International opportunity: a reality in your hands!

“The world is your oyster” My old English teacher, a huge admirer of idioms, made us repeat at class. I wasn’t sure how I felt about oysters, I was already a vegetarian back then, but the message of world open and available to me made a lasting effect. An effect of slight nausea, a mix of excitement blended with worry of how to start broadening my world outside the middle sized town I lived in.

Let me break down some assumptions I had,  about what does an international person, citizen of the world, look like. Brave, rich and born fluent with all the over 6000 languages of the world.

I didn’t fit any of the above. For someone who nearly failed English exams at school and was scared to ride a bike, to spend past 8 years abroad, was not something I saw coming.

What you need is an opportunity to get you started;  any kind will do. For me it was a year as an Au Pair, followed by backpacking around for another two. That was made possible by using networks like Helpx and Workaway, shuffling from an odd job to another depending where the bus tickets were cheap. Already I had kicked the need to be rich and brave out of the Eurolines discount nighbuss window.

To tackle the language I ended up doing whole degree in Scotland and landing a job with charities abroad. My jokes were a bit silly for several years but eventually I realised my thoughts and expressions had turned into English. All  experiences sort accidentally followed after another while my confidence and hunger for new experiences grew.

How to get started then? In our last post Lisa discussed the meaning of volunteering; nowadays  you can do it in so many ways. For example, have you heard about the Volunteer Solidarity Corps (ex EVS)?
Maybe your international opportunity is joining a local English activity. Did you know that in one of our “How to Survive through The Finnish Winter Project” (coffee for the person who makes a good short nickname for that project)- event , we had people from 13 different countries here in Turku. That truly is an international opportunity at your doorstep. Another opportunity to ask questions and hear what you could do with us is the information evening “Let’s get international” we are having in October.

When it comes for the reasons why and what I have gained, I will disappoint you and not give an answer. I risk being a cliche and say: it has shaped the person I now am. I did definitely fall out of my comfort zone, with a loud tiny bit painful bang. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I challenge you to give it a go because you won’t have any idea where these opportunities will take you.

Ronja, Project Assistant

The work of the volunteer

Everyone of us has more or less an idea of how a modern society is built. Its basic structure includes a political system, the production and industrial sector, the public services (for example, health care and education), services known as the tertiary sector, as well as the media and culture section.

Well, perhaps I’m simplifying reality too much but this is more or less what you can find in a city in our contemporary world.

However, there is something important missing on my list, something you cannot count and usually doesn’t make any news in the mainstream media. I’m referring to all those organizations, associations, and institutions that work relentlessly for making this world a better place and rely on voluntary work, on the goodwill of ordinary people who decide to dedicate their free time to something meaningful to them.

Our society proliferates with this kind of initiative and we can really find what better suits our interests and beliefs. If you are into nature, you can easily find organizations founded with the aim to preserve the natural environment or a specific species. If you believe and want to work for a fairer world, there are plenty of movements working for the advancement of human rights at a local or global scale. If you share an interest in arts and culture, think of how many places or groups you can already find in a relatively small city like Turku.

All what I have described has to do with our society’s added value: what makes our community a place worth of living, something as important as an efficient economic system with good job opportunities. This is the reason why influential organizations such as the Red Cross, WWF, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and so on, are still active after so many years – thanks to the dedication of countless people who have shared their precious time and energy without a financial reward.

The “work of the volunteer” is truly respectful and admirable: a personal choice that makes this world a better place to live. Each of us has a different motivation to start an experience as a volunteer, but the results are always positive and beneficial to society – no matter how big or small, known or not known, direct or indirect is the commitment. You definitely make a difference either by giving your time for an outside walk with dogs from a nearby kennel or by spending two months of your life at a refugee camp in the South of the world.

 The amount of time and the type of tasks you can offer doesn’t matter much, because your initiative always carries a potential to create a benefic circuit.

The benefic circuit of the volunteer job in 5 steps.

