.
Our Roles in the Youth Exchange
As I was part of the EIVA organization along with my colleague Anjely, we had the chance to step into the roles of group and youth leaders for the 1st time and experience deeply the world of Erasmus+ opportunities for youths. As a leader, my 1st role was to participate in the advanced planning meeting to better understand the project, plan, create the activities scripts, then, facilitate activities on various topics, as well as learn how to lead groups through a non-formal educational approach.
Even though in the beginning I struggled a lot with psychological challenges because I had no experience in any of that stuff, the APV and the creators of the project gave me great motivation and power to see this experience as a learning journey in which they fully supported me. Moreover, being part of the EIVA organization for more than 1 year gave me great self-confidence as I have been part of projects before, mostly as a participant and an observant as well.
Beginning phase of the Youth Exchange Project
Along with my colleague Anjely, we started gathering information regarding our chosen activities objectives and preparing the scripts advised by our Organization mentor. We had full freedom of expressing ourselves throughout the planning and it was a great revelation to receive great feedback during our meeting with the non-formal education project’s main facilitator.
We had a very stimulating journey while establishing the process of finding participants, the gatherings regarding the presentation of the project, group contributions, explanation of activities, and attribution, but we are very grateful for the group that decided to join us and fully support the YE objectives.
One hard yet very good process in overcoming the challenges of being a group leader was the process of planning the trip to go and come back, dealing with transfers, plane tickets, covid rules, planning the travel itinerary, and adapting it well to fit in the budget. In the end, this part was done successfully, even though it implied a lot of stress for us during the youth exchange implementation process.
Fears, expectations, contributions
If I think about the main fears, expectations, and personal contributions related to the project, I can say that my main fear was not being able to express myself in front of so many people, to participate in group activities with people that I didn’t know, and to end up failing in the process of facilitating the activities. This fear happened to exist only because I’ve never done things before, and I might have overplanned everything to make sure I will get it. What I learned from it was that as much as you plan something, there will still be something unexpected but I will have to trust myself and what I had prepared with passion to deliver the best of it. It is all a non-formal education learning experience, for everyone involved.
As expectations regarding the project, my number one expectation was that this project would create a before-and-after feeling inside me like the other projects I’ve been in, and allow me to reconsider the path that I want to follow in my future career. Now, I can say that my expectation and the outcome after ending the project are mirroring each other, and this experience opened me to a new way of thinking and acting for a future that matters. Moreover, I feel much more prepared in the area of non-formal education and training, public speaking, collaborating in groups, and leading my group.
For the contributions I wanted to have to this project, I want to focus on one of the best activities that I and my colleague Anjely had to host throughout the activity days, the reflection groups. At the start of the project, I wanted one of my contributions to be directly linked to people’s feelings and reactions to different happenings. I got the chance to host reflection groups of 6 people for 5 days and in this way, I felt that I could contribute to their self-awareness and development regarding the experience that they are living, helping them express themselves while I was doing it for the first time as well for myself, and as a reflection moderator for them.
The structure of activities was focused on the participant’s involvement and based on the principle of “here and now”. All the youth leaders had a great contribution and creativity in their implementation of activities, it was a great experience to help me see the different ways you can facilitate non-formal educational activities and that even if we are different as persons, everyone does a great job in their way.
Every youth leader made a great personal contribution to making the project a success and delivering learning experiences in a collective approach focused on practical intercultural collaboration.
What I’ve learned from the creators of this Youth Exchange project?
Regarding activities facilitated by Gvantsa, our main facilitator and leader in this beautiful experience, I can say that she was the kind of person that youth in need wishes to meet during a life journey. If you are interested in the areas of non-formal education, mindfulness, and human connection and decide that you want to experience life in all ways possible by getting out of your comfort zone for real, she can show you the steps to follow.
I thank her for the lessons I’ve learned about myself and the others around me, for the specific activities that contributed to my self-development as an active individual, for my integration into the intercultural team, and for the motivation that she gave me to develop my career path.
