Let’s Cooperate 2.0: The Way for an Inclusive and Sustainable Society was the second edition of a Youth Exchange organized by the association COE – Centro Orientamento Educativo within the Erasmus+ Programme with three other european partners: Las Ninas del Tul, Stichting Liberta Care and Logos Ngo.
Between the mountains and lakes, participants coming from Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy spent nine days, between the 20th to 29th of August, in COE’s Community house. The Youth Exchange’s aim was to raise awareness about sustainability and inclusion by focusing on social and environmental issues. It sought to highlight the relationship between humans and Earth, and how both should be respected and balanced, since the Earth doesn’t belong to the humans, but the humans belong to the Earth.
Different cultures and experiences met in Barzio, an Italian town surrounded by nature. In particular, COE’s Community house, with a long history of its own, added value to participants’ stay. The house, where the community of volunteers that dedicated their lives to the mission and vision of COE, provided a safe space where participants felt free to express themselves and interact with others. Duties were shared among participants, and different groups were formed to help in the preparation of meals, cleaning of the gardening and common cleaning. This way, participants gave their time to the community, and in exchange the community shared with them their life stories and experience.
Most activities took place outside, where the view of the Alps accompanied participants on a daily basis, forging a connection between them and nature. In this edition, different topics were touched on throughout the program that as a whole brought together a better understanding of international cooperation projects, human rights and Earth rights. In particular, the SDGs were presented through a workshop in order to bring consciousness on an important topic that encompasses our daily lives. COE’s project in Guatemala was introduced for the topics of disability, but what really enriched this exchange was the possibility participants had to meet a peer in a wheelchair. Seeing and sharing time with her allowed participants to understand the daily struggle people with disabilities go through, but at the same time empowered them to take action. In addition, Patrizia Saccà, an Italian paralympic table tennis champion joined the group one day to challenge participants in table tennis and teach them how yoga can also be done by people in a wheelchair.
Participant’s creativity flowed daily, and this was highlighted during the open space sessions, where they proposed their own activities to the rest of the group. Topics such as gender and sex, poetry writing and public speaking came out. During their day off, participants decided to walk in the mountains and go to Lake Lecco for a swim. At night, participants enjoyed the activities proposed by COE and its staff, ranging from listening to the community share their stories to folk dancing. In addition, participants discovered that eating vegetarian can be fun, and learned that eating healthy is actually not that hard. A lot of effort and love was put into this youth exchange by all participants and staff, which was shown on the last day of celebrations. The community and guests were surprised by the presentation of each group, but more importantly by the song created by them. They couldn’t have said it better “We all came to this world with a pair of shoes and a bag so full, but we want to bare foot, feel the grass, feel all the roots”.