This youth exchange was dedicated to working with people with disabilities. There were 53 participants from 8 different countries: Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and the Netherlands.
Since I am currently a volunteer in Italy, I was involved in this project as part of an Italian team. Participating in this kind of exchange was one of the most interesting experience I have ever had. When I applyed for this project, I liked the idea and the topic of this exchange, but I could not even imagine how the exchange would change my mind and how much new knowledge and skills I would gain.
On the first day of the exchange together with all participants we decided to use the term “people with diffabilities” instead of “people with disabilities”. This term means that each of us has different abilities, our own strengths and weaknesses. For example, in our team we had a participant in a wheelchair, but this fact did not make him worse or weaker than us. Yes, in some activities we could be faster him, but in some activities he was better than the others, because he likes to read lots of interesting books and he knows so many beautiful poems that no one knows. This is the main meaning of the word “diffablities”!
About a third of all participants were people with disabilities: blind persons, persons in wheelchairs, people with down syndrome and celebral palsy. To be honest, before the beginning of the exchange I thought that it would be not so easy to work together with other 52 absolutely different persons. But now I can say that it was not difficult, it was very interesting and funny! We worked and lived together, helping each other and caring about each other. We shared and exhanged our knowledge and experience, discovered new things and gained new skills.
During the 10 days of the exchange we participated in many different activities, workshops, energizers, and intercultural nights. Every day one of eight teams had to prepare and conduct a workshop that had to involve all the participants. All these activities were aimed at showing and proving that people with disabilities can work the same way and live a full life, we just need to be more attentive towards each other.
At the end of this project one of the participants said “When I look, for example, at a person in a wheelchair, I don’t notice the wheelchair anymore, I notice only the person”. I really liked these words, and I think this is what each of us should do. Thanks to the exchange we realized how it’s important to provide opportunities for people with different abilities and try to involve them in different activities and events, because they have a lot of things to share and a lot of things to teach others!