“Plastic is the new green” is a youth exchange that involved 48 young people from 8 countries. PRAXIS from GREECE is one of them with the participants : Vasiliki Aliki Tzoutza, Konstantinos Rolakis, Myriam Chatzivasileiou, Stylianos Katsanos, Klytaimnistra Belliou, Emmanouil Karamanolas... It is now time for them to tell us about their experience in this unique project...
In this project we shared knowledge about the protection of the environment reducing the level of pollution made by ourselves, with a specific target “Recycle”. During the project we analysed the phenomena of pollution in the world and the main objectives that the EU want to reach to make a more sustainable world. In the project we are going to invite you to “crafty” and to show to the local community how to use use recycling knowledge to a better future. The project is designed to stimulate dialogue among young people through creativity, art and culture. Thanks to the project "Plastic is the new green" we developed a new sense among young people on how to keep the recycle a game and a resource to live a sustainable community. All the activities developed through non-formal methods and we are going to realize workshops, meeting and activities to “Reuse” materials; The participants hold workshops on working with plastic, tetra pack boxes, pet bottles, paper, etc.... They had the chance to work in a multicultural environment designed to share among each other goals of different countries in the field of recycling. The expression of our participants: On May 3th, 2022, I had the chance to travel to Pignola, Italy, as one of the 5 members of the Greek team representing “Praxis Greece” in the Youth Exchange Program called “Plastic is the new green”. From the beginning, I felt truly motivated and eager to explore a small town in the southern part of Italy and participate in eco-friendly activities in order to promote recycling in the local community. The first day of the exchange program mostly included the arrival of people from the participating countries as well as the process of settling into the hostel. Luckily, it was apparent to me that most participants were keen to socialize with the rest, which was very helpful in the necessary part of coexistence. The following days were organized based on a similar routine that included several activities focusing on recycling and the environment overall. Participants had to collaborate either as national teams or in mixed groups, depending on the type of the events. The purpose of them focused on the exchange of knowledge regarding environmental issues, such as policies on a national or EU level. The activities were executed in a creative way. Most of the times, participants were asked to create posters, play games, capture videos and photographs, use theatrical skills, go outdoor and communicate with locals, making the whole experience absorbing and positively unexpected. The interculture nights were also an interesting part of the program, since members of each team had the opportunity to make presentations to project their culture to the rest of the participants, as well as give a taste of it by serving or even, cooking traditional snacks and meals. The Austrian team appeared to be particularly popular during the first intercultural night. Having delivered an exceptional presentation full of humor and creativity, they spread their positivity with Austrian songs and snacks, following a very inviting waltz. The Greek team also delivered an interesting presentation, starting with a short theatrical representation of a Greek tavern in which a group of Greek friends cannot agree on who will take care of the paycheck, which was an exaggerated attempt to project Greek hospitality. An unfortunate event occurred after the presentation of one of the participating countries, which caused controversy towards political issues. It should be highlighted that such references should not be included in the setting of Erasmus +, as the main goal of Youth Exchange programs focuses on strengthening friendly relations within the European youth. Thankfully, the dispute was immediately sorted out in an amicable manner. A very delightful surprise was followed, as the Italian organizer, Michele, announced a day trip to a neighboring town called “Muro Lucano”. The teams were excited to explore a different picturesque location of historical value. There, we had the chance to take long walks, enjoy lunch, take part in a local tour, and play a quiz to potentially win a nice piece of authentic Italian tiramisu. Unfortunately, I did not win, but a fellow Greek member, Kostas, deservingly had his desert. On the last day, the activities were officially over with an outdoor event, the collection of waste in the local park. However, the atmosphere was full of emotions as we had to say goodbye to all our friends, with whom, I personally shared great experiences and therefore, carry indelible memories. I find myself having a great variety of positive feelings. It is fair to say that taking part in the Youth Exchange Program in Pignola, Italy was a great chance to make friends, get to know about other cultures, explore smaller towns as part of a purposeful trip for the protection of the environment. On the negative note, I considered the living conditions slightly difficult due to the excessive amount of people living in the same room (8 persons). In fact, the rooms were not cleaned properly even before the arrival of the teams. Moreover, the heating system did not function adequately, making the first nights uncomfortably cold. Breakfast was packed in unnecessary plastic, which ironically was not in accordance with the goals of the project. However, Michele, the leading Italian organizer, was always willing to help the teams sort out such problems. For instance, eventually, the heating issue was indeed resolved, which was highly appreciated by me. To conclude, the amazing experiences outnumbered the negative points. I find myself being more interested in other European cultures and motivated to show responsibility and take action on crucial social and environmental issues. More importantly, I returned to Greece having made friends from all over Europe. Hopefully, more young people find interest in this exceptional way of traveling thanks to Erasmus+.
