Getting to know each other
As it was the first time when most of participants from Lithuania, Peru, South Africa and Vietnam met, it was relevant to start with icebreakers and team-building activities. After completing these activities together, participants better understood each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests. This understanding would help them work even better together on achieving goals of this training course.
Learning about the juvenile delinquency and drug use situation in Vietnam
Before going further with training course activities, it was relevant to take a deeper look at current youth delinquency and integration situation in partner countries. Naturally, Vietnam deserved the attention first. Before meeting different local organisations and Vietnamese people with delinquency background, having some prior knowledge was a must. Thus, guest expert expanded on the topic and explained the Vietnamese situation in detail. The theoretical lecture was followed by interactive workshops, which left participants more familiar with the situation in Vietnam.
Learning about social inclusion through NFE (lead by Lithuania)
Social exclusion is the process in which individuals are blocked from various rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of a different group. Exclusion can rob individuals of dignity, security, and the opportunity to live a better life. That is what happens to majority (if not all) (ex-)offenders. Thus, one of the focus of this training course was to find ways to accelerate the opposite process – social inclusion. Lithuanian participants lead role-play games which helped participants feel in the shoes of a socially excluded young offender. At the same time, through the role plays they were looking for ways to tackle that exclusion.
Learning about social inclusion through NFE (lead by Peru)
To continue the social inclusion topic, Peruvian participants lead the activities demonstrating how non-formal education methods can be used to rehabilitate ex-offenders and help find their ways in the society. As dance plays a very important role in Peruvian culture (as well as youth work), all the activities and games were related to moving.
Learning about social inclusion through NFE (lead by South Africa)
South Africa has a rich, diverse culture, and that is reflected even in their youth work activities. Participating youth workers from South Africa demonstrated the activities which they usually use in their daily work with disadvantaged youngsters. Participants from other countries could feel the magical and empowering African spirit in these activities.
One thing is to listen, read and discuss about delinquency, but completely different – to learn about it through the lips of ex-offenders themselves. Thus, participants went to the community of former addicts and offenders to have their questions answered directly from the target group. Yet, it wasn’t only the question-answer afternoon, it was like the old-friends gathering that allowed to communicate without borders.
After getting familiar with delinquency situation in our countries and meeting the former prisoners themselves, the time came to join our efforts and go into the issue deeper. World Cafe activity is a good way to bring people from different backgrounds together to think about a complex problem (such as youth delinquency) and to find imaginative ways forward. With this in mind, participants were divided into 4 different teams. Several discussion rounds where participants were invited to discuss youth crime in general, young criminals background, imprisonment and integration were held. In the end, teams listened to each other’s insights and shared collective discoveries.
Vietnamese cultural evening
Vietnam is a country rich in history and traditions, dating back thousands of years. Thus, having gone all this way from different continents, participants had to get more familiar with their host country. Vietnamese hosting organisation CSDS arranged a cultural night, which included traditional Vietnamese songs, dances and cultural performances. Most importantly, youth workers from different countries could not only watch and listen to it, but also be actively involved! This was a truly memorable evening.
Meeting sex worker community
Despite being illegal in Vietnam, sex-work is existing all over the country’s biggest cities. In sex industry, there is a number of people who were previously sentenced. After facing the discrimination and inability to find a decent job, many of them end up in this sphere to make a living. Sitting in the same cafe, sharing our own experiences, having conversations like with old friends were beneficial to both parties. Participants were listening carefully to sometimes shocking and painful stories of sex workers, meanwhile the latter were so happy that finally someone listens to the them without any judgment.
Visiting Blue Dragon Foundation
Children growing up in extreme poverty often have no choice but to quit school and move far from home, exposing them to dangers such as trafficking, homelessness, drug abuse, and crime. Blue Dragon Foundation is a Vietnamese NGO that offers street children (youth at risk) the chance to turn their lives around, providing practical solutions to the daily problems that are keeping poverty alive. We visited this NGO to learn good practices from them, as well as to interact with youth spending their days there. Dancing and playing games is universal language, thus we got to know each other through such activities.
Learning from local NGO SCDI
Center for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (CSDI) was another organisation visited during the training course. CSDI is a NGO aiming to improve the quality of life of most vulnerable populations, including young offenders. SCDI has been active in advocacy work related to drug users and young offenders, pushing for more inclusive and right-based policies. With this in mind, participants had ongoing discussion and workshops together with the leaders of this organisation. That opened the eyes for most of the participants and allowed them to look at the issue of delinquent youth integration from a completely different perspective.
Visiting Hoa Binh Social Care Center
Visiting Social Welfare Center Hoa Binh Province was probably the most touching experience we had during the days of the training course. This center provides social and educational support to homeless elderly people, mentally and physically disabled people, poor children and orphans. At present, more than 100 residents find a safe home and better living conditions at the center, and receive health care and access to education. During the visit, we participated in the games and activities organised by the volunteers in this center. That allowed us to make truly heartwarming connections with youngsters and elderly residing there. At the same time, all of us gained new ideas on how to work with youth at risk or people from vulnerable backgrounds, like (ex-)offenders.
During our time in Vietnam, we met many ex-offenders, former addicts, sex workers, etc. And stigma turned out to be one of the biggest challenges they face. Therefore, our training course was finished with the final public event. It gathered the representatives from the mentioned excluded groups and young people in general. Through various artistic performances, everyone could express themselves and finally feel accepted.
Wrap-up and reflections
How to know if the training course achieved the set learning goals? The last day of the training course was dedicated to look back at what we did, learnt and achieved. Participants evaluated everything – from training logistics and organisational arrangements to the actual experience related with people at risk or the ones with delinquency background. It turned out that the training course satisfied everyone’s expectations. Lots of ideas, thoughts to bring back to home countries and implement later on in the span of the “Second chance” project.