We decided to undertake this project, because we saw the need to get our European Nations familiar with the refugees and vice versa. European countries have decided to take a large number of refugees in their lives. The goal is to gradually integrate them into our communities. We faced displays of both sympathy and antipathy addressed to the people entering Europe. We dealt with the issue of European community, which, as it seems, is not always ready to accept them, even if it is only for a period of several years (before the conflict in their home country is resolved). It concerns people that have little information about the rules and interpersonal relations in Europe, they are in a bad psychological state so their arrival can result in confusion, conflicts or problems.
We analysed problems associated with refugee’s integration into the European community and discussed and examined proposals and temporary solutions. Our students investigated perspectives and point of view of young people, our pupils, from the background of different countries and approaches and also by interacting with and interviewing young refugees.
We pointed out the differences in the perception of the world, as such, the different ways in which different European countries look at people that enter Europe, how they perceive the cultural differences and whether they are able to cope with their arrival in a human way or not.
The project started with 7 educational organisations.
- Gymnazium Na Vitezne plani, Czech Republic- The coordinator.
- Geniko lykeio Kryoneriou, Greece (secondary general education).
- I.I.S.S. GIOVANNI CABOTO (Vocational Training, secondary level).
- Fjölbrautaskóli Suðurlands, Iceland (Vocational Training, secondary level).
- LKA Latvijas Kulturas koledza, Latvia (Vocational Training - tertiary level).
- Daily Junior High School of Petra of Lesvos (General education - secondary level).
- TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAET DRESDEN (tertiary level)
During the project, the University of Dresden had to withdraw from the project for organisational reasons, but the rest of the partners covered their work on the outputs without any problem. During the project we realized 5 educational activities: April 2017- (Iceland), October 2017 – Lesbos (Greece), April 2018 – Riga (Latvia), October 2018 – Kryoneri (Greece), April 2019 – Prague (Czech Republic).Gymnazium Na Vitezne plani as the coordinator of the project, was responsible for the communication between partners, for meetings’ preparation and for the organisation of the whole project.
The responsibilities of each specific output was entrusted by mutual agreement in the following way:
First aid dictionary: Latvia, Czech Republic, Greece – Lesbos
Poems: Italy, Czech Republic
Artwork: Czech Republic, Iceland
Video, Interview: Greece – Kryoneri and Lesbos, Czech Republic
Presentations for dissemination: Greece - Kryoneri and Italy
Statistical data: Greece - Lesbos, Italy
Photo Processing and printing: Czech Republic
Dance Choreography: Latvia
Exhibition: Czech Republic
At the beginning of the project, in 2016, neither the students, nor the teachers had special information about what the refugee wave practically meant. Of course, we had some experience with the migration of people that is very common in Europe, but none of us had ever met the influx of millions in our lives.
Many pupils and students were involved in the project mainly because of their need to learn new information and understand the situation. Teachers wanted the young people to know the truth about why refugees appeared, who they are, where they were going, where they wanted to go. The first project meeting was in Iceland. Icelanders, as the only country in Europe, have expressed an interest in hosting more refugees than their quota would expect them to.
First, we had discussions with the Red Cross, psychologists, doctors, non-profit organisations, but also personal contact with Syrian children from the school. All the new information began to open our eyes. We realised that the majority of Central Europeans are xenophobic, mainly because they have no personal experience with large-scale migration.
During all our meetings, we mainly met people working with refugees; sometimes the information and the stories we witnessed were very shocking for us.
Experts working in these organisations explained that they were trying to protect refugees from dehumanising “tourist visitors”, because they were often perceived by attention seeking people from several countries as “something” to look at, take pictures and leave, as is done when we visiting a ZOO. Some would go as far as publishing pictures of refugees without consent, supplemented by a fictive xenophobic story.
Teens and adults, we slowly began to form a more real picture of the problem. Over the duration of the three years, we had to change our minds on a number of things, and we had to adapt many of our outputs to the real conditions and possibilities. The most significant impact on all involved in the project was 1. Getting to know the real problems of the refugee crisis, 2. Understanding refugees, 3. Getting to know new people, pupils, students, families, 4. The importance of the work of the International Red Cross, non-profit organisations, the Greek Maritime Service, etc., 5. The knowledge of other school systems and the system for including migrant children in the education system; 6. Experience working in an international team and taking responsibility for the thing that we create, 7. Knowledge of other cultures of society, religion, 8. Use of foreign languages.
By working on the project, we have managed to eradicate traces of xenophobia, racism and fear of the unknown within our circle. It was a great pleasure to observe pupils and students slowly changing their minds about refugees and their problems, when they started to investigate the problematic on their own, without the interference of the media. It was also a great pleasure to strengthen the empathy in those students that were positive but needed to be better informed from hands on experience. Thanks to the exhibition at the Dum U Zlateho prstenu, we were able to present this transition and research of different countries and reach thousands of Czech and foreign visitors of the museum.
We are convinced that the experience gained by all participants opened up their horizons and their human arms. The new point of view and the more mature and responsible approach to information, the investigation of objective facts and critical approach after collecting the material, have already positively influenced their character and understanding of the world. Some of our students are considering continuing at university with Global studies, Arabic studies, languages and cultural studies in order to approach different European policies from an objective point of view and maybe become ambassadors of the situation based on facts evaluated by themselves. It will certainly be a great benefit for everyone in their future, when they will have the means to understanding social, economic, cultural and social changes.