Youth Exchange “In Your Shoes” in Varna, Bulgaria

From 20th to 27th October in Varna, Association For You hosted the international Youth Exchange “In Your Shoes” funded by Erasmus + program. In total there were 24 participants with different abilities, their accompanying persons and group leaders coming from 4 different countries – Bulgaria, Romania, Netherlands and Poland. This exchange was organised and coordinated by the Association For You.

Main Goals of the Youth Exchange

This youth exchange was a logical consequence of the needs of youngsters with difficulties we work with. The main aim of the project was socialisation on an international level, introduction to other cultures and making new friends, as well as the willingness of the young people to be hosts of such an international event in Varna. The goal was to promote the social inclusion of youngsters with different abilities, to meet other cultures in order to feel included in a bigger, European community, to develop solidarity and tolerance between the young through methods of art.

What Happened During This Project?

Participants during the postcard-making workshop.

For 6 days, the participants with their attendants and leaders lived, worked and created together. They got to know different traditions and cultures, shared their experience about their countries and more precisely how they are handling the problems of people with disabilities through group games and workshops. Every country presented a different workshop – Bulgaria organised textile painting on shirts, Romania – application with natural materials, Poland – decoration of postcards, and the Netherlands organised dance workshop and a flashmob. Hence, the national groups were challenged to manage the organisation of their workshops, present them to the other youngsters and make sure that everyone is actively included in the realisation of the activity. Furthermore, every country organised a national dinner where the participants presented their traditional cuisine, culture, music and dances.

The program included various themes and activities for intercultural exchange and exchange of experience and interests through games. For example, one of the activities was a city rally including the 24 participants from the exchange and 25 more youngsters – guests of the francophone organisation – Alliance Françaises Varna. Together they completed some educational and fun tasks in order to get familiar with Varna’s landmarks and the local culture. They took a lot of pictures and videos in famous places around the city. Another part of the program was the visit of a local restaurant where the participants tried some traditional Bulgarian dishes, and in the free night, the Bulgarian group took the others in a local bar and participated in a Beer Pong competition where they got to the semi-finals.

The Final Event

26th of October there was an event organized in the alternative space Hale 3 where representatives of local NGOs were invited to meet the participants and learn about the aims of the exchange. The flashmob organised by Netherland’s group took place at a very busy square, which awakened the interest of the local people.

At the end of the project, all of the participants shared that they became one big family and the exchange of interests, experience and culture, as well as making new friends has been successful for them!