Learning by participating and participating by learning
First of all, and taking into account several opinions and experiences from different youngsters, it’s appropriate to participate in projects and programs of a short length, such as the youth exchanges and international work camps. These kind of programs offer the possibility of meeting people and their traditions to a great group of youngsters whose origins are very different from each other’s. These programs we are talking about also have a great range of themes to deal with; music, archaeology, environment, politics, culture… are some of the most recurrent ones. In general terms, we could say the youngsters have the opportunity of participating by giving their own knowledge and traditions.
Why do we recommend to participate in some program like these ones before? The youth exchanges are normally from 6 to 21 days long and are designed for those youngsters (aged 13-21), who, maybe, these experiences are their first one abroad or simply out their home towns. As result, we can say that these kind of opportunities are perfect in order to start doing intercultural learning activities.
The so-called work camps are normally as long as the former program we were talking about in the paragraph above, and they offer the youngsters the possibility of strengthening their intercultural learning, as well as, the personal development and the reinforcement of the democratic values altogether with their personal work as volunteers during, at least, fifteen days. This allows to develop, in a voluntary and selfless way, a social function and a series of complementary activities to it; being the main objective the creation of a project as a tool to encourage social values such as tolerance, solidarity, participation and intercultural respect.
On the other hand, the European Voluntary Service offers the opportunity of learning by helping others, or helping by learning, so to speak, by means of the development and fulfilment of the activities developed by the hosting organization, during periods of time from 2 to 12 months.
The youngsters have the opportunity of living a unique personal experience in a different country thanks to the EVS, in addition they can achieve very useful abilities or skills for the social and working integration, for instance; group work skills, participation, to develop personal initiative and sense of the responsibility, solidarity, interpersonal competences, confidence and security, international relationships… thus, as the period the volunteers spend is longer than in other projects, the EVS allows the volunteers’ both personal and professional integration in the country they are doing their projects. Then, we could say that they (again the volunteers) are able to learn, know and live the plurality and reality of the new place where they are living.
Nevertheless, the youngsters who may decide to participate in such an experience (multilateral youth exchange, work camps, EVS…) will live in direct contact with the national citizens, which would allow them to develop and improve their faculties and abilities. Moreover, the volunteers would be able to develop their own projects and enlarge their formation.
Written by Ana J. García
Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Villa del Río