September 29th to October 5th an Italian NGO “Make a Circle” organized a Youth exchange on the topic of social entrepreneurship. All together more than 40 young people from Italy, Georgia, Poland, Greece, Spain, Ukraine, Moldova and Latvia spent a week in Italy discussing the topics of social entrepreneurship and social initiatives. The project took place in Treschietto, a small village located on the foothills of the Tosco-Emiliano Apennine mountain range National park.
In several non-formal education sessions participants had a chance to get to know one another, exchange culture, as well as experience and knowledge about Erasmus Plus and principles of social entrepreneurship. Besides introducing the group to their culture, each delegation shared examples of successful social enterprises and the overall country specific experience regarding the development of social entrepreneurship.
One of the most impressive experiences during the project was the trip to Castagnetoli, where we met the organizers Francesco’s atypical family. Since 1998 Francesco’s parents have dedicated their lives to helping people in rough life situations. With the support of an international catholic association – Community Association of Pope Giovanni XXIII – their home called Casa-famiglia San Francesco is home not just for their family, but also people from disadvantaged social environments. Casa-famiglia Francesco gives these people a chance to turn their life around.
They are part of an international project that’s financed mostly by donations to the association and some governmental support. This project gives people, who have committed crimes, a chance to do their sentence living in a community with a family at a core of it. By being included in a family, these people experience positive social and psychological change that creates the right environment for them to improve their lives. People, who have received the permission by law enforcement institutions to do their sentence in this alternative way, also have a chance to learn new skills, for example, languages or acquiring a driver’s license. These new skills are of great benefit as they will allow people with criminal records integrate back in to the society and give them new job opportunities that will lead further away from the criminal environment. While visiting Castagnetoli, all project participants were involved in a social activity to help the local community. We helped harvesting corn from the Casa-Famiglia Francesco fields, but after a well done job Francesco made authentic home-made pizza for all of us.
While spending the evening in the community, we found out what exactly inspired Francesco’s parents to leave their jobs and dedicate their lives to helping others, and other members of the community shared their live stories with us by putting an extra emphasis on how this type of sentence allows them to feel as a part of a family and gives them hope that they can improve their lives for the better.
Besides the social activities, cultural and environmental impressions, knowledge and understanding, all project participants had many opportunities for self-improvement. One of the most important personal epiphanies for the Latvian team is that we are quite Nordic, we know how to plan, as well as we are precise and punctual. One of the biggest tests for us personally was to adjust ourselves to the more fluid passing of time and daily schedules, but as the location of the project had very limited internet and mobile connection, soon we learned to forget about the clock.
– Baiba Trifane, Latvian participant of the youth exchange
(Author of photos: Andrian Miron)
This publication has been prepared within Erasmus+ project. The views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.