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How to start ESC in communities?

Between December 12-17 we gathered at Sieben Linden to attend an Erasmus+ training course about the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) program.

When 28 people from 11 different countries come together anything can happen. 

Snowy afternoon walks around Sieben Linden, inspiring and open-hearted people, dedicated and experienced facilitators, sauna and the cool down dips in the nearby frozen pond, balanced daily learning flows, colorful and healthy vegan and vegetarian food. Which brought up many feelings and emotions like gratitude, appreciation, inspiration, excitement, joy, fun and encouragement amongst others. 

Imagine having all these experiences while being funded by the European Union. Yes, it’s possible and our story is here to prove it !

Not everything was seen through rose-colored glasses though. While debating a world issue during the lunch break, no solution was coming up, what came up instead was a compost toilet tour, also known as “shit tour”. Which was odorless. What a relief that brought!

Despite the fatigue, sadness and sometimes overwhelming socialization between the participants it was totally worth it.

The purpose of this training is to provide information, support and networking opportunities for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) that are considering leading, hosting and sending young volunteers or want to expand their volunteering offerings. Our sessions were highly interactive, supported by 3 experienced facilitators who were flexible and willingly adapted the schedule to attend the needs that arose during the training. We began by sharing our expectations, fears and super powers before diving into more ESC bureaucratic aspects such as the program terminology, project designing and budgeting. Every NGO had the opportunity to present itself and share what they are doing and their future projects. 

In addition to the technical aspects of this training, the opportunity to inquire and integrate the learnings through smaller and larger group sessions was rewarding in itself. The icing on the cake were the sharing circles, moments of silence, reflection and “walk and talk”.

One might wonder, what about the cultural differences? And there were plenty! They came through in every laughter with each fun misunderstanding and abundant diversity of opinions. We realized early on that we were in the same situation that our future ESC volunteers were gonna find themselves when arriving in a foreign country, living together, sharing spaces, meals and, most of all, life related experiences. This cocktail could be harmful if misused or enriching if mixed by well intended individuals with fresh ideas, open minds and ongoing feedback circles. As it turned out to be.

This is our story and it can also be yours…Check it out at https://youth.europa.eu/solidarity_en

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