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LIFE+ | Bring people together | @ Braga, Portugal

The training course “Building Bridges of Tolerance” was held in Braga, Portugal between 1st and 9th December. 26 participants from Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia (FYROM), Poland and Spain took part in the project.

The main aims of the project were to educate youth workers about the problems related to immigration and more specifically - the refugee crisis, to analyze the different perspectives and reasons of immigration and to emphasize the unfair treatment of immigrants. The participants were involved in group activities and workshops that provided solutions, methods and techniques that can help immigrants’ integration in the new community.

During the training I realized that there are many existing issues in Bulgaria regarding xenophobia, racism and discrimination. The majority of the people react negatively when they hear the word “refugee”. Moreover, the Bulgarian government is proud of the low number of asylum seekers in the country and puts more effort into building a fence at the south border, rather than working on social inclusion of the immigrants.

Thanks to the trainers I gained general knowledge about the immigration topic and I got some really useful ideas that could be implemented in the Bulgarian society in order to show people that there is a story behind every person, that immigrants are human beings with feelings, desires and dreams. In my opinion, people should have a closer look on immigrants’ stories and should interact with them in order to have a deeper understanding of the situation and a non-biased opinion about the topic. Here are some ways:

1. Playing sports as a way of integration

Sport teaches us irreplaceable values such as fair play, respect, teamwork. In spite of our nationality, race, social status, job, education, sport gives us the opportunity to speak the same language. We are all equal on the sport field. “TDM Anniversary Cup 2017” was an event organized by “Associazione TDM 2000” and one of our trainers Federico Gaviano. This is a great example of how sport can unite people together.

An immigrant and a local policeman standing side by side on the football field.

2. Playing board games

Another great way to meet locals and immigrants together is through playing board games. During the training course, we had the chance to talk with the head of a Portuguese organization, which main project is to bring people living in Braga together with the help of board games. You can just go there and play with strangers for free. I can definitely say that the outcome was great- we laughed a lot and built a stronger connection with each other.

Several participants in the project play a board game.

3. Teaching immigrants how to dance traditional Bulgarian dances

As a person born in a country with rich history and traditions, it was always nice to see foreign people learning our traditional dances. This idea came up spontaneously in my mind while watching a video about Bulgarian folklore, but I think that this could be a huge step to social inclusion of immigrants, mainly because Bulgarians are overly proud when it comes to Bulgarian traditions and are always enthusiastic to share them with foreigners. Meanwhile, we can also learn something interesting from the immigrants’ culture.

Problems associated with immigration cannot be solved solely by spreading awareness and tolerance. Specific and targeted actions must be taken in the local communities. I believe that the best way to educate people about immigration issues is to actually involve them in a situation where they have to interact with immigrants.

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