It’s a known fact that being a volunteer is not beneficial only to the target society or a single organization. It’s beneficial to the person himself/herself.

1) DOING GOOD IS GOOD (ALWAYS!)

It’s proven and guaranteed that doing good is good for our inner self. It makes us feel happier and rewarded! Because if you feel useful for someone in this world your self-esteem will surely bolster.

2) TRY TO VOLUNTEER FOR SOMETHING THAT IS AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE TO YOUR DREAM JOB.

A voluntary job can create lots of opportunities for the volunteer, especially if you are young and without significant job experiences. It can surely be a way of developing your skills and improve your capabilities to work. Choose an organization/field/institution that is closer to your ideals and interests and consider your voluntary work as a hands-on experience for a future job position. There are many organizations that welcome and allow volunteers to be very independent to contribute with new projects and ideas. Jump on and build up your own experience.

3) NEW IN TOWN? PLENTY OF PLACES WHERE TO FIND NEW FRIENDS.

Arriving in a new place, starting from zero, sometimes with no job or a place to study can be really challenging. An organization that welcomes volunteers can be a good way of making network and new friends. People who join a volunteer group carry out the activities during their free time, and don’t feel the pressure of the official duties. For sure, they are more likely to welcome and be closer to newcomers than in an official working place.

4) OPPORTUNITY OF GAINING CREDITS AND INTERNSHIP PLACES.

Nowadays, many organizations and associations receive school or university students by offering them the opportunity to do an internship or a short-term project. If something like this is required by your school or university programme, start looking at the list of the organizations in your city. They will most likely have a place for you!

5) OPEN YOUR VIEW TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD

Usually associations and organizations that involved volunteers are international even if they just work on a local level. The people involved are often foreigners or with a quite international background and in some they offer the opportunity of experiences abroad.

IN STEPEUROPE YOU CAN HAVE ALL THESE THINGS AT THE SAME TIME!

Well, maybe I’m not the most impartial person to write this but that’s true: StepEurope offers anyone the possibility (1) to be involved as an active citizen and leave a mark in their community through various activities, from the more cultural and informative to the ones with a focus on leisure. Have a look at our range of activities here: http://www.stepeurope.org/local-activities/

You can actively implement your own ideas and project, (2) learning by doing and improving a large range of skills: organizing, leading, marketing, creating, working in team, managing, recruiting new people, establishing contact with partners. Becoming a volunteer is easy: http://www.stepeurope.org/new-get-involved/ (3) If you’re new in Turku, we’re one of the NGOs where to start from: our target group is young adults and over, mainly foreigners, who are willing to meet each other and hang out together. If you’re still struggling with the Finnish language, don’t worry! Our activities and events are mainly in English! Check out our webpage: http://www.stepeurope.org/a/

StepEurope offers the opportunity for students (4) from the University and Vocational School to do their internship with us. If you’re interested, don’t hesitate to contact us: info@stepeurope.org. We also offer the possibility for a work-try out period, while you can be with us for a longer term.

Lastly, but not less important, StepEurope is an international organization (5) with the aim of promoting the international mobility abroad for young people through training, study trips, youth exchanges, (very soon) EVS all around Europe.

Are you ready for leaving your mark? We and many other different organizations and associations are waiting for your essential contribution.

Be active. Be involved. Become volunteer.

Lisa

Gardening Project 2018

This year was the second time that I participated in the Gardening Project organized by StepEurope.

The idea was to gather a group of people interested in community gardening and provide them with a place and everything else needed for sustainable gardening in accordance with the principles of permaculture. We were allocated a plot in the lovely Elävän Kulttuurin Koroinen, provided with organic soil and seeds, and even gardening gloves with a first-aid kit always at hand, together with a unique opportunity to work together for a common goal: a plentiful harvest and an enriching learning experience.

Compared with the last year, this time we were more people participating in the project, which resulted in more workforce to actually do the hard labour, such as soil preparation, planting, weed maintenance, watering, and harvesting. This year we also had more beds and more plants to care for. We planted the following: carrots, potatoes, red onions, radish, beans, broad beans, coriander, parsley, pumpkin, zucchini, chard, and some flowers too.