Stellios Katsanos :
For my first experience in an Erasmus+ program, it would be a lie to say that I wasn’t excited and that my expectations weren’t high. Starting from the arrival, even though we reached our destination in the middle of the night, we had a heartwarming welcome from the rest of the people taking part in the program. While the weather didn’t help with the whole experience and the organization did not react to that issue early on, the village had a great rustic and old-fashioned feeling. The presentation of the whole village makes you appreciate it as a destination to relax and to escape from any kind off stress. While getting used to our accommodations and our facilities, we got into conversations with the other members and we started developing a bond between us, particularly a camaraderie between us based on our common experience with the program. We had our fair share of activities to get us to know each other and to get accustomed with our project main theme, so much so that some days we didn’t even realized how fast the time has passed. During the program, we had a lot of memorable experiences, which brought us together and made us understand a great deal about each other’s way of life. Our main theme was recycling, a fitting theme, because Pignola is very proud for its recycling initiative. In these 8 days, we discussed a lot about the environment, human waste and different policies that countries adapt in order to deal with this issue. We used posters, brainstorming exercises and in the end of the project we made a presentation to show the change we wish to see in the close future. Before that we also paid a visit to the town of Muro Lucano, a small graphic town established on a mountain hill, a place with very beautiful scenery and rich history. Considering everything that I experience in this project, I feel that I gained a whole new understanding about my beliefs, my goals, my wants and tolerances in life. In my opinion, it is extremely beneficial for a young person to attend these projects that operate under the Erasmus+ organization. It provides young people an opportunity to meet new and different people from different countries, people that someone would never meet under different circumstances. On the same time, it provides people with an opportunity to travel to new places in Europe and to live situations they would never even imagine. In the end, these decisions produce a huge investment to a person’s soft skills and his life altogether.
Myriam Chatzivasileiou :
Participating in "Plastic is the new green" gave me the boost I needed to follow a greener lifestyle. Going deep into environmentalist practices and learning about useful ways to counter climate change is something I believe every young person should learn about. Along with meeting a lot of new friends and peers I learned a new side of me: brainstorming activities and management tasks helped me grow on a personal and professionally level. I strongly believe that every young person should have a non-formal education experience in their lives and it's never too late to take part in an Erasmus+ project!
Klytaimnistra Belliou :
First of all, my participation in the project “Plastic is the new green” in Pignola was a cross-cultural experience because I met people from different countries and with this cooperation and interaction I had the chance to be a little more of a world citizen. The communication with these people helped me to raise the sense of empathy towards other people from different countries. There is no doubt that I learnt about other cultures, other religions and I got in touch with different ways of thinking. In this way I became more open minded overcoming the stereotypes and living diversity and I contributed to reducing discrimination also in my country. Moreover, I feel more self aware because I took the chance to be in a challenging environment, out of my comfort zone and I had to think out of the box in order to cooperate with different people. Last but not least, the project was really interactive, with interesting activities and topics. In this way, I learnt a lot of things about recycling and how we can be more eco-friendly in our daily lives and at the same time I get informed about the practices that other countries use. It was a unique experience that for sure I will never forget. I gain new friends, new memories, knowledge and of course I discovered the beautiful villages of Italy. I strongly recommend this kind of project to every young person.
I took part in an Erasmus+ project “Plastic is the new green” in Pignola, a small village in Italy. This experience helped me to think out of the box and to find a way to cooperate with new people. Also, there is no doubt that from this cooperation and interaction that this program offered I learnt about other cultures and got in touch with new ways of thinking. I met people that I will never forget and all together we cooperated in order to make our projects more interactive, to get informed about environmental issues and of course to find out innovative ways for recycling and generally for the establishment of eco-friendly mindset in our countries. I strongly recommend this kind of experience to other young people in my country and I motivate them to search for chances like this because it's the perfect chance to gain new experiences, knowledge, friends and to be a world citizen.