Stanislav, youth worker in Active Youth organization from Lithuania, tell us about the power of non-formal education and the reason why the Erasmus Plus programme doesn’t arrive to all young in Europe.
Stanislav started to participate in Erasmus Plus projects in 2010 (when the program was still called Youth in Action) when the local organization where he was volunteering offered him the opportunity to take part in a youth exchange in Belarus. He signed up and now….
Q: 10 year participating in Erasmus Plus programme. Before you were a beneficiary and today you write and coordinate your own projects. How? What did you to continue in the Erasmus Plus world?
A: Basically, when I went for the first project, I found it very interesting. I met for the first time the non-formal education, it was something new, something I was curious about. After the first project I tried to look for more projects and opportunities to go and participate. In 2011 I went in project in Ukraine and Russia and met new organizations. In the next project I went from being a beneficiary to being a group leader, taking on more responsibility.
In this 4th project the organization asked me if I wanted to be youth worker for them because I was very active. In that moment I learnt you get more opportunities if you are a youth worker so I started in a new organization, get to know new methods and to develop my skills.
When I was doing my Master and work in finances, I was still participating and I understood formal education is really boring and you can learn much more while you participate in non-formal education. So, I decided I needed to change something and I applied for EVS (European Voluntary Service). I was selected by Spanish organization Mille Cunti.
Finishing my one-year volunteering experience I decided it would be nice to stay in this field and to work with unprivileged youth to promote Erasmus Plus and include young people who have less opportunities than the ones I had when I was young.
So, I joined the Active Youth Organization as youth worker/trainer and start to write and coordinate projects inside this programme.
Q: Did your idea about European Union change after take part in these projects?
A: I would say yes. Recently we had the celebration of Erasmus over 30 years and was said these are probably the best spent money of European Union. Erasmus Plus change your view, you learn you have more commune values than different values, for example being part of Erasmus I understood Lithuanian and Spanish people have a lot of things in commune, in both countries people like to complain about everything ahahah.
Q: Erasmus Plus programme is great but still it doesn’t arrive to all young people in Europe. Where do we mistake?
A: I think is matter of work which local youth organization are doing. I still see, in some countries, youth organizations are competing and not coworking. All organization have similar purpose, if they will collaborate everything would be much easier. But until these organizations will compete for founds, projects, to attract youth, we won’t manage to arrive to all young people.
On the other hand, another problem is the lack of knowledge of language. When I was in Spain, I saw young people are very afraid to speak English or to leave the country. I don’t know why. They have certificate of language but still they don’t trust their ability to communicate in this language and they are afraid even to go in a youth exchange of one week.
I consider fear of speaking English and competition between local youth organizations are the two main reasons why not all young people know and participate in Erasmus Plus programme.
Q: As youth worker, what are you doing to change this?
A: One of the tasks we have, it is to select young people who never participated in a project for our new projects. We are always seeking to attract young people who never participate in projects to select and trainee them with workshop, skills, explain what Erasmus Plus is. We show them videos of our previous projects so they know what to expect, what can happen in their first youth exchange.
Q: Until know we spoke more in a professional level but, what did Erasmus give you at a personal level?
A: Erasmus I didn’t speak English at all. In my fist project in Belarus at the beginning I could just understand what people were speaking about but I start to speak just the 4th day. After some Erasmus experience I enter an English course already with B1. I learnt English with Erasmus not in school.
As well I learnt to be more open to differences. In projects I met first time Muslims and atheist and learnt about their point of you. You meet vegetarian, vegan, people you are not surrender normally.
In every project you also find a person who will be your friend forever. Now I have friends waiting for me in Italy, for example. You meet and create your European network of friends!
Q: Can you leave a massage to all that young people who still “didn’t jump in the Erasmus Plus pool”?
A: It was already said if you try once you become addicted to it. Erasmus is a good addiction because once Erasmus forever Erasmus. You will develop skills you can’t develop in formal context, so just go for it until you are young!
In one week participating in Erasmus plus you can totally change your point of you, change your life style.
European Union is giving you an opportunity, take it!