My personal reasons for joining this project were quite simple: I wanted to learn more about sustainable gardening, permaculture and its principles, and of course connect with nature and like-minded people while learning new skills in general. I was very pleased to witness that our group was made of incredibly lovely people from all over the world. The team spirit flourished and we did a really good job in almost perfect co-operation (group members even traded kefir in the group, wow!)  Everybody was flexible and understanding of other team members’ working schedules, personal responsibilities or holidays. I feel that everyone did their best. It surely was more than enough, and I hope that the following picture is a proof of that:

Our project culminated in the loveliest Harvest Party. That is when we got to enjoy the fruits of our hard labour. Our senses were pampered with delicious, healthy and colorful vegetarian dishes, which we cooked together in a relaxed and warm atmosphere. The menu consisted of a soup called minestrone, an Italian dish gnocchi, a fresh salad with feta, roasted vegetables, and a Portuguese dish called ervilhas com ovos escalfados (peas and eggs) with a pizza and some homemade bread. Yummy!

The project was completely successful, regardless of the fact that some of the produce was lost due to extreme heat waves during the summer.

I want to express my utmost gratitude to everyone who made our Gardening Project possible! I am eagerly looking forward to community gardening with old and new friends next year again!

With love,

Ekaterina

Poetry with StepEurope

It is not easy to ask people to start writing about something around you, to extract the pearls of thoughts and the oysters of feelings. It is not easy to let people go with the flow to the horizons of expression.

In our activity, there has been something important for conducting all that. It is the trust; preparing the solid ground to start building the palace of poetry, the fertile soil that the flourishing entails, the love and trust between the arrivals into the poetry-walking, they’re no longer arrivals, they became part of StepEurope.

The speech of the hearts littered like the lit snow on Turku, on the thriving grass flanking the river, on the bestowed church leading to era of endless peace, on the giant castle stands like bouncer guarding the town. We walked against the directions, against the machine of modernism jangling loud, to the slight whisper of swaying trees, the flowers swarmed with bees, the abode of life-making filmed by poetry lens.

We wrote at the fountain washing out the dust of boredom, at the entrance of the old library in Turku, to the water that flows like melodies, as though gushes out of the orifices of the flute. The melody that would escort us as we step into the galaxy of knowledge, orbiting a mass of beauty called poetry and fiction, where no time or two parallel lines are reported to be found; it swallows your soul into a black hole.

We inhaled the fragrance of the old papers mingled with the inks flowing in the veins of the books.

We exhaled the stress and the false days, and took our time to deeply dive.We found a new poet hovering like a dove, alighted on the grove of poetry and love.

We wandered along the way to the Bar Ö, planning that the next time, we will climb into the scene, reading the speech of soul of our poetry walk!

Written by Ahmed Zaidan

New students, welcome to Turku!!!

Every year, at the end of August, cities all over Finland witness a steady influx of fresh, eager faces from all over the world ready to begin their academic adventure. Finland has fast become a favourite destination for studies, thanks to its high quality of education. Our own city Turku, also gets its share of new students. Besides excellent universities, Turku has a lot to offer in terms of activities.

For new students, here’s some good-to-know information:

  • The Aura river, that runs in Turku, is a pretty sight to behold. All along the river, you can find various shops, restaurants and pubs. Or, you can simply take a walk to breathe in the beautiful nature around it. Tip: Don’t forget to walk across the award-winning “Kirjastosilta”!

  • If you are someone who loves to experience culture and arts, you can get yourself a Culture card (Kultturi Kortti). It’s free of charge and entitles you to benefits such as free museum tour, ticket discounts to the theatre, and more! For more info: https://www.turku.fi/en/culturecard

  • Fleamarkets second-hand shops are a treasure trove of affordable items. Be sure to visit one of them! http://www.visitturku.fi/en/node/109950

  • The city’s transport provider, Föli, offers the popular waterbus or “vesibussi”, that takes you to the scenic island of Ruissalo. There, you can spend time at the beautiful botanical garden, or just relax at the beach. https://www.foli.fi/en/node/4614/

  • The market square (Kauppatori) in Turku is a hotspot for stalls, exhibitions and the produce market. While you’re there, don’t forget to take a sneak peek at the archaeological excavation!

