The first winning tender of Bagázs Public Benefit Organization made it possible to organize a youth exchange program, named Growing by Doing within the framework of Youth in Action. Our exchange was realized between the 2nd and the 10th of March, 2012 in Hidegkút Túristaház, Mátra. It included 28 young individuals from Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Check Republic, most of them living in disadvantaged life circumstances. Voluntary work was made as the central theme of the exchange and was elaborated with the methods of Experimental Education during the week.
The main goal of the project was to strengthen social responsibility and participation among disadvantaged young people in Europe through the recognition and popularization of voluntary work. Furthermore, our aim was also to encourage young people to discover their significance and usefulness in their community and in wider society. Last but not least, we made an effort to let young people discover the beauty and the potential that voluntary work carries. The exchange provided tools and “good practice” for participants to became active in their local communities.
During the training we worked with the means of experimental learning. While actively including young people to the program, we created situations that were suitable for gaining a personal experience and for developing social competences. In addition, the project provided possibility for young people to put their experiences to practice and apply this knowledge when setting up an own voluntary project.
All together twenty-two participants and six accompanying from four countries took part in the project. Among them, there were seventeen individuals living in disadvantaged circumstances and five university students. The nomadic environment of Hidegkút Túristaház provided good bases for team building and experimental learning. In the beginning of the training participants were divided to small groups in order to work together on different household chores. For instance, it was their responsibility to heat and clean the house and to prepare food. Working in such a multi cultural environment was not always easy. Besides the cultural differences, language barriers made it even harder to cooperate. However, after overcoming these problems, a strong team was built and new relations were developed.
Additionally, the exchange program made it possible to learn from each other not only during the activities but in each and every moment of the training. Meeting and working together as equal partners with people who are although at the same age but come from totally different social and cultural milieu is not common in every day life.
The theme of voluntary work was important for everyone, however, there was a wide range of experience. Some participants have already been to Africa, some have already organized a youth camp and some take part regularly in the activities of several non-profit organizations. On the contrary, there were participants who have just got acquainted with volunteering. No matter what, at the end of the project everyone was able to describe his or her personal goals regarding future work in the local community.
At the end of the exchange participants had one and a half day for organizing an own voluntary program. At the first day, representatives of each country held a presentation for the others which was later evaluated together. At the last day, we did some maintaining works in house and collected garbage.
Building on the new experiences, we would like to enlarge our initiative. The benefits of the project are already visible, for example, since the project finished, participants from Bag are more active in the programs of Bagázs. We hope that we will meet again with the participants of the Growing by doing project and that we will get the chance to continue the work we have started at Hidegkút.