The youth exchange programme «Street Peers: Urban culture as a tool for inclusion and emancipation» took place in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy between the 13th and the 20th of June, 2022, while 40 young people from 8 European countries participated in it. The project aimed towards the promotion of social inclusion and intercultural dialogue through Street Art and Street Games.
The social inclusion of vulnerable social groups is a phenomenon that highly interests not only the political and legal scene of a country, but also society itself. We, as members of the societal circle, should be sensibilized and open-minded concerning the acceptance and protection of various social groups.
During the programme we organized and participated in activities and games that aimed towards such a goal. My first ever memory of the programme was playing a card game in order for us participants to come closer, get to know each other and overcome any shyness or awkwardness we may have been feeling. To say that it was successful is an understatement. Through the games and the activities in which we participated during the first two days, not only did we come to get to know each other, but also it was our first ever contact with the goal of the programme in question; artistic activities and games do connect people despite potential social or cultural barriers among them.
Having established a friendly environment, we dove more into the topic of our programme; Which social groups need to be protected? In what ways can the Government and society itself help protect such groups? Debating such a topic is one way to achieve our goal, but organizing and participating in interactive activities and games has proven to be an even more successful way to do so.
Everyday we participated in more than two activities that followed a somewhat «logical path» towards our goal. At first, we examined the problems that some social groups face today. Women, for example, may have to face sexist behavior in a working environment. Immigrants may have to face racist behavior. How can we as citizens help minimize if not erase such a behavior? Which are the social groups that could be considered as vulnerable ones? What measures does each government take in order to assure that those social groups are indeed included in modern society?
All those topics were touched by the participants, while being randomly divided in groups, through interactive activities, such as plays, games and last but not least through debates. We learned what social inclusion means in all 8 participating countries and in what way both societal and political circles provide a safer environment for people who need it.
During the last two days the topic of art was introduced in our programme. What role does art play in society? How does art make people feel safer? In which way does art help connect people from different backgrounds? Firstly, we shared our ideas and opinions on that topic and then, most importantly, we made them into reality. The final part of the programme consisted of four workshops; the dance workshop, the linocut workshop, the street games workshop and the DJing one. Now, imagine what happens when different people from various social groups who share a love of dancing participate in such an activity; they undoubtedly become friends.
Art is a haven for a lot of people, while street art is a way to attract everyday people who we meet in the street. It has always been a way for people to express themselves, while it’s solid proof that art is, as it should be, accessible to everyone.
Personally, one of my favorite memories of the project is the treasure hunt game. Not only was it a highly creative game which aimed towards the participants’ sensibilisation of the obstacles that some social groups face, but also it was very enjoyable. Each group had to go through 5 trials and solve 5 riddles and the fastest team to finish them all was the winner. Imagine that you had to climb up the stairs while your leg was tied to your teammate’s leg. Now, would that be easy? If some of the participants found such a game’s part hard, imagine how hard it is for people with disabilities to use the stairs on a daily basis.
Other than that, I feel that my imagination was challenged on a new level. Every game and activity was more unique than the previous one. Resolving various issues can be accomplished not only through discussion and debating, but also through interactive, creative and innovative activities. I do know, for certain, that all those projects in which we engaged will stay with me for a long time.
At the same time I am happy to note that all 40 participants had a very successful cooperation despite the short amount of time that we knew each other and despite the pressing amount of time that we had.
Most importantly, I am happy that we tested our knowledge and opinions on social inclusion and that through the projects we came to learn and understand the many aspects of the phenomenon in question in all 8 participating countries.
Last but not least, the programme «Street Peers: Urban culture as a tool for inclusion and emancipation» has highlighted my wish as lawyer to work with vulnerable social groups, such as refugees and migrants, while it has showed me that we can always connect with people and learn more about ourselves and those around us by participating in non-formal educational projects.
Article written by Maria Gkanoglou