The old market square also offers its share of exhibitions, shops and stalls. it’s also where the famous Turku Medieval Market is held. http://en.keskiaikaisetmarkkinat.fi/

  • Youth Organizations: One of the best ways to meet like-minded people, network, and also be part of cultural, social and volunteer activities. There is StepEurope, an active organization for young people where they can volunteer, or just be part of their many social events. StepEurope often  collaborates with bigger organization, like the Finnish Red Cross

For further information on events, places to visit or just more information on the city and its services, you can check https://www.turku.fi/en or http://www.visitturku.fi/en

Welcome new students, and have a wonderful year ahead!

Deepika

Great memories a month before – End of the Season Party 2018

In the beginning of July  about 20 young adults from 11 nationalities gathered together to enjoy the Finnish summer in the middle of the forest of Kaarina. The Vuolahti camping was/is a perfect place for having a bigger group of people: five small cottages besides the main cottage and bigger one nearby the sea are providing sleeping possibility at least for 30 people. The venue is beautiful and just next to the sea with sauna <3

Evening started with get to know each other games: name and country, pillow competition and bingo. About half of the participants were new faces. I was so glad to see that how fast everyone took each other to the group. We were one right away!  

“I couldn’t imagine that it would have been so easy to join this lovely group of people as a new comer. I will definitely recommend your actions to my friends!” – One of the best feedbacks you can get !!!

The quiz about StepEurope ry was a real competition. Elias was leading the first rounds – I guess he was really confident of his victory 😀 But in the end everything turned upside down because of a small mistake of him and Ianthe was the WINNER. Next we wanted to find out the participants strengths (heart), wishes (hands) and ideas for future (foot). This interactive workshop was organized by our student intern. So many good ideas came up, which we will definitely take into account in the future!

After the “official” part we had tasty food, thanks to our own chef, Eddy. He made rice, chicken with tomato sauce, vegetables, salad and veg beefs. We had a long long table full of talking, laughs and in the end full tummies of delicious food. After eating was time to have some “serious” group games: search for goods in the forest, a logic game “what is the biggest number you can have by moving two sticks once”, a speed game “who fills the platter fastest”, accuracy test and quiz about countries. The winners, the selfie team, got backpacks with chocolate, stickers and some other small-goods.

In the evening we enjoyed music from all around the world, sauna and talks about life.

Participants were really happy next morning, while having breakfast. They were laughing about the funny coincidences from day before. After this nice experience I started my summer holidays with a big smile on my face! Thank you all <3

Now, with the new energy, we are planning and preparing the autumn season 2018! We have already some dates and plans set up. You may find those from our monthly letter (you may order the letter to your email from here scroll down).

Welcome to all the events! Everything is free of charge and open for everyone! 🙂

Hugs,

Ronja – Project coordinator

World Refugee Day 20.6.2018

An old Italian beautiful song: “walker looking for the peace at the sunset, you will find it at the end of the road”. In this particular time in, which one part of the humanity is escaping from war and misery, and the second part is erecting more and more high fences against the first ones, I ask myself: do the walkers, mentioned in the song, really want to be walkers and flee away from their countries? How we, as human beings and inhabitants of this planet, have the duty to be peacemakers in our daily life and be actively involved in the building process of a better life condition for everybody.

The 20th of June we celebrated the World Refugee Day, StepEurope was a co-organizer of a beautiful and participated event together with We see you and the Siirtolaisuus Instituutti. The program was rich and interesting: many different actors took part in sharing their knowledge and experiences.

