Programme: Erasmus+, KA2 – Small scale partnerships on the scale of youth
Leader of the project:  Associação Mentalidade X – PORTUGALIA
Timeframe of the project: January 2023 – December 2023

Summary of the project:

In 2023, we were a partner in the “Welcome Ukrainians” project, which aims to familiarize Ukrainian citizens with the European Union – history, institutions, values and opportunities offered by the EU. In addition, together with partners from Portugal, Lithuania and Bulgaria, had the opportunity to discuss the migration policy at the national and European level and find out how refugee programs and strategies work. The project included study visits, debates, training as well as online seminars and workshops.

Project goals:

-Establish a dialogue with young people on the topic of refugees

-Integrating Ukrainian youth in a new environment

-Familiarizing Ukrainian youth with the way the European Union works and its structures

-Discussion about migration policy at the national and European level

Main activities:

  1. Four international meetings in Poland, Portugal, Bulgaria and Lithuania on the history of the European Union, EU organizations and institutions, strategies and support programs for refugees.
  2. Hybrid seminar with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees entitled “The Migration Crisis in Europe”.
  3. Online workshop “Now what?” on creating proposals for future refugee projects.

Project meeting in Lithuania – Joniškis

Together with partners from Portugal, Bulgaria, and Lithuania on March 21-24, 2023, we met to exchange our thoughts from the perspectives of our countries and talk about important topics such as Russian aggression in Ukraine, helping people fleeing the war, and their activities in new environments.

We got to know several Ukrainian associations operating in Lithuania that helps women, children, and elderly people from Ukraine. They create a safe place for them and help them develop. The meeting was incredibly inspiring for us, it enabled us to exchange experiences, talks, and touching stories.

In addition, we managed to visit several Lithuanian cities. In Joniškis we visited the old synagogues and the city museum, participating in creative workshops creating jewelry. In Žagare – the cherry city – we visited the Noble Manor with many interactive games and a beautiful history.

Project meeting in Bulgaria – Sliven

We visited Bulgaria and the town of Sliven again! This time the occasion was the second international meeting as part of the “Welcome Ukrainians” project, which took place on April 26-30. Together with partners from Bulgaria, Lithuania and Portugal, we focused on how the European Union and individual countries help after the outbreak of war.

On the first day, we met with the Ukrainian community, including young people living in Sliven. They told us about their experiences when the war started and what their lives are like now. Then, journalist Anna Foriss, from Melitopol, presented us her experiences related to the war. We also saw footage of the city before and during the war. In the afternoon we visited the textile museum in Sliven, where together we had the opportunity to make our own cotton bags in traditional Bulgarian patterns.

On the second day, a meeting with the director of the Red Cross branch in Sliven took place in one of the schools. We learned how the organization works in the city, about the help of volunteers in the first weeks of the war and what help looks like now. The next activity was a meeting with high school students with whom we talked about the European Union.

At the end of the meeting, the organizers prepared a knowledge competition about Ukraine for us. The last day was an outdoor workshop in the nearby mountains about Ukrainian culture, conducted by our volunteer from Ukraine – Renata. Thank you very much for your hospitality and we will see you at the next meeting in Poland in May!

Project meeting in Poland – Starachowice and Kielce

The “Welcome Ukrainians” project has come to Poland! From May 28 to June 1, 2023, we hosted delegations from Portugal, Bulgaria and Lithuania to discuss how individual countries are helping Ukraine and refugees during the ongoing war. Our country can boast of some truly great things.

We started the event with the Festival, which took place in the hospitable premises of the Vocational School Complex No. 2 in Starachowice, which was opened by Director Grażyna Małecka. We had the opportunity to listen to Ukrainian folk songs and watch the school students dance the polonaise. The school also held workshops led by Kama Kępczyńska, in which young people learned how to work in intercultural groups. Then we organized a picnic accompanied by Ukrainian folk dances. Monday ended with a meeting with Inna Mekhda – Intercultural Assistant in the city and Max Ciszek from the Visible Hand organization, who has been organizing aid for Ukraine since the beginning of the war. We spent Tuesday in Kielce, where we met with the Center for Non-Governmental Organizations and ate traditional Ukrainian food. We spent the afternoon at Pałacyk Zielińskiego – House of Creative Communities in Kielce, where Kama and Szymon conducted amazing music workshops. The participants had to compose their own verses about supporting Ukraine. Galina Ponomarenko, who came to Poland from Novaya Kakhovka, helped.

The last day is a visit to the Mausoleum of Martyrology of Polish Villages in Michniów, whose main goal is to preserve the memory of 817 Polish villages pacified during World War II. Our guests could learn there about Poland’s difficult history and see posters about the war created by children from Poland and Ukraine. The next point of the day was the Cistercian Abbey in Wąchock. We learned about what the brothers’ life is like and how they function in their community. We also tried traditional Polish dishes at the Cistercian Cafe. After the tour, it was time for some work – workshops on disinformation prepared and conducted by our volunteers – Renata and Marcelina. In international groups, we discussed what propaganda actually is and how it works. We have also developed mind maps presenting the issue from the perspective of each partner country.

Project meeting in Portugal – Golega

On October 16-20, 2023, we had the opportunity to participate in the last meeting as part of the “Welcome Ukrainians” project, which took place in Golegã, Portugal!

During these days we met many fantastic people and visited many inspiring places. We started with a visit to the Golegã City Hall, where we met the Mayor and Vice Mayor. We could hear about the help provided by the Portuguese city authorities to refugees not only from Ukraine but also from Asia and Africa. It was also an opportunity to present the Portuguese education system and the structure of local government authorities.

The next day we visited Casa Estudio Carlos Relvas – a building from the 19th century, made of iron and wood, which served as a photography studio. We had a unique opportunity to learn about the development of photography over the years. Here we also participated in a lecture given by Mr. Vasco Malta – Head of Mission of the International Organization for Migration to the UN. From this speech we learned how to distinguish refugees from immigrants and we had the opportunity to delve deeper into the topic of escaping from one’s country. In the evening, we cooked our national dishes from Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Bulgaria and Ukraine and danced Portuguese dances.

On the last day, we went to the Paladin factory, which produces ketchup, mayonnaise and vinegar (including for McDonald’s!), where we could hear from employees from Ukraine about how they ended up in this place and how the company supports its local community. On Finally, we visited the Paul de Boquilobo natural reserve, famous for its unique environmental values.

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