From Sunday 29 November to Thursday 3 December 2015, 220 youth gathered near Brussels to share what it means to live in another European country for 3 months and be part of the European Citizenship Trimester Programme – ECTP, the exchange programme run by AFS organisations in Europe and coordinated by EFIL. This meeting is the so-called ECTP Brussels Camp which adds a powerful learning dimension to the AFS trimester exchange programme.
The number of young people who enrolled in this programme and spent 3 month abroad, is actually higher and reaches 260, however, about 40 youth withdrew their participation to the ECTP Brussels Camp because of the security alert in Belgium after the terrorist attacks in Paris. In close consultation with the Risk management team of AFS International and in a regular communication with the National Directors of all EFIL Member Organisations, we decided to move on with the Camp, this way giving a much needed and appreciated sign of hope through an event with focus on intercultural dialogue and active citizenship.
All this has been possible thanks to the efforts of a great team of 50 volunteers from all over Europe who prepared the content of the workshops and coordinated the logistics of this huge event located at two venues – the youth centers Destelheide and Hanenbos – to host all the participants.
During the ECTP Brussels Camp, participants not only share their experiences of living in another family and going to a different school, they also reflect how this unique experience can empower them to be active citizens in Europe and in their communities. In fact, the ECTP Brussels Camp is not only about becoming aware of belonging to Europe, but also about starting to act to make Europe a better place to be. Therefore students attended workshops on different topics linked to Active Citizenship and then learned how to become agents of change in society through the ‘Changemaking’ method, inspired by Ashoka youth venture and basis of the ACTIVE project.
However, the ECTP Brussels Camp is not only about workshops and planning to take action, but also getting to know directly what Europe and active participation in European society is all about. Participants went on a trip to Brussels where they visited the European Parliament and met Terry Reintke, Member of the European Parliament, and assistants and advisors to the MEPs. The visit to the European Parliament was once again possible thanks to MEP Ulrike Lunacek, AFS returnees from Austria, who ufortunately could not meet the students but sent them a moving video message.
In the afternoon the group of 270 people (participants and volunteers) visited the nearby university city of Leuven, this way allowing the participants of the two venues, Desteheide and Hanenbos, to meet.