LGL Volunteers Participated in a Youth Exchange Programme in the Netherlands

Volunteers of the National LGBT* rights organization LGL share their experience in participating in a youth exchange programme “InterACTive Colors“ in the Netherlands.

I come to Ommen for the second time. Everything looks just as I remember but at the same time a bit different. New faces, a new building have sprang in the yard of Olde Vechte Foundation and there are a lot more courage and confidence in me. At least the wheater is still the same – ever-changing and unpredictable. “InterACTive Colors“ – the last out of three exchanges 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, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia and Czech Republic.

The last transfer at Zwolle, we barely find empty seats at the train full of people, and finally we move towards Ommen. I have been looking forward for the moment I‘ll be able to return there. There are two guys sitting next to us, speaking czech I‘ve guessed… I‘ve felt a strange feeling that destination of their journey might be the same as ours. Indeed! One of them mentions Olde Vechte so without any further ado I introduce myself and offer to show the way to Olde Vechte. Heavy rain welcomes us as we step off the train so we quickly march towards our destination. 10 minutes after and here it is three-story white building: Olde Vechte – our home for the next 10 days.

We are greeted by EVS volunteer and escorted to the rooms. We leave our backpacks upstairs and rush to the cozy to meet other participants where the party is already going on: music, chat, laughter. The first and the last peacfull evening before the start of the intense and dynamic program. We start with self-development exercises by exploring our inner strengths and weaknesses, after that a trip to Amsterdam where we learn all about IHLIA‘s work and their international archive and documentation of LGBTQIA+ spectrum. As we are back, we continue our program by learning diferences between  formal, non-formal education, and informal learning. The project is going to the end so it‘s time to work on our main goal – creation of  a new platform and making ten educational videos about LGBTQIA+ spectrum. It‘s hard to believe that we‘ve managed to do all of that in less than 3 days! Check or blog, official Facebook page or YouTube channel to see what we‘ve created.

To be honest, some of the participants have felt anxious and worried that we won‘t be able to do everything in time. There have been a number of misunderstandings, a few panic attacks… One team has lost all the footage. Nevertheless, we‘ve managed and did more than we‘ve planned.  And the final result is impressive! All of the videos are so diverse – from colorful, bright and simple educational videos for children to honest, sincere confessions on camera about coming out to yourself and those around; from sarcastic mockery of prevailing heternorms in society to music video about pronouns.

During the exchange participants have had the opportunity to familiarize with LGBTQIA+ terminology, to work with different formats of media, to grow and develop, also improve their teamwork skills while working in different sized groups.

”After going back from Netherlands I feel stronger. I have more determination and self-confidence, courage to face challenges and changes. The biggest impact was made because of workshops, where we learned strategies of how to react to problems and solve them, make conclusions, set new goals and work for them. As I was going to this exchange my goal was to spend as much time as I can on self-reflection. And after 1st day of the program I realized that in order to understand yourself, you have to ask for support from the others. I had a lot of questions that I couldn’t answer myself. Interacting with other participants from all different European countries I could resolve my issues and I understood that they were universal for all the human beings. These people inspired me to create, work on our common vision. Learning from each other let us all be an important part of the result. I feel so thankful this wonderful experience.” – Rutile

”I went to this project without any expectations for it. That’s why I couldn’t  get too impressed by it or dissapointed. But it actually changed my life at some point. It wasn’t easy to work everyday surrounded by almost half of a hundred people but being around them helped me to understand many things about myself and I even felt free. I’ve learned many practical aspects towards media and the most important part is that I’ve learned that I’m actually able to gather people together. It was really unexpected for me. I’ve met many amazing people. I had an opportunity to be in a different  enviroment. An enviroment  in which everyone is accepted for who they are. I understood that at home I’m so used to  many unpleasant things, starting from new sidewalks desingned for the blind  that suddenly end towards the old sidewalks that are filled with holes ,weather that makes your face hurt, and homophobic slurs at family gatherings. I understood that here I have developed some sort of a system for my behaviour and it’s oppresing me. Well, I went to different place and instantly felt the contrast when I took my first step outside the airport but I understood that whining would be unnecessary and it would be better if I took action (obviously I don’t know yet what kind of action) but I expanded my knowledge about LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Also I had a chance  meet other representatives of the spectrum  that I rarely meet here. So I came back, gave some strong arguments based on new information and personal experience to the people I’ve met back here and I think they felt the same freedom that I’ve felt because they got a chance to know about subjects that they couldn’t understand or were afraid of them or didn’t event know about.“ – Rita.

“I had quite some previous experience with exchange projects, also including projects in Olde Vechte, but InterACTive Colors was soemthing completely different and out of my comfort zone. There was diversity in people, in the program, in group dynamics (and, of course, in the weather ;)) and we had plenty of opportunities to grow as indibiduals and community members. The whole group of participants was quite divided into national teams, so it was interesting to experience community building from the very bootom of the pyramid. It was pulsating, raw, at time streinous and challenging. I am thankful for this possibility to grow.“ – Juste.

As for me, this project have been mutable, full of challenges. There were moments when I wanted to cur up into a ball, hide from all the bustle, there were also moments when I wanted to dance and sing with happiness. During this projects I‘ve gained invaluable experience, I‘ve learned to listen, met some wonderful and inspiring people, madly and totally unexpectedly fell in love, and most importantly I‘ve started to understand myself better. It‘s hard to leave and go back to reality but at the same time I‘m eager to share the knowledge I‘ve gained with my friends and acquaintances here in Lithuania.