The seminar started on Thursday 12th March and went through to Sunday, and, for me, it was an educational and nurturing experience. Representing the UK, I took Phoenix summer camp as my project to pitch the rest of the participants; the diversity of the projects was great, but they all had one thing in common, the spirit of Don Bosco. It was really interesting and enlightening to see the amount of opportunities which are there for me as a Salesian volunteer.
The first day saw some self-analysis of the projects we had brought, in addition to those of others. This took place through an 'Exchange Market', where we pitched our ideas to everyone else. After considering all of the activities, we were challenged to look for the 'ideal project'. We were encouraged to 'dream' in order to come up with great ideas for projects which would have a discernible international focus.
On the second day we learnt much more about Erasmus+ and the opportunities it affords people living in its participating countries. Basically speaking, Erasmus+ is a conglomeration of all different kinds of funding available for new projects, which were previously available through all manner of Erasmus schemes to do with sport and formal / non-formal education. We looked in depth at some of the different types of projects Erasmus+ currently funds, including European Voluntary Service (EVS), Group EVS, Youth Exchanges and Job-Shadowing, as well as how the application process works.
During the evening, we explored the beautiful city of Brussels and were given the chance to be tourists for a while. This was obviously done in a distinctly DBYN-style with a set of challenges planted in key places around the city to take on.
The next day we held another Exchange Market where we were able to pitch new ideas with a view to getting other partner organisations onside and interested in taking part in planning, running and hosting all sorts of new projects. I found this really exciting and inspiring – especially when ideas came out and immediately sparked interest and excitement.
We concluded our final day with an Intercultural Evening which saw us play games and learn all about each other's countries and cultures. It was a fantastic and interesting evening with everybody not just really celebrating what we had done over the past few days, but also celebrating our differences in culture and how we are united in our work and shared vision.
Notably, there was also a meeting of the DBYN Executive Board running concurrently to the seminar; the presence of those who have helped build and develop DBYN over the past ten or so years added an extra interesting dimension to our experience and their company was appreciated!
Step Forward has sparked an interest in me which will continue to grow; I learned a lot about the processes behind a finished project: ideas and conception, planning, logistics and, perhaps above all, the importance of retaining great enthusiasm. I can't wait to put this into action and start my work in the UK and throughout Europe.