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First Step to Europe - Take it with us !

Program: Erasmus+, KA2 – Small scale partnerships on the field of youth Project leader: Reflections on Europe Place of action: Starachowice, Drama, Sliven, Conversano and surroundings Timeframe of the project: February 2022 – April 2023 Partners:

  • Poland – Reflections on Europe

  • Bulgaria - Academy for Active Youth

  • Italy - Mobility Opportunities Happening APS

  • Greece - Innovating Activities in Education, Tourism, Health and Interculturality


History in front of us shows how important it is to convey knowledge about the world surrounding us to the young generation. They are those who – learning about the past and knowing the current world – will create a new, clear future for Europe. Regardless of age, gender, place of residence, views or beliefs, each of them needs a little help, support or guidance on the tracks he will follow. Not everyone is aware of the opportunities and chances that lie ahead of them, so our project is designed to tell them about them. Our project does not discriminate against anyone. We believe that everyone has exactly the same opportunities to explore the world and to benefit from its well-being.

The main objective of the “FIRST STEP TO EUROPE – boosting active citizenship among youth in small cities” project is to build a strong and long-term partnership between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in the social inclusion of young people from smaller cities (thereby strengthening the potential of our organizations) and to encourage young people to invest in their local communities, to participate in non-formal education and to raise awareness of the European Union.

We planned 4 international meetings to be held in Poland, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece in the format “First Step to Europe”. Study visits are planned in each country to familiarize youth-oriented institutions and their environment. The “Youth Festival” will also be an important event. All of these activities will be filled with many inspiring intercultural workshops on European values and key EU priorities. Young people will also develop ideas that can be realized within the European Solidarity Corps. Various discussion panels on education, ecology, media and current events, as well as discussions with experts, will be held.

The project will target young people aged 15-25 This group also includes young people with fewer opportunities, especially those with learning, geographical, social, economic and cultural difficulties from small towns: Starachowice, Targovichte, Drama, Triggiano and their vicinities.

The main results of the project will be to increase the capacity of partner organizations; mutual learning, through problem-solving; exchange of experience; mutual inspiration; exchange of contacts; develop an awareness of cooperation in the context of cultural differences; induce a sense of common purpose; solidarity. The European Union, especially this year, wants to show diversity in all areas of education and self-development. It appreciates the enthusiasm for work and the cognitive curiosity of young people and wants to give them even more opportunities for self-development.


1st INTERNATIONAL MEETING – STARACHOWICE, POLAND

On March 28 – April 1, we had the pleasure of hosting our first international meeting as part of the “FIRST STEP TO EUROPE” project. It is implemented under the Erasmus+ program.

After the online preparatory meeting, we had the opportunity to start our series of meetings in Poland. We hosted 9 representatives of local NGOs: Innovating Activities in Education, Tourism, Health and Interculturality from Greece, the Academy for Active Youth from Bulgaria, and Mobility Opportunities Happening from Italy.

The beginning of the first day was devoted to a warm welcome meeting. Our organizations presented themselves and together we presented the goals of the projects. Our corporate goal was to engage young people from small towns with fewer opportunities to be more active in their hometowns.






The first day also focused on ecological workshops conducted by our partners from Italy. As a locally active NGO, they provide several types of assistance to groups of young people facing economic and social difficulties and help other associations with logistics, event organization and networking. They are organizing a number of activities: DIY workshops (zero waste, cooking class), video projections, settlement work in schools, cleaning events (by boat, canoe, paddle and on the ground), youth exchanges and training. Our youth from Primary School No. 11 had the opportunity to participate in workshops on the zero waste policy and turning old clothes into completely new things.

We spent the second day at the Starachowice City Hall, where together with the Mayor of Starachowice and the Youth City Council we held a small discussion on the social integration of young people from small towns, including people with fewer opportunities. We were wondering, how to encourage young people to stay or return to small towns, e.g. after graduation. We also talked about the history, activities and future of the Youth City Council. Our partners also presented the history of their youth activation. The Greek Association – Innovating Activities in Education, Tourism, Health and Interculturality also seeks to promote active citizenship in creating their own strategic plans for young people, creating projects, spreading ideas in all organizations, intercultural dialogue, self-development, building skills, environmental awareness and encouraging solidarity, especially among young people and vulnerable social groups. They strive to help create the next generation of leaders to strengthen social cohesion and decision-making centres in their localities.








