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Koolitusprojekt: Dealing with the Past – Sharing Experiences, Developing Tools (Gruusias)

Our project, training course “Dealing with the Past – Sharing Experiences, Developing Tools”, was funded by Estonian National Agency for Youth in Action Programme and was organised during July 5-13, 2014, in Kobuleti, Georgia, gathering 24 participants from 8 different countries: Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Belarus.

The project idea came from another project, as year before our project, the European Intercultural Forum (Germany) organized an international seminar on dealing with past in Armenia which received a very good feedback from its participants and already before many partners communicated their interested to participate in the project. However, during the implementation of the seminar they organizers, specifically the facilitators, recognized that the knowledge about reconciliation work and its role in youth work would need some reinforcement.

Therefore, after having discussed the theme of reconciliation and dealing with the past again with the partners, they decided to offer a training course dedicated to basic concepts of reconciliation in peace building processes. Later on, Centro Picasso (Estonia) became involved in this discussion and since Centro Picasso already planned to realize a similar project before, together with APD an agreement was made to combine both ideas and to realize a common project with a limited group of partners to ensure that a group of committed participants could be educated on the theme dealing with the past in order to set the starting point of further cooperation work on the topic.

Thus the lead organizations contacted partners of whom they knew they would be highly interested not only in a training course on dealing with the past but also in developing common future activities such as grass-root youth-led initiatives on national remembrances traditions and critical reflection on authoritarian past and their heritages in the contemporary societies young people live in. Together with the hosting organization Academy for Peace and Development a project team was quickly established consisting of five team members: project coordinator (Estonia), local project manager (Georgia), two trainers (Germany, Georgia), and one rapporteur (Estonia). The team coordinated the project taking care about all communication process with the partners, the participants and the donor, arranging all practical and logistical arrangements in Georgia (hotel, transport, meetings etc.), facilitating the daily programme of the training course and ensuring sound financial and narrative documentation of the entire project.

The theme of the project was conflict transformation, specifically the concept of reconciliation and dealing with the conflict past and the role of the young people in such peace building process. Therefore the aim of the project was to make youth worker more familiar with the concept of reconciliation and dealing with the past, enhancing community building processes and peace building initiatives in post-violent and conflict environment.

The objectives of the project were:

  1. To introduce approaches to peace-building and place reconciliation in this theoretical framework
  2. To develop an understanding for the power of reconciliation work in post-violent conflict areas and community conflicts
  3. To review practises and approaches to reconciliation and dealing with the past
  4. To create community and cross-national projects aimed at community cohesion and reconciling conflicting groups

The project was organized using methodology of non-formal education, including interactive, trainee oriented methods prioritizing the learning needs of the participants of the project, while creating safe and relaxed working environment. Implemented activities included: team-building activities, sessions on working on common working rules, formulating individual and collective learning goals and expectations from the project, intercultural evening for presenting their own cultures, group work, group discussions, topical presentations from the trainers, multimedia tools, study visits to different cities, meeting with local NGOs and governmental missions such as EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, daily reflection/feedback groups to receive an ongoing evaluation of the activities and ensure possible improvements already within the project, final evaluation.

Please find project blog here.

Feedback from some participants:

Paula, Estonia

As this was my first youth project, unfortunately, I have nothing to compare it with. I really liked the project and would recommend all young people to participate in such things. The topic of this project was interesting yet a bit complicated but the games we played really helped to understand the process of peace building. We got to meet different people who we could share our thoughts with and maybe in the future make a project of our own. Also it was great to learn about Georgian history and culture.

Armas, Estonia

It was definitely the best decision I had made to participate in this project “Dealing with the past – Sharing experiences and developing tools“ in Georgia. This project week has been one of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve ever had. The intensive courses and teamwork exercises have given me a better understanding about the real world. Cooperating with all other participants made me to develop myself, to know so many lovely people and made several life-long friends. And thanks to the program, that will last forever with all the fantastic memories.

Lucia, Italy

After the project in Georgia, in September I started the Master degree in International Relations, which was already planned. For some free credits within my curriculum I chose Georgian Language and Armenian culture and Literature. The aim of my studies is to write a thesis on Georgian and Armenian woman. In order to achieve the goal I also applied for the Erasmus Mundus project at the Tbilisi State University, which will enable me to deepen my acknowledge about Georgia in international relations (and its link with Europe) and give me the chance to do some researches in the field of woman. My plan is the outcome of the project held in Kobuleti, Georgia.