After the opening words from the Director of the Institute of Migration, Ahmad Hosseini and Ali Reza Heidari from Afghanistan told, in an impressive Finnish (at least for me!), their experience in Finland and Weseeyou campaign. They both are refugees and activists and are showing their commitment and passion to produce an impact in the Finnish policies concerning the asylum seeking process. It is admirable to see how these two men, after passing through the difficulties of seeking the asylum, now look behind towards whom is still waiting in the fear of a rejection, and put their efforts to make a change.

The floor was next given to Pasi Saukkonen, the most important Finnish research in term of immigration and integration. In his speech he showed us the integration process of migrants and refugees from a scientific point of view, pointing out and confuting the cliches that politicians and ordinary people might have in light of datas and deep researches.

The program continued with our panel discussion: “Enriching Integration”. Ronja Kankare, Ahmed Zaidan, Bahaulddin Rawi and Abolfazl Ibrahimi were the panelists that put into the table their opinions and daily life experiences in order to looking at the integration in a new and positive way: enriching it. We focused on the point of looking at the positive side and actions that both newcomers and locals should practice for making our society more fair and better. Of course there are difficulties and discrimination but also the experience of hospitality, opened doors, opportunities and the attitude of “keeping it positive”. These are a wonderful proof that we are moving on the right path, the ones that could enrich the present and build the future integration.

Our project coordinator presented StepEurope as a way, in Turku, to offer both to foreigners and locals a possibility of a sincere and spontaneous meeting among different people, and a platform for being active citizens and leaving our own prints in this society.  

The event ended downstair with the last chance of watching the excellent and touching photo exhibition “Mosul: story of hope”, and the recitation of Ahmed Zaidan’s poem, “Poet who survived”.

There is a say: “if you were born luckier than other, it is better to build a long table than higher fences”. We are living on the lucky side of our contemporary history, our duty is to make this earth a better place where everybody have the right to live: each of us is called to play its role and to build a longer table, according to his/her possibilities.

It was important for me being there, personally and as part of StepEurope: listening and supporting those people who are the walkers of the song, to whom I wish peace and hope of feeling at home, even after such a long and perilous journey.

Lisa

Poetry Walk

Poetry walk, is an outdoor activity aims to bring people together and co work through poetry writing. The idea is how to extract the trove feeling of the place, and utilizing the power of imagination to simulate the things. Nature and buildings, or a boat lurching in the river.. what may capture our attention!

It’s a way to probe ourselves as new writers, and to meditate calmly to exploring maiden horizons in us through being fusioned with our surroundings.

Turku Cathedral, the great monument in Turku, was the first landmark what the participants were asked to write about. “What’s behind the door” the door of the cathedral that could lead to the crypts of the history, to the centuries standing like giants, surrounding our presence.

This is a way to summon the aroma of the past via poetry. To project various perspectives revolving around one place. It is an attempt to create a one joint brain, and one joint heart in bid of mitigating the differences and creating a better understanding. We succeeded to emerging what we think and feel about Turku cathedral.

To complete the image, and to follow the rhythm of the city, we had to descend to “Aura”. We ignited our senses to addressing the beautiful tree standing by the river. We went through it, and squeezed the feeling of it. Nothing is overlooked, because poetry is the art of diving into the small details, to forming up the broader image. Aura that passes slowly like a folk song or a tale, bringing the news and narratives of the farms and meadows to the towns, when it passes through them.

The poetry walk enabled us to facilitate new talents, by bringing them to the mainstream. “Turku Open Mic” event was penetrated by us singing our poems that we wrote in our two poetry walks. This is how StepEurope would always be a vital part of what’s happening in Turku in many instances.

In addition to that, we’ve already agreed on conducting another Poetry Walk on August 16th (more information from the FB event), we have talked about “Turku Market Square” as a theme for our forthcoming poetry walk. The place that thrives with diversity and the beauty of the city. For our poetry walk, you don’t need to be a professional writer, because the idea is to bring people together for creating a good communication with other participants via writing.

