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Imagine, Improvise, Integrate!

Creative writing and storytelling are powerful tools to address issues of stereotyping, discrimination, and hate speech. It helps people express anger, helplessness, exclusion and similar feelings in a constructive way. These creative methods are focused on speaking up, raising your voice about injustice, racism, sexism, etc., and hate speech that is usually used against marginalized groups. And it is just as much about listening and hearing the issues of other youth from different backgrounds. For this reason the project “Imagine, Improvise, Integrate” was brought into being, to spread the word about how creativity can be used as a tool towards integration and against ostracism.

From November 25th to December 3rd, about 30 youth workers from eight countries came together in Struga, Macedonia to take part in the training course “Empathy through creativity” as part of the project “Imagine, Improvise, Integrate”. The training course was designed by Asociacija “Aidinti karta” from Lithuania and organized in cooperation with the FAYO Foundation from the UK, which coordinated the activities. Volunteers Centre Skopje was the host and implementer of the project that was funded by the Erasmus+ program.

The training course empowered the participating youth workers and educators to motivate and lead youth by using informal, non-formal, and artistic methods such as improvisation, theatre, storytelling, and creative writing to fight discrimination and promote integration. During the sessions of the training course, the youth workers have experienced different concepts of human personality, methods of creative writing, and techniques of improvisation, and they will be encouraged to explore these tools further on and implement them in their work with young people in their communities.

Furthermore, also the Erasmus+ program was integrated in the activities of the training course. The participants got informed about the opportunities of writing their own projects within the Erasmus+ framework and thus spread those good practises and creative approaches outside of the youth workers’ local circle. At the end of the Erasmus+ session, the participants wrote their own project ideas and the presentation of those promising hopefully future projects marked the end of this successful training course in Struga.

Besides all the professional knowledge that the youth workers gained within this eventful week, something else enriches their lives from now on, new friendships. Those friendships between people with different cultural and religious background, friendships that don’t know any borders, are the small representation of what this project is aiming for in the big picture and tells the message: we are friends, not enemies, and we all belong to the human family. Understandably, after spending such an intense and joyful time together, saying goodbye was very hard, but luckily this was only the first part of the project. The second part will be the training course “Out of the zone” and will take place in London, UK one year after the first mobility. So after all it was not an “Adieu!”, but a “See you again next year!” and everybody can be curious what will happen and which impact those young people have made in their societies.

Christopher Machold