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