The Equality University, one week of learning, understanding, and growth, just ended. The Equality University was a ERASMUS+ youth training organized by Instytut Przeciwdziałania Wykluczeniom (Poland) in collaboration with Social Science Works (Germany) and Social Hub (Bulgaria).  The project saw 13 participants, young adults 17-30, from Germany, Poland and Bulgaria come together in Torun, Poland and learn about mechanisms of  discrimination and exclusion. For this training  the experiences of queer and refugee people were the central focus.

Topics and schedule

The main topic of the Equality University was the intersection of queer and refugee discrimination – how the situation is in Europe, how the underlying social mechanisms work and what efforts are undertaken to help. These are quite sensitive topics, especially, since many of the participants had first-hand experience. Therefore the first day, Tuesday,  was dedicated to trust building exercises, that established a strong team spirit. The second day was centered around the situation of the LGBTQ+ community in Bulgaria and Poland. In contrast, on the third day participants learned about the experiences of refugees in Germany and Poland. On Friday, the fourth day of the training, the role of language and stereotypes in exclusionary processes were discussed. The training ended on Saturday with various rounds of reflection and evaluation, including the preparation of a brief social media campaign. This campaign aims to disseminate the knowledge gathered during the week in Torun.

Study visits

There were three study visits made to NGOs working in Torun. The first one lead the participants to Równik, offering a safe space for queer youth and organize various information campaigns in and around the city.  The second visit was to Emic, an organization that helps refugees with their daily struggles; starting by filling out forms up to polish language courses. The third and final visit was scheduled on Friday to Toruński Sztab Pomocy Ukrainie, an Polish-Ukrainian organization that both supports Ukrainian refugees in Torun, as well as gathers donations for groups in Ukraine. It is no exaggeration to say that,  the study visits were the highlights of the week.

Social events

Apart from the content-related work, the cultural exchange between participants is a key  objective of projects like this. In order to further that goal, participants presented during the “cultural night” elements of their culture. The German team showed quirks of the German language, using idioms and rap music. The Bulgarian team taught traditional dance moves and presented rose water. The Polish team showed traditional wedding customs and games. Despite the tight work schedule, the polish team found many opportunities to share the rich history and culture of Torun with the rest of the group.

 The Equality University was overall a successful project. The training was judged fairly well by the participants; they saw for themselves considerable increases in knowledge and skills, which they thought could be applied in their daily lives. From the perspective of a trained observer, it was possible to see that, as the week went on, the participants engaged more thoughtfully, and empathetically with the subjects of exclusion and discrimination.

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