-Ahmed

Place of Hope – Asha Centre

Asha is a sanskrit word and means “hope”. This is the deep meaning and the philosophy behind the bright and gorgeous place that host us during our week training in the UK. The Asha Centre is an educational centre and its aim is to promote individual and social change for young adults, offering training and other similar experiences, based on the holistic education.

The venue is in a magnificent park in the middle of the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Dining room, kitchen, offices and library are located in an old renovated Georgian house and few other cottages are used for the accommodation of the guests. Everywhere around the big garden there are other, beautiful and cozy constructions and places: the “Peace Pavilion”, used for the training session, an ecolodge, an hobbit house, a pond and streams, a labyrinth, the biodynamic vegetable garden, from where comes most of the vegetables we had in our meals, and the peace grove, where representants of the world’s faiths planted trees as a sign of peace. Walking along the park is such a peaceful and relaxing experience: we did blindfolded for one activity, just hearing the sound of the water, touching the grass, the flowers and many different statues and symbols of religions and philosophies that you can chance upon along your path.  

 

Everything is in harmony with the ideal and the nature there: the people working or volunteering, the accommodation and the food, the sustainable choices they made for the plumbing system and the material of the buildings. It seemed that also us, coming from outside for just a few days, we could experience the change and the peace in ourselves.

And it was exactly what happened, we felt inundated of that glow, as Deborah, one of the Finnish delegators, felt in her soul.

Here you can read her experience from her own words.

Lisa

Safe Haven

I’m searching for my own safe haven, I’ve been searching for so long, for a place to feel like im at home a real home, a place to be myself, a place where I belong and feel safe, I searched everywhere and I ended up just where I began and then I realized my safe haven doesn’t have to be a place, no your safe haven doesn’t need to be a place, it can be anything or anyone.

I met a girl and asked her what’s your safe haven? And she said when she’s in the arms of her mother, when she is embraced by the sweet smell of a home cooked meal, when she is surrounded by her mom’s inexpensive perfume she feels safe.

And I realized all that time i was searching for a safe place when all Ineeded was the feeling of being safe, the people who made me safe andonce you find that you’ll find your safe haven.

The Asha Centre

O,my god i never imagined that a place like the Asha Centre exists In this universe, the first word that i uttered was PARADISE my safe haven. It is truly a place where you could experience truly being yourself and connecting to your inner voice and experience the beauty by appreciating the nature with the wonderful beings at the ASHA CENTRE. .

Its a wonderful life time experience that helped me to rebuild my personality traits, growth and intellectual development.The people\team and environment make it a real world of beauty and love. It promotes love and togetherness through their caring and sharing programs.

Last but not the least, I am grateful to the Asha centre for the rest of my life that provided me the opportunity to find my  Safe Haven that was once lost. My attitude of gratitude for all the members at the Asha Centre is highly commendable and life everlasting.

Hope the people who are in search of real peace and love could experience this wonderful place at least once in their life time for the rest of their life.

For me its everything its a healing place, its a home\shelter its a worshiping place its a recreational place its a world of true joy and happiness.

I would love spend the rest of my life at the Asha Centre and contribute my life to this Haven.

Love, Debra

Memorable experience at Asha

StepEurope ry sent four young adults to the training Europe’s Refugee Crises – the Role of Youth to Asha Centre, Forest of Dean, UK. The training was related  to the current situation in the world: the wars, revolutions and armed conflicts. Mainly the focus was in the refugees and asylum seekers coming to Europe. The goal was self-development and self-conscious in order to face and engage positively with the challenges back home by using non-formal methods. 

The training was carried out in a concise way of understanding the problem from the source and changing the views and ways of one’s self path towards a positive ways. Generally, The whole session was divided in three stages.

The first day was all about discovering the beautiful Asha center, the nature around it and getting to know the training participants with different interesting activities and games. Then we plunged right into the introduction part by getting familiar with the terminologies and legal aspects. Afterwards we continued by analyzing the root causes of the refugee crisis by identifying which countries were sources of refugees and which countries were most affected.

