Celebrating Intercultural Exchange - Diversity vs. Identity

Celebrating Intercultural Exchange - Diversity vs. Identity


November 2nd. 30 people representing 14 different countries from all over Europe arrive at the seminar venue in Malle, Belgium. In this seminar the participants had the chance to explore their own identities and match them with the diversity around, while reaching openness.

We were planning to look into the concepts of identity and diversity for a week. Which we did. We accepted this challenge, to grow as a person and to grow as a youth worker. And a challenge it was! From the first moment we all met until the last one left the Belgian grounds, our group was diverse, with all these multiple identities. Different values, different visions and ideas.

All different, all equal! This slogan became the “red wire” through the entire seminar. Starting with a simple card game, but with a less simple meaning, and ending with an ‘Open Space’. This open space or open discussion was without a doubt the “cherry on the pie”. Everyone discovered new things about their own and about others. In this short moment of discussions everyone tried to use this new knowledge to build up new ideas and visions.

Different moments of the program challenged the participant’s abilities, both intellectual as well as physical. And we might add the spiritual dimension as well as it is an important value for many of us. The exercises, using non-formal and experiential learning as well as the discussions touched intercultural learning, minorities and majority, working methods, human right issues, all with a reference to identity and diversity and how we can use it in open youth work.

We had the chance to visit several youth clubs in Antwerp, Brussels and Malle and see how they work, and to look into their challenges as well as their successes. We were impressed by the heart, enthusiasm and work young people put in the youth clubs during the years. We were also challenged by a city hunt exercise in Antwerp – half a day full of surprises in a big city with a lot of clues, visits and presentations. In Brussels, we visited JES. This organisation could never exist without having very motivated youth workers working there. The way they looked at their own work was an inspiration for all of us. Not only were we impressed because of these people, but also because some of our participants were challenged to conquer their fear of heights on this amazing climbing route (yes, we took the participants climbing!) which was located in JES. One girl actually faced her biggest fear on this seminar and was so proud of herself after she had successfully taken part in the climbing activity!

The seminar was without a doubt an inspiration for everyone (could be for different reasons of course). We all left home with new and old things we learned but more than everything with the feeling of having lived concentrated diversity in our own identity.


Written by two of the trainers of the seminar: Elena Lotrean from Romania and Jente Kustermans from Belgium.