Inspire and let yourself to be inspired – workshop inspired by my ESC experience

In the middle of August of 2022, I decided to organise a workshop in my family town – Łuków, located in Eastern Poland. Why did I decide to organise it in Łuków, and not in a bigger town? I am sure that ESC projects should be as inclusive as they only can be and they should cover the needs of people, who are excluded from peer groups/society because of their financial status/social background/religion. Łuków used to be a Jewish town in the past, unfortunately, Nazi people murdered Jews in the Treblinka death camp and since that moment Łuków is very homogenous when it comes to cultures/religions. Taking that fact under consideration, I decided to organise a workshop for young people, who may feel excluded, because of their background. I believe that every one of us has a story to tell to the world, but not everyone is lucky enough to be heard by other people. I am sure that especially young people sometimes do not feel their own agency – my friend, who is a teacher, told me that kids and teenagers are the groups, which are the most discriminated. I really wanted to make that workshop not only interesting but mostly – encouraging for the participants. How did I find participants for my workshops?

I was lucky, because two of my teenage relatives, whom I didn’t see for years, came to Łuków to visit family. My family knows that I was taking a part in project in OAZA, and I wasn’t surprised when one day I was contacted by the mother of Lisa and Daniela, and she said that she would be really grateful if I can „do something with her kids because they feel bad in Łuków”. One can wonder, why I decided to organise a workshop for my cousins – of course, I could don’t tell you about this fact, but as an anthropologist, I believe that every detail can influence the outcomes of our work. A few months before I was involved in helping people, who were running away from Ukraine, but – to be honest – I couldn’t even think about organising workshops for kids who were the victims of the war. I truly believe in serendipity, which shows us when and how to react, when people are excluded. My cousins are black, what really matters in such a small community is Łuków. Nobody else is black there, so people were staring at them and commenting in a really not-nice manner. I was thinking about my own experiences during volunteering in Oaza, and I remembered when we were talking with kids about climate change and vegetarianism – I asked Lisa and Daniela, if they are interested in those topics, I was very curious about their perspective and their feelings. In the future, I wanna start studies in art therapy, so it came to my mind to mix art with a discussion about
ecology. I also wanted to include the topic of multiculturalism and dialogue between the generations in our actions, but I didn’t really know how to make this happen.
One day I was talking with my neighbour and she said that her backyard makes her feel sad – she lives alone, but she takes really good care of plants, herbs and stray animals. I asked her if she wants to meet my cousins and tell them something about nature. She was excited, and Lisa and Daniela were as well. The next day we came to her with Daniela and Lisa. When kids saw the wall, which is made of white bricks, they asked me – don’t you think it will look better with some graffiti on it? I was so excited at that moment! I realised, that we can do something good for Lisa and Daniela, and for my neighbour, and for the local community as well – we can make this wall beautiful! My neighbour was really excited about that idea and she asked if she can take a part in process of creating the paintings. I had to admit, that our meeting was really creative – firstly, Lisa and Daniela wanted to paint the flowers on the wall. When we went to the shop with graffiti accessories, Daniela had an „engagement” – she told us, that she would love to paint animals.
What kind of animals – Lisa asked, and I said – maybe those, who are endangered?
We were super excited to announce to the lady our idea. She was excited and promised to educate herself about climate change and its impact on our planet.
I prepared for our information about the animals, which Lisa and Daniela wanted to paint. We were discussing how orangutans are being killed because of the higher and higher demands for palm oil and devastating the forests in Malaysia and Indonesia. „This is so sad that those animals are dying because of our greed for fast food” – Daniela said. Those words took us to the conclusion, that we – as a consumer, no matter how old we are – should choose carefully and our every action is the support the life or death of our planet. We were talking about consumerism and how it has an influence on the planet. I was encouraging girls to choose carefully what they eat and wear and so on. We were talking about how many clothes are just being thrown away every year and never being recycled – we were wondering what we can do, as normal people, to change this. Lisa and Daniela had many ideas – one of them was usings apps for selling clothes which we don’t need anymore (Vinted), selling clothes on flea markets, organising meetings for friends where everyone can exchange his or her clothes, buying clothes in charity shops or in the second hands. Daniela, who likes to make her own jewellery, decided to try to give her clothes a new life and make out of them scrunchies for hair and dream catchers. We were discussing the DIY approach and the girls told me, that it was sad to get to know all of these facts about wasting resources, but they also realised, that every – even small – act matters. We were talking about thinking global – acting local. Daniela was so excited about the topic of small actions, like planting her own small garden with flowers for bees, that she asked if she can meet someone who takes care of the bees in our town to ask a few questions. I know a man, who sells organic honey, so I contacted him and we had a meeting where he told us more about the impact of bees on the ecosystem. Daniela promised me that she will make a gift for me – of course,a DIY gift. Few days after she sent me a photo of a doll, which she made using only old clothes!

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I prepared the workshop for 2 teenage girls, but in the end, it was a bigger action – we included our neighbour and a local farmer. I didn’t use many tools, except of paints for graffiti and one book, which really inspired me – „Change the world for a fiver”, which is a good tool when we don’t have ideas for workshops and topics for a discussion. Firstly, I was sure that my idea is too small for a workshop – 2 teenagers and one adult plus me didn’t seem to be very impressive. But then I remembered my days in OAZA – I am kind of introverted and even when we were having workshops in schools, I was always searching for those kids, who weren’t so energetic and outgoing. I am aware of the fact, I am not able to make alone a workshop for a whole class – I have bipolar and I am getting distracted easily. ESC made me realise that, that we, people, are all connected and every small action can have an impact on other people and our planet. I am super happy, that my workshop made girls more aware of their agency in this world.
Multicultural dialogue, dialogue between the generations and spreading the knowledge about ecology and climate change, gender equality and empowerment of young and elderly people – those values were the core of my plan and I hope that every person involved in that workshop will remember those days for a long time.

Author: Karolina Żądełek

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Udruga O.A.ZA
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