Ilektra, Greece

My general impression is that dealing with the past and peace building is an extremely important issue nowadays, and it was incredible how much knowledge we gained in only a few days. I also loved how this knowledge combined a substantial academic part with experiential learning. The schedule of activities seemed really well planned, and by that I mean that we never got bored or too tired. The training also had a fun element, and that facilitating not only the learning process but also the teambuilding.

I wanted to spread the word about the project and did what I could through social media, but I also think there is much more that can be done in this direction. One thing that I also discussed at the project was the possibility of turning this training into a MOOC at an online educational platform like Coursera or Iversity, I am thinking of this idea and discussing it with my colleagues. Last but not least, the intercultural learning gained by this training was extremely valuable!

Ketevan, Georgia

First of all, thank you very much that you organize such projects. I am glad that I was a participant. During the project we talked about the important facts from the history of different countries that changed their Development. We discussed the relations between Georgia and Russia, as in the past as for the future. This day was special for me because I’m Georgian, and I want Georgia to be given the opportunity to develop freely, without the intervention of any other state. We discussed the issue of violence, which are in different forms, Human Rights, about equality. We fulfilled the group works, to understand each other better and exchange thoughts. I met very good people, who had a great impression on me and they changed me for better. About the trainers, woooooow their experience and knowledge is beyond compare, it was a pleasure to work with them. Everything was organized at the highest level. I Hope I will have the opportunity to be part of such a professional team

Panagiota, Greece

As a person who has participated in many training programs, I found this one extremely well organized. The trainers were very well trained themselves on the topic and very knowledgeable. What I and the other participants gained from this program is knowledge on conflict management and reconciliation processes on an international as well as on a personal level. We were informed about the political situation in Georgia, the facts about Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the relatively recent conflicts, and we broadened our knowledge on the history of the countries that participated in the program. The “games” that were used during the training were very well chosen for the topic and provided learning through experiencing and feeling.

In this training course I met active young people with a strong interest on the topic of conflict transformation and peace building and I learned from their experiences. We are still in touch with most of them and there is a possibility of future collaboration.

On a more personal level, the program helped me to deal with situations that arise in everyday life. As a teacher of the Greek language to immigrants (and sometimes it happens to have people from conflicting countries in the same group) and having lived in a post-conflict country (Cyprus), I find myself using approaches/techniques I learned during the training. Finally, one thing pending is the idea our group developed about a theatrical play for high-school students that will help them gain understanding and be more tolerant, open and respectful to other cultures, which we haven’t yet materialized but we are working on and I’m confident we will one day soon.

Giorgi, Georgia

Frankly speaking this project period was one of the best and productive time I’ve ever had. “Dealing with the past” – first of all I was interested in Tittle of this project. It changed my views and attitudes about conflict in Abkhazia and about all conflicts in general. Now I got that the main thing is to realize your mistakes and behavior in the past and present and try to correct it for the better future.   This is the basics of reconciliation and not permanent proving of your truth (even in the case that you are true in real), to say better now I suppose that there are no true or wrong sides in conflict when people die. I liked the methods of giving information and ideas in this project – games, group works… to said shortly I liked the most, this indirect ways of giving information. And about participants (including organizations and leaders) they were all amazing, really. I loved that everyone were so different and cool in their own style and friendly. And this combination of teaching methods, topics and people in project made me feel great and made one of the best weeks of my life.

Maude, Germany

I loved the methods and did use some of them again in the trainings I lead. I also had a training course about sport, health and human rights, where I managed to adapt some workshops too, though my target groups are usually youngsters with fewer opportunities and I needed to make the exercises easier.

Our TC inspired me and confirmed my will to continue as a freelance trainer once my contract ends, therefore I’m attending more courses to develop my skills.

During our project we had an idea of the project about Chernobyl catastrophe, I am creating an association in Czech Republic with my colleagues and are planning to develop this project idea further and implement it someday soon, with the partners I made at our project in Kobuleti.

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