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text and photos Gil Cancela
Being myself someone that is always actively concerned with Human and Social Rights issues, was presented, in a conversation, with the opportunity to participate in a new adventure. The adventure of an Youth Exchange promoted by Erasmus +, in a Portuguese collaboration by AKTO – Direitos e Democracia, spending a week in the small town of Sacueni, in Romania, very close to the Hungarian border. Most people that know me, know that I’m not used to step outside my confort zone. But, this time, the stars aligned for me to take a chance.
Entitled NEETs for Children in Need, this Youth Exchange invited participants from Portugal, Romania, Greece, Hungary and Lithuania, and aimed to help the children from the orphanage of Sacueni, with practical help and play fun and educational games with the kids. At the same time, promoting intercultural bonding between the countries, through activities of formal (presentations) and non-formal education (theatre forum, world café, cultural nights).
It took an exhausting bus drive, followed by a long flight, for us to arrive to Budapest, where a van awaited to bring us to Sacueni. Tired, exhausted, but excited for a week-long adventure that was just starting. We started with the group activities that allowed us to go from various groups, to a community. And, on the third day, the main focus of our stay arrived. Meeting the kids. Generally, they received us with their arms and hearts open, like we being part of their lives for so long. Since the very first day, that those kids, that have been through a lot during their short lives, so much that most of us don’t dare (or wants) to even imagine, allowed us to be kids with them. Always with a smile on their faces. Always wanting us to be there.
In groups, we helped in several needed tasks at the orphanage, like painting windows or cleaning the annex, filled with stuff to be recycled or reused in handcraft moments with the children. But at the same time, we could have fun with them, playing soccer, roasting marshmallows, running, etc.
The city, per se, is small but beautiful, like, at first sight, a village in Portugal. Very religious. At every corner you look, you find a church or a building connected to the church.
The participants were also one of the main reasons for the success of this experience. People that stand out for their character and joy, that shared the same will to help and have (or repeat) a great experience. And from there, resulted a lot of stories to tell and people that I hope to carry for life. Thank you to everybody!
Thank you also to Orsi, for being unstoppable! Your optimism and cheer infected us all!
At the trip back home, we were tired, but with a full heart, with lots of stories and anecdotes to tell. Without a doubt, an experience to repeat, but that at the same time makes me worried if any new experience, won’t fall short from this spectacular Youth Exchange.