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Building Bridges

Between July 22nd and August 5th our volunteers were in the Slovak Republic in a Youth Exchange where they explored different creative approaches, from music to body expression, as tools for increasing active citizenship

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes and 48 seconds

Between July 22nd and August 5th our volunteers João Antunes, Nuno Afonso, Cátia Lima, Beşir Akinci and Liane Carvalho participated in a Youth Exchange in the village of Prenčov, a small rural town located in the mountains of the Banská Bystrica region in the Slovak Republic. Organized by ART KRUH, “Building Bridges” focused on the communal values of the European Union of sharing of experiences, skills, and good practices, with a particular emphasis on the use of creative approaches, such as art, music and food. We challenged our resident storyteller to explore a little bit of their journey and the result was this enriching interview. Please, do read ahead.

The Sleeping Dragon
When you live in the same place for too long, your reality becomes limited. I know every object in my house and everything behind every door and inside every box. It comes a time when new places run out and what you experience are just small variations of what you already know” - Liane, the dragonslayer. “I wanted to try out the discomfort zone” - Beşir, the fire-water dancing dragon. “To learn, more or less, but learn. Everything is experience” - João, the alavarium-dragonslayer. “I applied to this YE because it was a new challenge and a unique experience” - Cátia, the green-dreamer. “My biggest motivation was the sense of novelty and adventure” - Nuno, the newborn painter-dragon.

They set out to Prenčov as five volunteers from Agora Aveiro who had momentarily misplaced their plane tickets, but as the end neared, they became a team of dragonslayers.

The Awaken Dragon
Their routine changed - they would wake up near nature; after breakfast, they would work together in order to keep the space where they were living in clean and tidy; during the day, they would carry out non-formal education activities; and at night, they would gather around a bonfire with young adults from Italy, Croatia, France, Estonia, Slovakia and Austria to relax and share some of their personal views and experiences.

The feeling of leaving the hostel and seeing a village surrounded by mountains and trees is amazing. A few minutes on foot and you can find the highest point of Prenčov, a hill that allows you to see the whole village. They call it “Golden Hill” because when the sun sets, the golden tones prevail. The green grass contrasts with the blue skies and that immersive golden lighting sets in… I guess there are not enough words, you’d have to be there to witness such a moment” - Nuno

The first time a deer passed by, just casually on the road, it didn’t seem real... It was a very peaceful and introspective place.” - Cátia

During 13 days they were proven it is possible to survive on a vegetarian diet, to use solar energy to heat the showering water, and wash the dishes using only water and vinegar. ART KRUH trainers also shared with our volunteers their knowledge regarding permaculture and day-to-day composting systems. This association promotes workshops for the community based on these themes, as well as other artistic activities.
During the YE, teams from each country prepared workshops for the other participants. From percussion and body expression, teamwork, problem-solving, music, dance, leadership, and public speaking, there were many opportunities to explore soft skills. In between activities, there was also time to swim in the famous lakes of Banská Štiavnica (a nearby town with the classification of UNESCO World Heritage Site), play sports and share cultures.

The Estonian team was the most artistic one; hence, their workshops focused particularly on dancing and freedom of expression. Well, I don’t like to dance myself because it makes me feel weird, but in that moment with those people, I had a sense of freedom that can hardly be explained” – Nuno

I call it “to put the body in the process”, in other words, to be mindful of what our bodies can do. I think we don’t know how to move, so we limit ourselves to the little we know, and in doing so we end up not exploring the body” – Beşir “We have such ill-conceived ideas on what other people are going to think about us - that somehow we have to behave in a specific manner - that sometimes people deny themselves their right for self-expression” – Liane

The experience culminated with the preparation of a local event organized by the whole group – there were traditional music and dances from each country, fire performances, and a packed audience.

The Flying Dragon
After this YE, my desire to travel has greatly increased, but in a much more intimate way – whenever possible, I want to meet the people from the places I go to” – Cátia

I came back with the intention of exploring the artistic field more, and a desire to focus on the experience” – Liane

Now I will contribute to the design of an YE here in Portugal. I had initially planned to apply to a research fellowship when I finished my degree, but truth be told, it is challenging to study since you were 6 years old. For that reason, doing a GAP year has been crossing my mind. My horizons were always limited to certain places because I was never adventurous enough to leave. I learned in Prenčov that according to the Dragon Dreaming philosophy, first there is the dream” – Nuno

Jéssica Jacinto