A moment from the Youth Project, June 2022.

OUTventure – Experimental learning youth programme

OUTventure was an Erasmus+ project with a focus on topics of mental health and well-being of people in the LGBTQIA+ community. The project brought together 30 youngsters from Italy, Georgia, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Bulgaria, Latvia, and Slovenia. The project took place in Greece in a magical place called Hopeland between the 6th and 15th of June 2022.

From the moment the Slovenian team assembled, we knew it was going to be a wonderful experience – almost all of us knew each other either from attending the last edition of Active Rainbows YOUth in ACTivism Camp or from collaborating on a queer newspaper project of our sending organisation. We were all quite excited about the programme and a bit curious about our home for the duration of the project – Hopeland sounded quite remote from the description in the info pack. Arriving in Greece, I personally felt like summer had finally begun for me with the heat and beautiful views of the sea from the train ride to Korinthos.

The first day involved getting to know each other and of course, getting to know Hopeland and its rules. We got to chat with people with different identities and backgrounds from ours and got to hear why people decided to come to the project. We divided into support groups and started to create our little community for the duration of the project.

The second day involved more connecting through various activities, but this time involving different senses and with a focus on mindfulness. Personally, it was just what I needed since the first days of the project can get very socially busy and I feel like I sometimes get caught up in trying to talk to as many people as possible, not focusing on real connection. We also got introduced to the concept of quiet time – an hour a day where our community tried to be as quiet as possible, giving ourselves time to rest, reflect and take some me time if needed. This is definitely something I took home from this project because I noticed my mental health benefited a lot from this specific routine in my days at Hopeland.

On the third day, we started exploring and sharing our knowledge about the queer community. It was filled with interesting conversations, refreshing, and acquiring new knowledge. The day ended pretty intensely since we reconnected with our national groups to present the situation of LGBTQIA+ rights in each country. Since there is quite a bit of difference between each participating country and the number of rights it enables to LGBTQIA+ people, the closing activity of the day definitely left us grateful for the queer community in Slovenia that keeps fighting for equality in our country. We are very happy to report that if we had to do the presentation about the rights in Slovenia on the day of the writing of this article, it would be quite different than the one we did at Hopeland in June – since 8 July 2022 same-sex marriage in Slovenia has been legal by a ruling from the Constitutional Court!

On day four we were focusing on the topic of mental health. We discussed the stigma connected to mental health and the stress that the LGBTQIA+ community is facing due to prejudice and discrimination from society. In the afternoon there was an open space where the participants of the camp were able to offer their workshops and activities. The rest of the day was filled with interesting workshops about love, setting boundaries, and improvisation.

On day five we had a special guest, Luc Umaki, who introduced us to Ballroom culture. We learned about its history and its importance to the LGBTQIA+ community. In the end, we also got to dress up and have our own runway, to celebrate the community and each other. It was amazing to see everyone dressed up, feeling good, and seeing people go out of their comfort zones.

Day six was something that a lot of us were looking forward to. We took a trip to Nafplio, a nearby seaside town. We got to explore the town and the Greek culture, had a relaxing day, and of course, jumped in the warm and crystal clear Aegean sea.

On day seven we had a special visit which we were excited about but also a little scared since we expected it was going to be tough and emotional for quite a lot of us. We welcomed a group of Greek parents who form a group called Proud parents. Their mission is to support each other and through that to support their children and inform the public and other parents about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender characteristics. Together with them, we had a living library and we could choose which book we wanted to listen to. Their stories were really moving and inspirational. It was interesting and emotional to listen to their stories so many of us shed a tear or a few of them. After the living library, we meet in the circle and we had an opportunity to share our emotions, stories and to thank the parents for sharing their very personal stories. 

Day eight was about working in groups, self-organising, and being creative. Each of the groups decided on their project for the day and each group created something unique and beautiful. In the evening we all gathered and presented our work. There were some interesting stories gathered from interviews accompanied by photographs, a zine full of art pieces, a very creative board game, and a video that evoked a lot of emotions.

On day nine we celebrated our time together and the progress that we made in the past days. We again worked in groups and every group had important work for the evening celebration. We all together created a beautiful space for the dinner and the cooking teams made sure we had a lovely meal. The hosting team created activities for the evening which were an award ceremony, karaoke, and dancing. 

Finally, there came day ten and this meant it was time for our goodbyes. We had time with our support groups to reflect on our experiences and look at everything that each of us will take home from this experience. Then we gathered all together to thank each participant for the time that we spent together, for all that we learned from each other, and for all the support, bravery, openness, and acceptance. It was an emotional day for all of us and it was full of hugs. The goodbyes were hard but beautiful since we saw what an amazing community we created in such a short time!