Chronicles of “Share your colors“ or active activism

Some of us have been already familiar with little town called Ommen – lots of water,  little houses with well-maintained courtyards, always shifting weather. “Share Your Colors“ – the second part out of three of youth exchange projects funded by Erasmus+ program. It is a result of long-term cooperation between Olde Vechte Foundation (The Netherlands) and National LGBT+ rights organization LGL. The cycle of projects has been created for young people who want to engage in activisim and strengthen their self-confidence by participants from Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain, Latvia, and Portugal.

We have started the same way as the last time – the plane lands and the Dutch weather slaps us in the face with all its might – we put every piece of clothing we have brought. It‘s cold and wet.  As soons as we get  accustomed to the weather we get on the train and head towards Ommen. We are walking by foot and 10 minutes away from the station clouds suddenly scatter and the sun comes out. It‘s getting hot so we awkwardly put our clothes back to our backpacks. We turn right and at the end of a wide trail near the river we see a three-story white building: Olde Vechte.  We sigh calmly – it feels like we are visiting long seen relatives.  Today is the 3rd of July – for the next 11 days we will do something inspiring and exciting. Can‘t wait to start!

There is one thing I remember – the calm… the calm before the storm. What‘s coming next? So many! All of the 40 participants from different countries finally arrive, there is motion, uproar, lots of sandwhiches, and then the program starts. And it starts at the full speed: faces, names, more sandwiches, foreign languages, familiar languages, ideas, cameras, microphones, sandwiches again, discussions, computers, photos, video making, then review, and sandwiches once more. During 10 days we have created 8 different social campaigns to promote positive LGBT+ representation, to adress  the topical problems of the community and share knowledge.

Most of the teams have created short videos for their campaigns but there were couple of teams which have stood out with their original ideas: “ To draw attention to the lack of education in schools and knowledge among children and young people we have created a coloring book: pictures in a coloring book “Share Your Colors“ are completed with definitions of LGBTQIA+ identities and related terms. A printable version can be found on the internet and with the help of other participants we are planing to translate the definitions to Lithuanian, Greek, Spanish, Czech, and other languages.“ – shares Elena. The coloring book can be found on Facebook page “Share Your Colors – a queer coloring book“.

During the exchange participants have had the opportunity to familiarize with LGBT+ terminology, rights and oppurtunities in different countries across the Europe, as well as to work with different formats of media: recorded sound, images; have used different video and audio editing tools, and have improved their teamwork skills while working in different sized groups.

“I have participated in other youth exchange projects before so I can compare them with each other.
Everything was well organized and planned, though I was surprised by the intensity of the program. I gained new knowledge and improved my communication and media skills, learned how to work with the camera, and now I feel free not only holding it but being in front of it as well. Other participants were friendly and lovely, and i really felt connection with them. The group of team leaders did a really great job, they didn‘t spare their time and did everything to make sure that the participants would have everything they need, kept us motivated. I‘m grateful for this experience because it broadened my horizons and helped me gain more confidence.“ – Karolina.

“For the first few days I doubted whether I wanted to be here or not. But as soon as we started working on our campaigns all doubts dissipated.  I got a great opportunity and encouragment to fulfill an idea I had been developing for a long time, to gain new skills and improve old ones. Besides the productive part, I still managed to eat enough sandwiches for the rest of my life and make new friends from different countries across the Europe, so I can say that this exchange really paid off.“ – Elena.

“It was my first youth exchange project so I wasn‘t sure what to expect. To be honest, just before leaving I started panicking – after all I‘ll be spending two weeks with 40 complete strangers! As it turned out later, there was no need to panic at all. As soon as we arrive to Olde Vechte we were greeted by friendly smiles. Immediately  I felt like home and this feeling didn‘t abandon me until the last minute of the project. Although the program was quite intense (we had to create something new every day), and most of the sleeping hours were sacrificed for spending time with other participants, I barely felt tired and didn‘t even notice how the project came to an end. Didn‘t expect this experience would bring me so much joy and excitment. But it did! This project brought me so much – from the theoretical knowledge and useful tips for working with different media and creating campaigns. But most importantly it helped to reveal my certain characteristics and gain self-confidence.  It was fully useful experience during which I met many wonderful people with whom I‘ll keep in touch for sure.“ – Gabriel

“It was the second project for me. The first time I came to Olde Vechte was when I participated in the first exchange project “Active Rainbow“ in February. The fact that I wanted to go back here already speaks about great atmosphere. This time Ommen was different, more attention was paid to the development of campaigns, work with video and audio equipment, editing. However, not technical skills but communication with interesting people,  sharing experiences and ideas were the most important and rewarding part of the exchange. I am glad that I have found time to come back here and wasn‘t afraid to do, because where else you could get so much knowledge, experience and sandwches?“ – Modesta

In The Netherlands I‘ve learned that after self-growth and maturation of ideas comes the time to make changes in real time. Since the visit to Olde Vechte Foundation inspiration and mood to created haven‘t abandoned me.

I look forward to the third part of a series of projects – follow LGL news, Active Rainbow, and Olde Vechte Foundation pages and don‘t forget to participate, create, share!

Justė

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