The second phase was introspective one, mainly focusing in building empathy. A storytelling session was held to help us to reflect ourselves in relation to the characters and situations in the story. Participants were then given the chance to select the most related part of the story with themselves and act it in a small group. On the next day we had activities that helped us in trust and confidence building within one another.

The third phase dealt with getting involved in different levels of solving the crisis. It was presented by “The Great Turning” wheel (a theory by Joanna Macy) which demonstrated different stages of involvement in the crisis: the individual one,  the structural level (lobbying in influencing policies), and the frontline level (holding the actions). We had the opportunity to hear from several experts presenting and sharing experiences during the whole course of the training.

-Amin

When it comes to practicalities going to England was really effortless. A big part of stress free departure for me was a fact that as an EU citizen I did not need a visa. Two members of our team needed one, so I guess for them it might have been more challenging. For me planning the journey from Turku to Forest of Dean was as easy as going downtown with a city bus. In the info pack we received by email all the transportation options and distances were explained really well. It made choosing the best route simpler.

Downside of booking the tickets was that each member of the team have done it individually. Even though we preliminary agreed on some transportation choices we ended up on different planes and buses. But we all made it. And I guess that’s the main point. We had to keep all the receipts as well as tickets and present them to organisers in order to receive reimbursement for the journey costs. Even though I was a bit worried in the beginning about not losing anything, the reimbursement process after arrival was absolutely painless.

I hope that was not the last time I booked my journey to the Asha Centre. Because that place is definitely worth coming back to.

-Emilia

Many different and interesting activities were planned for us during our permanence at Asha. The centre itself offers an amazing opportunity to spend time in harmony with the nature, walking around its blooming garden, through paths hidden into the vegetation and along streams and small waterfalls. Placed all around the garden there are statues and symbols of the most known religions and philosophies, there is also an Eco lodge, perfectly silent, where some of the participants meditated together or alone, especially in the early morning. To me the best attraction was a natural well sited in the heart of the Forest of Dean, just few minutes walking from the centre. Many of us liked to spend their lunch break dipping into its cold and regenerating waters.

Mostly of our free time was of course in the evening and I personally think that we had a good balance between planned evening programme, although with relaxing and cheerful activities, and totally free time, in which gathering came up spontaneously for dancing, deep conversations, bonfire, or whatever else we wanted. The trainers organized for us a movie night and a singing night with a natural voice choir director who made all of us singing together with emotion and enthusiasm.

Lastly, but not less important, we spent our free day at the Wye Valley River Festival, a local summer festival along one of the most beautiful river in England: enjoying music, performances, games, local food and drinks, and after the sunset, a torchlight procession and a spectacular firework show. We came back to the centre a bit tired and chilled but during that day we had the chance to get much closer one another in a cheerful and relaxing atmosphere.

We know that the people who join this kind of events are usually active and interesting, full of knowledge and experiences to share. This time at the Asha Centre wasn’t an exception, but more than exceptional was the atmosphere among us, that day by day we all built.

Due to the type of the programme, that focused mainly on us as individuals, on our personal emotions and involvement in the topic, it has been requiring to have an high level of participation and cooperation, of responsibility and respect towards the others, their stories and the information shared in the group. Since the very beginning I felt I was surrendered by amazing people, ready to know each other and be friendly in the funny and relaxing moments, and at the same time serious and deep when it was required. All of us wanted to be part in, to share what we had, to be attentive and welcoming with each others. From their side, our three trainers created the condition for a cozy and safe atmosphere, allowing everybody to talk and share, with any judgement or limitation, and any discussion or small group work went in the direction of listening and hospitality.

The main factor that, from my point of view, contributed to create such environment was that the majority of the participants were displaced people, coming from other countries from the one of origin or the second generation of immigrant parents. This made our participation more rich and dynamic and our personal and emotional engagement in the activities and in the relationships more fascinating and intense.

-Lisa

A separate text about the beautiful venue coming soon, stay tuned!!