Mon, Jan 29th, 2018
Joe Curtin is a youth worker in Youth Work Ireland Cork (YWI Cork). In 2017 Joe organised “You(th) Join”, their first Erasmus+ Youth Exchange, in Slovenia. Their second exchange, “Sport Co-Op” will take place in Greece this year. Joe urges youth workers who are thinking about getting involved in Erasmus+ to go for it!
In 2017 YWI Cork took the lead in an exciting new Erasmus + Youth Mobility project, “You(th) Join”. Nine young people from the north side of Cork city took part in a week of learning and activities last August. Young people from Gurranabraher, Churchfield and Farranree travelled over 2,000 kilometres to Kranj, Slovenia, to meet another 30 young people from our partner countries Finland, Greece and Slovenia. The young people were accompanied by myself and Yvonne Quilligan from Cork City Partnership. The exchange was also supported by the Cork Education & Training Board and by Klub Studentov Kranj.
The project really started when I attended a youth worker training, FAST FORWARD, hosted by YWI Cork in collaboration with CIT Crawford College of Art & Design in 2015. It was on this training that I got bitten by the ‘Erasmus+ bug’. I was new to my youth worker role at the time, and the training gave me huge insight into themes, tools and the potential of using Erasmus+ to create opportunities for young people. I then sought further opportunities to develop my own Erasmus+ projects.
In 2016 I attended a Bi-Tri-Multi Training in Braga, Portugal. This training is designed specifically for newcomers to Key Action 1 Youth Exchanges. Its core method is to simulate the real process of youth exchanges, from conception, contact with partners and joint-planning through to implementation and evaluation. After the training I recommended it to my colleague Yvonne. She then did the same training in Finland and along the way, met the partners for both our future Youth Exchanges!
I submitted my first application to Léargas in 2017. Once it was approved I launched into advance planning visits, activity programmes, fundraising and preparing the young people for their trip. Youth exchanges allow groups of young people from different countries to meet, live together and work on shared projects for short periods which take place outside of the school environment.
On a youth exchange, young people can expect to participate in activities such as developmental workshops, exercises, debates, role-plays, outdoor activities and more.
This Youth Exchange was the brainchild of four different countries – Finland, Ireland, Greece and Slovenia. We aimed to provide young people aged 13-17 the opportunity to travel and interact with peers from different countries with different cultures. We also wanted to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding, and raise communication skills and knowledge of the inner self. We did this through creative interactive activities, foreign language communication, and developing games and cultural evenings. For many young people this is an opportunity to travel and to meet with peers from other cultures for the first time, with the possibility of developing new friendships and learning to become more tolerant and respectful towards diversity. I was delighted to hear also that this was the first time out of the country for one participant.
Our first Youth Exchange was a huge success and had a positive impact on the young people involved and gave them the taste and confidence for more. As a result of the relationship that developed between our Irish and Greek young people, we have now been successful in a second application and are in the planning stages of our next exchange. “Sport Co-Op” will take place in Greece in May 2018 on the theme of ‘Cooperation through Sports and a Healthy Life’.
What I would say to anyone thinking of creating similar opportunities for the young people they work with? Go for it! Look up the training calendar on SALTO and find an Erasmus+ training opportunity that suits you. I’d particularly recommend the Bi-Tri-Multi Training course. I also attended a few of the roadshow information workshops run by Léargas where you can get a feel for what is involved in the running of an exchange.
Some tips for running the Youth Exchange: