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Project: Youth Work – a Path to Peaceful Societies

The training “Youth Work – a Path to Peaceful Societies” was carried out in a nice cozy city Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria and lasted for a full week. On the arrival day, all the participants gathered for a dinner in a homely comfortable hotel in the old ethnic district in Blagoevgrad called Varosha. After that, those who still had enough energy for the city exploration gathered in a small group and joined a wee night tour around Blagoevgrad center. That was a significant bonding element for the participants of the training since the next day people already knew each other and smoothly entered ice-breaking activities that were held the next day.

The first actual day of the training was majorly focused on team-building activities and getting to know each other. Learning about one another is a crucial element of any training as the participants need to build trust within a training community; that gives a better foundation for the team-building and also allows participants to share their emotions and opinions freely. Thus, our participants joined their teams for a Treasure Hunt around Blagoevgrad and after dinner, we all gathered together for an Intercultural Night, where all our training members presented their countries and national food.

The next day targeted such topic as peace and non-violent movements as well as conflict analyses workshops that participants did in small groups. Since the second session day was an intro to peace and conflict management, the following day was keeping on the previous discussions and focused on mapping the conflicts and understanding non-violent movements. During these sessions, our participants had a great opportunity to share their knowledge on the subject, their previous youth work experience, and also exchanged their opinions, which was quite helpful in future youth work after training.

When studying intensively, individuals need a certain break in order to unwind and process all the gained information. Understanding that, we organized a full-day trip to beautiful Rila monastery with its marvelous architecture, captivating landscapes, and mysterious caves. That was a full recharge of batteries as all the training members had a chance to unite with nature and enjoy their picnic with other fellow participants.

Our fifth day had a Forum Theater as a session activity that proved to be the most loved by our participants so far. Our trainees were divided into smaller groups and had to present a social issue with an indicated oppressor and the oppressed, and the audience was able to stand up, interrupt the play and change the scenario. Such activity is important in showing spectators that social change is more possible than they may think of.

As we try to keep the right balance between physical and mental activity, we designated the second half of the day to self-learning, where our participants had a chance to choose between 2 to 4 learning courses which they took online.

The next day kicked off with an NGO Fair, where our participants were presented with the tools for peace-building, human rights, education, and anti-hate speech. One of our trainees took a stage and shared his work on the Peacebuilding and Anti-hate Speech that he and his team have implemented in Ukraine and Spain. Moreover, many of the other trainees contributed to common learning by sharing their materials and examples on the topic. The evening was crowned with a farewell Bulgarian Night, where all of the participants could experience true Bulgarian culture through music, danced and cuisine.

The next day was a closing session, and we distributed Youth Pass certificates to all of our participants, shared the words of gratitude and exchanged our contacts to be in touch. It was a melancholic day as we all have bonded throughout the training week and became a big international family. Nevertheless, we will continue our training projects and hopefully, we will see the familiar faces again!