Marysia says that if it were again the same rainy day when her friend called her to ask if she wanted to participate in the youth exchange project in Greystones, she would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
The youth exchange project Images of Peace took place in Greystones in Wicklow, Ireland. The participants and leaders were young people from four SCI groups: VSI Ireland, IVS GB, De Amicitia (Spain) and SCI Italy. For ten days we stayed at the Carraig Eden Centre, beautifully situated on the sea coast. Workshops about peace and human rights, discussions, art workshops and an art project about human needs, cultural evenings… Those were the main activities we undertook. Apart from all of those activities we all had time just to get to know each other in different situations such as preparing food, walking along the beach, playing cards or just sitting on the stairs and talking, talking, talking… How surprisingly is that you can make friends with people within ten days! On our last circle meeting everyone admitted that they did not want to leave Greystones and they would miss each other. Some people started crying…
It is really difficult to name particular things I gained or learnt in Greystones. Anyway, I must say that this experience made my eyes and my mind even more open for other people and all the differences between us. I met asylum seekers whose lives seemed to be really difficult and I know that although they weren’t that much into talking about it. In this peaceful and friendly atmosphere they were dancing, laughing and having fun with the others. Seeing all this happiness you wouldn’t say that those people’s lives are rather sad and they face a lot of everyday difficulties. This made me realised that youth exchange is not only about workshops and art projects, but it’s also about building a home where everyone feels safe, needed, supported and respected by others. It’s also about building friendships which I believe will last longer that just those ten days.
It’s true that most of the time we spent within our group but also we gave something to the local community and other people during two outside events. First of those was a Sunday picnic in community garden in Greystones. We prepared some food for lunch in our kitchen and took it to the garden to share with other people. Apart from eating we were dancing, singing, playing guitar, chatting and having good time. That was also an opportunity to meet locals and see how they participate in the community by planting organic vegetables, caring about the garden and just spending Sunday afternoon together.
Another event we participated in was Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire, where next to all those stands and tents with food, clothes, bags and other stuff from around the world we presented our images of peace – the sandwich boards, presenting human rights and basic needs, we made during art workshops in Greystones. Besides, when some of us got closer to the live music stage we showed to the people that our multicultural team knows very well how to have fun and simply enjoy life. People sitting on the grass first were starring at us when we started dancing but then some of them joined us in the joy of life. And I think there’s something deeper in that than just having fun. It’s about promoting respect and tolerance. It was a kind of manifesto: no matter if you’re black or white, no matter where you live and from which social and cultural background you come from, no matter what your religious and political views are, we can have a great time together and become friends because we have our minds and eyes open for another human being.
Marysia (age 24, Poland / Scotland)