My experience as a participant in the Grassroots Training of Trainers

My experience as a participant in the Grassroots Training of Trainers

By Mirko Ornielli

Between the 2nd and the 9th of October 2022, I was one of the 20 participants of the training of trainers of work camp coordinators, organized by SCI Catalunya with the collaboration of several international partners.

We were coming from different countries in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa and we were staying at the Ametlla del Vallés in Catalonia (Spain). The place itself was magnificent, in the middle of this little village, near the woods, with a breathtaking view of the entire valley. Every day, the sunrise and sunset were visible.

The training was part of the Grassroots project, an Erasmus+ project that focuses on volunteering, leadership and empowerment through hands-on work and mentoring. Ingrid and Arone, from Catalunya and Mozambique, were our trainers.

The first thing I would like to point out about this training is that, beside the European participants, there were many young participants from African countries. I have been told that this is not easy to achieve, and this diversity was one of the strengths and greatest success of the training.

We discussed gender, climate justice and decolonization. We learned about NFE (non-formal education) and the means of leadership through NFE.
We explore the surroundings around us and, in general, we spent a week living together, dancing, chanting (yes, we create a choir!), playing and sharing food, duties and tasks.

Maria and Jack, from Poland and England, were the two unbelievably generous volunteers who cooked for us throughout the training. Thanks again for the delicious meals and coffee breaks that were always here to help us get our energy back!

In the past two days we have been split into three groups, one for each training topic. My group was the one about gender. We then carried out a role play in a possible situation of LGBTIQ+-phobia in a work camp: a lesbian girl who was discriminated against because of her sexual orientation.

As camp coordinators, with the help of the audience, we showed how to manage this situation to ensure a safe space for everyone. We raised the question of how to really use peace and non-violence in order to promote the safety of LGBTIQ+ people not only by condemning the discriminatory part of the group.

In our group we were from five countries: Mozambique, South-Africa, Zimbabwe, Italy and France. It was a challenge with an amazing result to work with people with different backgrounds, ideas, priorities, experiences and aims.

Ingrid and Arone were able, thanks to their combined ways of leadership, to create a safe and fun space to learn and to grow together. I was also blessed by the opportunity to lead a yoga practice with a large part of my fellows’ participants. We could feel the love and openness of our hearts after a week together.

What could be improved? I would say that it is very ambitious to address three big topics like gender, climate justice and decolonization in just five days. A lot of us would have loved to have more time to spend on debating and going deeper.

We could also improve the way in which the topics are constructively included in the everyday life of the group. For example, to make sure that you can recycle, that you don’t waste energy or fuel more than the necessary, to guarantee an attention about accommodation and bathroom for cisgender and transgender people, and so on.

I am writing these suggestions knowing that no situation is perfect. Ingrid and Arone were always open to needs, demands and suggestions, which is a very fundamental quality for me as a trainer. It means to be humble enough to listen to your participants. But also, as a participant, to be humble enough to realize that it is also your responsibility to make the training better with your imputs, energy and ideas.

I was introduced to International Voluntary Service (workcamps and long term volunteering) and SCI (Service Civil International) just five months ago. It is an amazing way for young (and not so young!) people to travel, to connect with other cultures and countries, to work on international co-operation, equality, non-violence and peace. I would highly recommend it to anyone. It truly opens your mind and helps you build an international network of friendships and contacts.

Thanks again to SCI Catalunya and Erasmus + for this amazing experience!