International Youth Exchange
Awake, Aware, Active:
A youth exchange project promoting mindfulness, self-development and active citizenship among young people from three countries, including Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Republic of North Macedonia.
The fast-paced world we live in allows us little time to reflect on how to live life in a way that is both meaningful and sustainable. What is more, we can live in the world without being part of the world, attending to our personal worries, struggles, and joys without an awareness of what bigger changes are happening around us, in our region and around the world. In an interrelated world, failing to understand the local effects of global actions, as well as the global effects of local action, hurts our collective ability to affect change both at the individual and societal level. Whereas urbanization and new technologies create vast opportunities for economic and technological development, they come along with often invisible threats to ecological sustainability, as well as our personal and social health and well-being.
The key issues our project wants to address include:
– The need to slow down and look inward as an alternative to technological overstimulation and everyday stress
– The need to practice mindfulness and improve our awareness skills to be able to consciously and clearly understand our physical and emotional needs, as well as the needs of our communities and environment
– The need to rediscover nature as a source of calm, peace and sustainable livelihoods
– The need to become mindful about our consumption of water, meat, plastics, as well as our waste management in order to minimize their negative impact on communities and the environment and find sustainable alternatives
– The need to understand how the effects of urban migration can be addressed to support the livelihoods of people in both rural and urban areas, and to minimize social and environmental catastrophes
– The need to take individual and collective action to ensure social change and environmental sustainability.
Our project, “Awake, Aware & Active: unveiling the leader within,” aims to guide participants through an immersive, in the-nature exploration of their personal and communal “roots,” and to facilitate a deep experiential learning process whereby participants will reflect on their relationship to the world and their ability to affect change in their communities. Specifically, our project will introduce participants to a variety of mindfulness and self-awareness practices, thus, strengthening young people’s abilities for self-understanding, self-awareness, and awareness of their relationships with the sociocultural context and the natural environment.
Mindfulness refers to a “state of being” and “a natural human capacity, which involves observing, participating and accepting each of life’s moments from a state of equilibrium or loving kindness.” (Albrecht et al., 2012) Whereas scholars and practitioners differ in their definitions of the term, mindfulness is perceived as a specific, attainable habit of “being” with prescribed characteristics, activities and ways of conducting oneself (Albrecht et al., 2012). As a form of phenomenological practice, rooted in ancient meditation techniques present in various religions, the purpose of mindfulness is to help individuals perceive reality more clearly, understand themselves and enjoy more fulfilling lives (Albrecht et al., 2012).
In addition to supporting young people to develop and practice new skills and habits related to mindfulness and self-awareness, we will promote the idea of active citizenship and change-making through diverse forms of leadership. To that end, participants will be encouraged to devise realistic action plans in order to live more meaningful, connected and sustainable lives, as well as share their new knowledge and skills within their communities.
The main objectives of the youth exchange are to:
▼ create a safe space to learn, explore and grow together
▼ explore the concepts of mindfulness and self-awareness – what are they, why do we need them, and how to cultivate them?
▼ share tools and methods to develop our “immunity” towards stress and external pressures
▼explore the role of nature in regards to our well-being, and our role in regards to nature’s protection
▼ reflect on, explore, and practice different ways of being a leader
▼ create actionable plans how to individually and collectively share the principles and practices learnt, and take active leadership positions with respect to the issues we care about
The project will achieve its objectives through a diverse set of formal and informal education tools, including thematic discussions, guided meditation and awareness exercises, participant-led workshops, community service visits at a rural farm, dance and art workshops, outdoor activities and public performances, as well as sharing of best practices related to water consumption, waste management, and reducing our environmental footprint. The youth exchange will be held in a small village which will amplify participants’ exposure to the impact of urban flight on rural areas, while also inviting them to consider the benefits of living closer to nature. As a result, we hope that participants will become more aware of the ways nature affects us, and our role in protecting it.
What will the youth exchange participants learn and experience?
The experiential program is organized under 3 themes:
▼ learn mindfulness and self-awareness strategies, including guided meditation improvisational dance, arts and crafts, yoga, and Katie Baron’s “The Work” method.
▼explore and get attuned to your emotions and physical sensations
▼ integrate difficult past experiences
▼ consciously set goals and priorities for your development
▼navigate interpersonal conflicts with calm and clarity
▼ consider the environmental and social impact of the negligent consumption of water, meat, plastics, etc.
▼ learn how to minimize your ecological footprint
▼ examine your position in society, as well as your belonging to various social groups
▼reflect on the privileges or disadvantages that people from different backgrounds have
▼build your leadership skill-set by learning how to identify a problem, brainstorm solutions, pitch your ideas, find partners and resources, and plan successful projects.
19 – 27 July 2020,
SolidarityWorks Center for Learning, Sharing, and Cultural Exchange
If you are interested in joining the project and are a resident of one of the following countries, don’t hesitate to e-mail us or our partners for more information.
The project is funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union