Many people have never heard of Erasmus+ opportunities for young people. But those who have heard, most often associate it with the Erasmus program for pupils and students. However, not only students and not only for learning exchange purposes can participate in the Erasmus+ program, which is open to everyone and, moreover, throughout the year. This summer, the “Alternativa Realitātė” cultural organization implemented the youth exchange “Occaterra: Land of Opportunities” for young people aged 13 to 18, combining it with summer camp activities in the open air.
The project was implemented in order to provide psychological support to young people to improve their physical and mental health, promote active involvement of young people in democratic life, understanding of European values and EU principles of operation, as well as promote the inclusion of young people with limited opportunities, with special emphasis on young refugees from Ukraine.
From July 18 to 27, 2022, together 34 young people from Latvia, Poland, Estonia and Cyprus came to a cozy and green Latvian city of Koknese.
The participants took on the roles of the inhabitants of a fantasy island Occaterra, and, living together on this island, had to develop and adopt various laws in the course of the project in order to learn to live amicably and respect each other’s needs and values. Together, elves, orcs, dwarves, humans and aliens both learned the basics of state administration and competed in teams in various sports activities – fencing, archery, relays, hikes etc. The winners of the day were given the right to rule the island for a day and enforce their own laws, which in transitions teams could not support by voting “for” or “against”.During the activities, we tried to focus the participants’ attention on the importance of the active participation of each member in the team and the importance of each voter’s vote.
Taking into account that among the participants there were young people aged 17-18, this moment was especially relevant, because it is these young people who will soon become first time voters and give their votes for the development of society.
The basis of the project’s activities was the integrative role-playing game “OCCATERRA”, which Latvian youth developed on their own in 2021 for their peers as part of the youth support project “Explore the world – explore yourself”. Young people wanted to share their creativity with their peers from different countries, which is why the Youth Exchange Project “OCCATERRA: Land of Opportunities” was created. The goals of the interactive game are to involve young people in the active life of society, improving young people’s communication skills, raising their self-confidence and socialization, active participation in solving issues important to young people, learning about European values, understanding the structure of society and promoting the setting of positive life goals.
During the project, the participants learned to work both individually and in groups in order to successfully participate in discussions, debates and perform in front of the public. The young people were introduced to the procedure of voting and decision-making in a democratic society, which gave the young people an idea of the election process and how important each voter’s vote is.
Some project activities were challenging, some were fun, and some were serious. During the project, the participants had the opportunity to find new friends from different countries, get acquainted with the cultures of other countries and become more open to new ideas and acquiring new skills.
For many participants, this was their first exposure to the Erasmus+ program and we were delighted to introduce them to the program, opening the door to such an exciting world of informal learning, friendship and travel.
Each day of the project brought new and useful knowledge, positive emotions and a pleasant feeling of fatigue. We are really proud of all our members, they are trying new things and are ready to get stronger and more active!
Co-financed by the European Union. This publication reflects only the views and opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the European Union, the European Commission or the National Agency (Youth International Programmes Agency), which are not responsible for any use of the information contained therein.