WFWP Albania/Italy,Youth Exchange Project,12-21 Apr 2014, Part 1

June 24, 2014

 wonderful youth project in cooperation with WFWP -“Beauty in Variety”, Youth Cultural Exchange Project, April 12th-21st 2014, Tirana, Albania

The project “Beauty in Variety” was co-sponsored by Youth in Action Program and FFWPU Albania, and organized by Albanian FFWPU with a strong support of WFWP, in cooperation with UPF Kosovo and Macedonia, WFWP Italy (Bergamo chapter), and WAIT-UK.
This project was designed one year ago, and we were happy that it was accepted and sponsored in biggest part by Youth in Action (European Community). In fact the partecipants payed only 30% of the plane tickets, all the other expences were covered. The main objective was to provide character education through action and sharimg culture, history, food, traditional clothes and different customs representing the nations, where participants came from, which were: Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Italy and United Kingdom. 

Most of the participants didn’t know each other and this was the first challenge of the project. Their age varied from 16 to 27 (with some elder group leaders and staff) and they came from different backgrounds, some of them being FFWPU members, and most who were not familiar with this organization and its activities. There existed also some difficulties especially between participants from Kosovo and Macedonia, which do not have good relationship as countries; and the concepts that some European countries have about Albanian people. Most of the participants didn’t know much about Macedonia. 

The program consisted mostly on building intercultural dialogue and understanding through presentations on history and culture of participating nations through power points, movies, sampling traditional food, dance and songs. Everyone was invited to join in songs and dances from other countries. These presentations were prepared previously and presented by our guests. For many of them it was a good challenge, as they had to overcome fear of public speaking, develop their creativity, develop English skills, etc. Participants were divided during the project into five international teams, in which they held discussion and activity sessions. These teams were very instrumental in bringing about interaction across borders. Everyone was also involved in cleaning and washing dishes, what for some of them was also a new experience of service. We also introduced to them through short lectures goals and visions of the organizations involved in the project, such as the topics of good cooperation, conflict resolution, value of service etc. 

The culmination of the project was a cultural show, prepared by the whole group, with songs and dances representing all participating countries for a school close to our Training Center, for children from 11-15 years old. There were around 110 children and 10 teachers who joined, and at the end of the show a few school children performed drama and poetry as well. A very nice atmosphere was created, and the event was concluded with a folk Albanian dance, which involved the audience. 

The participants also had a chance to visit the families in the area, with the goal of inviting them to the cultural show prepared for them the next day, what allowed them to experience the Albanian hospitality. We also visited Tirana and Kruja’s museums and spent some time in these cities, where they could learn more about Albanian tradition and history.

The project was concluded with a preparation of documentaries, with the use of photos and videos taken during the week. This work was also done in international groups, and resulted in very creative, meaningful and attractive presentations, which recalled good memories, gave food for thought and brought a lot of laughter. (You can find all the videos following the links at the end of this report)

One of the highlights was a very positive response by the media. During the week of activities, we participated in three TV interviews, two of them live, where we spoke about the goals and experiences of the project. One TV station visited the center and filmed the cultural show for the Mullet school, which was later broadcasted during the evening live talk show, with our participation, which lasted well over an hour. The program focused mainly on discussing various cultural traditions, and presenting our project as an effort to overcome existing divisions. Eight of us were in the studio, and for sure participants from abroad will definitely remember this special experience! 

Everybody was very happy to be part of the project and be able to build new friendships, going beyond barriers of national, racial and religious differences. One of the keys to success was that everyone was able to follow the schedule and participate actively in all elements of the program, which helped to create a protected and positive atmosphere.

By Francesca Cirelli, coordinator of Italian group, representing WFWP-Italy

Please see Part 2 for more photos, links and reflections and some reflections of the participants

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