„That workshops were the main reason I chose to participate in this one year long Solidarity Corps project in which I am today.“

After just 3 weeks in the office, came August and with it quite opportunity to put my newly acquired skills to practice. I participated in two very diverse projects.

The first one was the Youth Exchange between Stuttgart and one of its many twin cities: Lodz located in Poland, a place where I come from. The topic was “Anger – helplessness or impulse”. Its first part took place in March this year. During this time me and a group of other queer people, came to Stuttgart. The idea of the exchange was to reframe the anger that participants feel as minority group.  Because of that, during the workshops we learned to express anger and frustration, through dancing and writing. It was my first time in Germany. I left the workshops with new friends and experiences, full of hope and a feeling I have to come back. That workshops were the main reason I chose to participate in this one year long Solidarity Corps project in which I am today.

The second part of the workshops took place in August. This time people living in Stuttgart came to Poland. Signing up for this one year long exchange I was certain, that I would not be able to participate in, but thanks to the cooperation between IHS (organization responsible for the project) and Stadtjugendring, I was able to join. We focused mostly on art and self-reflection. We worked with diverse materials and techniques. Some people painted, some did collages, and some created sculptures. I get to break some old plates and create an art piece out of them. The result was my visual representation of what I think is an integral part of anger, the place where this emotion actually comes from – heartbreak and everything connected to it, including disappointment and sadness. What is maybe more important, not only I did got a chance to be a participant, I was also able to use the knowledge I acquired in the office, to lead the workshops on language animation.

The other project was quite different. It was an Evangelical summer camp for children that took place in outskirts of Stuttgart. Before arriving there, I learned about Youth Participation, Youth leadership trainings and prep seminars.  

In theory I knew that youth participation depends on young volunteers, people up to the age of 27 and younger. Nevertheless, the whole time I was there I was surprised how much experience young people have and how willing they are to engage with children.

Both workshops had in common one thing – people who voluntarily use and share their knowledge and expertise in particular area. I could see people my age, being very professional, leading workshops, and organizing everything.

This experience showed me that Youth Participation can come in quite a huge variety, and therefore appeal to diverse group of people. This is especially important for me, a queer person coming from Poland, who faced the consequences of immersive hate the Polish Church is directing towards LGBTQA+ community.

In the past, particularly in high school, I was forced to choose between my values and identity, and participating in certain activities. Most options of helping required being a part of the Catholic Church and believing in God. I also struggled with finding volunteering opportunities in my hometown. There was no organization that would help me. In Germany the situation is quite different and the right to diversity in Youth Work is even required by law.

Everyone can participate in a way that suits them the most. Experiencing this is a really eye opening experience that can show you a new perspective and all the new possibilities that await you.