For the first time in Starachowice, we had the opportunity to organize and run the “Europe is HERE” Youth Festival. During our festival, young people had the opportunity, to talk about ecology, civic education, media education and European values. In the presence of our international guests, we had the opportunity to exchange experiences of youth policy in other countries, and then reflect on the actions that young people can take. There was also a debate during which we discussed the future of the European Union. Throughout the festival, participants had the opportunity to try Greek, Bulgarian, Italian and Polish dishes prepared by students of Secondary School No. 2. Everything ended with a contest of knowledge about the European Union, during which the winner had a chance to win a ticket to youth workshops with our Association.

The festival was not only an extraordinary event, but also an opportunity to cooperate, develop language skills and integrate young people.


The fourth day of the project was spent in Kielce, where we met with the chairman of the Świętokrzyskie Parliament – Andrzej Prus and Veronika Kurdybacha – the chairman of the Świętokrzyskie Youth Parliament.






We visited the Center for Non-Governmental Organizations, where together with Michał Piasecki and Kamil Żuława we discussed the future of our associations. Joanna Rudawska, Karol Kaleta and Eurodesk Kielce welcomed us to the Kielce Technology Park, where we discussed the history of Technology Parks in Europe. We ended our journey at the Energy Science Center.


The last day was devoted to another series of workshops for Primary School No. 11 and Technical Secondary School No. 2 in Starachowice. Our Greek partners talked to young people about disinformation and the dangers of fake news. Thanks to their vast knowledge and experience, they implement new techniques and methods of educating to bring people together and achieve real social impact. They are very interested in finding partners and working together on programs aimed at sharing knowledge and best practices and their applications.

Meanwhile, the Academy for Active Youth from Bulgaria engaged in a discussion on civic activity and activities that young people can carry out for our city. The main goal of the Association is to create as many activities for young people as possible. Regular youth meetings and discussions on topics ranging from how to deal with difficult situations to how to be an active citizen and how to improve your community are frequent.


Ivana from Bulgaria: “I‘m glad that I had the opportunity to be part of the first meeting of the STEP project. I’m impressed by how we can make a change step by step inspiring the youngsters in the communities with which we work and that this meeting showcased some of the best practices. I enjoyed the workshops, they reminded me how at this young age we all have this genuine and clean idea that if we share and be active they can become a reality, also a great example for me is the youngest major of Starachowice made me believe that there is always a way if you’re brave enough to make a difference. As a youth worker, I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to cooperate and exchange the best practices and without our hosts from Reflection on Europe, this program and learning experience would not be possible. I’ll bring to my hometown some great ideas.”
Panagiotta from Greece: The multiple activities during the week planned and organized by the Polish organization kept us awake and motivated the active participation of young people to change the current unfortunate crisis we are going through. We look forward to more meetings and activities. Apart from Starachowice, we visited Kielce, to meet and discuss with the Youth Sejmik of Swietokrzyskie Region and after that, we visited an NGO Center in Kielce and the Technological Park of Kielce, an incubator for small businesses. Besides the events and the things scheduled as part of the program, we had a lot of free time, to walk around in the cities we visited, try the local and traditional cuisine and socialize with people of the region. Thank you very much for the hospitality and the participation of our association INNOVATING ACTIVITIES IN EDUCATION, TOURISM, HEALTH AND INTERCULTURALITY KDETYD in the program “FIRST STEP TO EUROPE – boosting active citizenship among youth in small cities” the organization Stowarzyszenie Rozprawy o Europie of Poland.
Chiara from Italy: Dziękuję – This is the word that resonates in my mind, together with another word that forms a couple that is unfortunately rare these days: Hope. Gratitude and hope, together with inspiration, amazement and admiration. a word for each day of this project, a project that has given me the opportunity to know realities that I did not know and in which I intend to immerse myself even more. Seeing boys and girls so young and so active has astonished me. their commitment and desire to improve their small reality, for themselves and for others is incredible. 4 countries, 4 associations, different in terms of themes and activities but more than similar in terms of underlying values and desire to change the world, or rather no, as someone says (to whom all credit goes for the positive things): “I didn’t want to change the world, but the people’s world”. In my humble opinion, you are succeeding great, all these associations are succeeding.

2nd INTERNATIONAL MEETING – DRAMA, GREECE

On October 5-9, we visited the beautiful town of Drama in Greece. We met there with our partners from Italy, Greece and Bulgaria for the next part of our “First Step to Europe” project.

The event was filled with many inspiring workshops and meetings. The first day we spent getting to know the city – we visited the City Hall in Drama and got to know its history and activities. We also participated in workshops integrating the group, thinking together about the advantages of being European.

The second day we spent in schools in the city conducting workshops for young people living in Drama. We talked about travel, education and our interests in which the European Union can help us. Friday evening was devoted to the “Europe is HERE” Festival, where we also exchanged good practices of youth activation. There was also a joint dance and delicious Greek refreshments.

