Former LGL’s EVS Volunteer Veronika Took Part in IGLYO‘s 2017 Activist Academy

Activist Academy 2017 is a first edition of five days long intensive skills-based training programme for young people who are interested in LGBTQI+ rights. It is organized by IGLYO (The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth & Student Organisation). This year the hosting organization was Lambda Jugendnetzwerk and it took place in Berlin, on the week of July, 17 to July, 21, 2017.

Activist Academy is aimed at young people who are at the very beginning of their LGBTQI+ activist journey. Former LGL’s EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer Veronika decided to apply right after she came back home to Slovakia from Lithuania. And she was accepted. „After having this unique opportunity to spend one year volunteering in non-governmental LGBTQI+ organization abroad I feel motivated to take some action being back in Slovakia. That’s why I have applied to take part of Activist Academy – to improve the skills I gained during my volunteering in LGL and learn the new ones.“ she says.

The programme of Activist Academy consisted of series of workshops on different topics usefull for young activists, all delivered by experts from leading global LGBTQI+ organizations. Matt Beard from All Out talked about online campaigning, fundraising and power of people, Valeria Santostefano delivered a workshop on community organising, Toryn Glavin from Transgender Europe brought the topic of trans* inclusion. Participants of Activist Academy could also improve their skill in the film making in the workshop led by Dominic Joyce from Dominic Joyce Film. Which workshops did Veronika like the most? „I really enjoyed the workshop on campaingining by Joel Bedos from IDAHO Committee. It was called „Communication for social change“ and we talked mostly about values, beliefs and attitudes, and it was really mindblowing! He named so many things that I have had already in my mind, but I didn’t know how to express them. The public speaking workshop with Maria Sanchez from United Nations Volunteers Programme was very valuable as well, mostly because all of us could try to deliver a short public speech according to her recommendations. And I could learn some new techniques of facilitation during the workshop with Tudor Kovacs from IGLYO who brought some new perspectives on facilitation to my mind.“

Of course the programme was not just about the workshops. Afterwards the participants could put their learning into action through a series of individual and group challenges. „We were split into small teams consisting of four people at the very beginning of the Academy, each group being led by experienced mentor. We had some team building activities on the first day, we had the group talks every evening, but the most importantly, after all these workshops we had one day full of challenges to work on. Our team had to create a three months plan for launching the gay-straight alliance in a local highschool to make it sustainable, to prepare and facilitate a short workshop on LGBT+ topic and to create a humorous video about trans* myths. There were tough moments and a lot of discussions, but overall it was fun and very enriching experience. My team members Moa from Sweden, Philipp from Switzerland and Tea from Bulgaria had a lot of great ideas and it was enjoyable to work with them.“ says Veronika.

At the end the participants were awarded for their hard work at the Grand Award Ceremony. Afterwards, one more unofficial part of the programme was still about to come – the Berlin Pride, called Christopher Street Day, was going to happen next day! Most of the participants used this unique opportunity and prolonged their stay in Berlin to take part in the Parade. „This was really crucial experience for me.“ says Veronika about her experience. „Coming from a country in the central Europe where Prides are the marches for demanding the equal rights for LGBT+ people that are still not respected, it was like a cultural shock for me to see the huge diversity and the size of the Parade in Berlin with numerous supporters waving along the way. And there were rainbow flags all around the city all week long!“

Activist Academy 2017 has brought together more than 20 young activists from all around the Europe and from Thailand. The important skills were gained, international friendships were initiated and also – the hope for better tomorrows for LGBT+ people in this world was spread. The results will be visible just in the future and you can be also a part of it. Apply for the next years Activist Academy 2018 or other IGLYO’s events and meanwhile you can do a change in your local community – maybe as a volunteer in LGL as well ;)