Indeed, through my participation in her activities, I have discovered new topics of interest, new desires, and orientations on how I want to continue in youth work. I will keep her as an inspiration whenever I am doubting or thinking that challenges cannot be overcome. Soon, I will try to learn more about how to facilitate her type of non-formal education activities.
Youth for the World CEO
One more amazing person that I had near me from the first moment and stayed to the last was George, the very first person that introduced me to the project and shared with me some of his various life lessons. This person offered me the chance of overcoming all my fears and offering his full support during the whole process. What I’ve learned from George is to take distance from the moments and reflect on them to see what lesson did I learn, and how important it is to do good in a world that needs people that care about each other.
Thanks to George, I got the first dose of trust that I can participate in and facilitate this project, numerous lessons, and tips regarding how to manage a project of this type, and support in every moment I needed it.
In George and Gvantsa, I saw one of the greatest desires of changing the world through the power of non-formal education applied to youths.
Appreciation for my mentor and President of the EIVA Organization
A very important thank you goes to Cristian, my mentor and role model from the EIVA organization. He offered me the possibility to stay by his side and learn from him for the past two years, always sharing his knowledge with me, and providing the best self-development settings that prepared me for this Youth Exchange. I appreciated how he gave me time to learn in my rhythm and how he put his trust in me and my colleague to fully design, plan and implement our contribution to this project without having fears regarding our skills. Now, I came back home prepared for the next stage in the development of our projects with more knowledge.
Leading and experiencing with my closest person
Having the chance to participate in such an experience along with the person that I share my personal and professional life with was one of the most meaningful things that I’ve lived. Usually, even if you get to live these experiences along with your friends, you are mostly by yourself as well. For us, what made the difference was the implication we desired from the beginning, the reflection that we did, and the fact that we enjoyed the beauty of “here and now” together in something that we haven’t lived before.
I’m very grateful for all the support that I’ve received from my partner Anjely, and for all the coordination, implication, and passion he had put into this youth exchange project as a leader. I believe that this project was a great initiation for future common projects that have aims and objectives focused on education in the youth world.
About the participants of the project
This youth exchange couldn’t have been the way it was without the 40 people that cohabitated, worked, learned, practiced, and had fun together during those 11 days of activity. The group I had the chance to meet and spend time with during those days was one of a kind, each person has their way of thinking, different personalities, and ways of acting for themselves and the sake of others. I would like to thank first of all the Romanian team that I had the chance to coordinate for such a great implication and each of their personalities that made our activities a proud success.
And as an end, to every person that was part of this project and I’ve got to discover and connect with them. The time spent with everyone produced a big change in my social life, and intercultural skills and grew my empathy.
What have I learned during this non-formal education project? Youth Exchanges are …
What I’ve learned here is that we are all different, but we came together in this youth exchange for one focus, to learn, grow, and develop. We wanted to learn more about the topic of the role of formal, non-formal, and informal education, environment protection, active citizenship, how to take action in community problems, how to use movement for action, and the Erasmus+ framework for youths.
In the end, we also learned how to trust ourselves and others, how to reflect upon what is happening during certain moments in our lives, how to work in a team, how to get out of our comfort zone and face difficult situations, and how to grow empathy for strangers that become close to you.
My feelings regarding this experience are very powerful and I consider that every youth in this world should be able to have it. To discover themselves and learn about the beauty in people.
Final words about the Youth Exchange – Changing through Non-formal education
They say that when people put their trust in others and they take responsibility to help, magic things happen.
Through the activities experienced here, It happened exactly this way for me, and I’m grateful I could give my trust and help, as well as receive it in such a beautiful way.
They also say that taking risks and taking challenges are the steps we take to grow and become powerful.
Here, I discovered how a challenge can change the way I’m perceiving reality and how it enables a new learning pattern inside myself. I also discovered how to adapt to a new set out of my comfort zone, and what kind of person I am in difficult situations.