We spent the weekend travelling and visited the Mikropolis Active Center and the Museum of Rural Tradition. We also had an amazing opportunity to visit the Aggits River Springs cave, through which the river flows as one of the few. On Sunday we visited Thessaloniki. Taking advantage of the last beautiful day, we visited the remains of the ruins of the castles as well as the garden and the monument to Alexander of Macedonia.





Hrisi from Bulgaria: Hi, I’m Hrisi. I am 18 years old and from Sliven, Bulgaria. I was recently on a project in Drama, Greece and it was amazing. I met new people from different cultures and had the opportunity to get to know some of their cultures. The project was called “First steps in Europe” and we had an activity to meet students and motivate them to be active citizens. They took us to many different places. One of the places I liked the most was the Women’s Centre, which helps schoolgirls or women settle in Drama. The organization gives them temporary accommodation until they find a job and an even better home. This encouraged me a lot, because not every woman gets into good living conditions, but this organization gives them a chance to develop. What I appreciated the most was visiting Youth Awareness Centre. There, one of the volunteers explained to us how they help youth and we played a game in which we gave our special qualities through a thread. In the end, we created a tangled chain between all the participants and came to the conclusion that always we have something to give to the people around us. It was an unforgettable adventure. Drama is an amazing city with preserved culture and values. I am grateful for the chance I had to touch Drama and the whole project.
Irini from Greece: This October I participated in the Erasmus+ Project “First step in Europe”. The opportunity was given to me by the association “INNOVATIVE ACTIVITIES IN EDUCATION, TOURISM, HEALTH AND INTERCULTURALITY, KDETYD”, which was hosted from 5 to 9 October 2022 in Drama, young people from Poland, the association Stowarzyszenie Rozprawy o Europa, from Bulgaria, the organization Academy for Active Youth, and from Italy, Mobility Opportunities Happening APS. We visited a Social Cooperative Enterprise and some nonprofit associations and got new ideas on how we can be more active in our small towns. We participated in a few workshops and a youth Festival. Through all of these happenings, we discussed many things about European Values and active citizens. We also exchanged ideas on identifying and implementing good practices and empowering people. It was an excellent opportunity for me to meet new people that are active citizens and are caring for Environment and Tradition as I am. Meeting all these excellent people and making new friends abroad is also a benefit of this project. It was a unique way to expand my horizons. My participation in this project inspired me to be a more active
Flavia from Italy: It has been a wonderful experience that gave me the chance to meet local people and people from different countries, in a small and remote town in Greece, in order to improve social activity and involvement in Drama, guided by lovely hosts and with a nice team, getting in touch with schools, organizations, and small activities, seeing the most beautiful touristic places in Drama and taste their delicious cuisine!

3rd INTERNATIONAL MEETING – SLIVEN, BULGARIA

The third meeting of the “First Step to Europe” project took part in 11-16 March visiting Bulgaria.

The trip began with a tour of the capital – Sofia and then we moved to the town of Sliven, where the main activities took place.

On the first day, we visited the Youth Cultural Center, where we met a member of the Sliven City Council and an Assistant to a Member of the European Parliament.

Then we visited the school where the youth festival and classes on fake news took place. The last activity of the day was a meeting with an activist working with young people with disabilities.

We spent Tuesday morning debating with the mayor, Stefan Radev, his deputy, Stoyan Markov, and a representative of the local Youth Centre. We talked about the needs of young people from small towns. Then we conducted workshops in one of the high schools. And the last activity was a meeting with an art gallery owner who promotes local artists.

We spent the last day of the project getting to know the local culture, visited the ruins of the medieval fortress of Tuida and conducted workshops at a sports school on social activity, and the project ended with a quiz about the EU with high school students. We spent our free time walking in the surrounding mountains.










Erica from Italy: “What does it mean to communicate? The spirit is a force that moves, that moves between people, and that does not always come by itself. We are not always aware of this. How much can a piece of the domino placed in front of many others, who follow it, do? And above all, what is needed to make the first piece move? Until it receives the push it needs, on its own, it can do nothing. And this is what this project has been: meeting the community, young people, people who may be there, standing, in the uncertainty of remaining motionless or letting themselves fall. Meet them carrying in their hands the power to give that little push that moves the first piece. And watch others fall, going forward with different steps but equal speed, until a beautiful and composed design was formed. During this project in Sliven, in addition to the others, one thing I certainly learned: every person needs encouragement, whether it is big or small. The need to know that by overcoming the boundary of life always lived and of one’s own small bubble one does not rush into a ravine but takes a step on new ground. An untrodden, unknown road. And what happens once the first step is taken? Nothing. You keep walking. And to follow a road still untrodden means to create, to act together. What is the future if not an untrodden road, an unexplored land and a design formed by what has moved previously? There is nothing to be afraid of, there is everything to have strength for: the strength to contribute. With great gratitude to all the participating associations, I wish ever better and longer progress.”
Kasia from Poland: “I really enjoyed it!!! We toured Sofia and Sliven up and down the country, I saw what the level of education is like in a small Bulgarian town and how much emphasis on English language learning is needed there, I had an awesome time with the participants (I seriously cried from laughter so many times I stopped counting), I had a chat in English, I took cool pictures, what should I needed more?”


4th INTERNATIONAL PROJECT – CONVERSANO, CAPURSO, ITALY

The last part of the series of international meetings takes us to Italy. On April 2-6, we took part in the fourth event of the “First Step to Europe” project. We started the first day of the project with a summary of the activities so far, an evaluation and discussion the next steps. Then, we went to a social cooperative @ethnic run by immigrants from Asia and Africa in Bari. The next point was @spazio13 a place of a former gymnasium transformed by the City of Bari into a creative centre for young people from the Libertà district. We met a lot of inspiring people and associations there.

On Tuesday, we visited the San Benedetto Linguistic High School in Conversano, where we had a meeting with the School’s Director and teaching staff. We discussed the level of education in our countries. Then, together with our partners, we conducted 3 workshops on European values, social activity and disinformation. Immediately after this, the “First Step to Europe” festival was held, during which a knowledge competition about the EU was held.

The first point of the next day was a visit to the city of Capurso and a meeting with Porta Futuro, Eurodesk Capurso and Raffaella Rubino – a local politician working for young people. We were impressed that such a small city offers many development opportunities for young people. Participants could also see a place, which houses both a library and a space for local non-governmental organizations. The rest of the day was spent on cultural visits to charming Italian towns – Polignano a Mare and Alberobello Thursday was the day of evaluation and farewells. Before returning to Poland, our representatives spent time in Matera, where there was a lot to see.




Rosanna from Italy: After having taken many steps in Poland, Greece and Bulgaria, finally arrived the time for taking our First Step to Europe… in Italy too. The beautiful city of Conversano, near Bari, hosted and pampered us from the 2nd till the 6th of April. During the project we had the chance to meet many different NGOs working with young people: we visited a youth hub, called Spazio13 where we met TouPlay, an organisation that uses gamification for including young people from difficult areas of the city of Bari, IncoMolfetta that offers mobility opportunities for young people and many others that give space to young minds to bloom. In Conversano we meet the young students of the Liceo San Benedetto and we learned how to recycle plastic in the CAOS Lab from one of the oldest NGOs active in the city, Venti di Scambio and we met inspired people such as the Youth Policy Assessor from the town of Capurso, who shared with us best practices of youth activation and guided us to discover spaces that after many years were given back to the local youngsters. First Step to Europe has been for me a chance to challenge myself and expand my network, but above all it has been for me a chance to meet amazing people and share lovely moments with them: I feel more inspired and empowered and willing to contribute more to activate young people with my organisation.
Stratos form Grecce: The “First step to Europe” project in Conversano, Italy took place on 2-6 April 2023. I was a participant in the project from KDETYD organization from Greece. It was obvious that everything will go great as we were familiar all to each other and couldn’t wait to meet again!MOH as a host organization was very well prepared for the project and made us familiar with the schedule from the first day. This made everyone feel comfortable and very welcomed in Conversano. We met all five days with a variety of different ngo’s. Each one separately had to give us something special. I personally was surprised by the content that each ngo was dealing with. The fact that each one had a special subject or issue to focus on was very to the point and hopeful at the same time because all organizations members was in a majority of a very young age. As the meeting in Italy was the last one for this project I strongly believe that the goal of the project achieved and the youth group of people from all countries had a very good time and gained very important experiences for the future. In conclusion I have to mention that the cooperation between us was really good and in a spirit of joy which is one of the most important things through these projects, in my point of view.

ONLINE MEETING

On April 22, an online meeting of the “First Step to Europe” project was held with all participants from Poland, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria. It was the last official event of the project.

The meeting allowed us to summarize our previous events. Each of the participants shared their reflections and thoughts. We talked about the exchange of experiences and the skills we discovered and improved in each other. There were also stories about our many cultural similarities and differences.

The event led to brainstorming for our new joint activities after the end of the project. As its name suggests, the project was only the first step, now the stage is ours – we are acting and taking further steps in Europe and for Europe.





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