How did all this love fit in twelve days?
Sometimes time freezes. It freezes in moments, in people, in places. Especially when the memories are colorful and tender, overflowing with love and smiles. It was 12 days that we gathered 35 young people from Latvia, Greece, Holland, Bulgaria, Portugal, and Spain at Olde Vehte’s house in Ommen, a small village in the Netherlands for the YOUth IN ACTivism The camp project. Apart from the positives of an Erasmus+ programme, this program differed because it caused you a sense of security. At this place, you can be yourself. This was revolutionary: you could be whoever you wanted. You didn’t need to know who you are, where you belong to even to be sure who you want to be. The important thing was to want to spread this feeling of love and security everywhere so that everyone could be themselves. The days were full and they passed quickly. At the same time, they felt like months.
One participant said to me, ‘‘You know? that’s how I want to live.! To make the days feel like years of experience. Sometimes you are at your house, in your routine and the days, months, years go by and you don’t remember what you did.”
During the day, we created the space for the mind and body to work creatively with the support of the coordinating team. In the evening, in their free time, the discussions did not stop, but they took on more depth. The word was given to everyone and the eyes of those who listened were focused and full of respect and love. Even if someone, something you didn’t understand the answer was a hug. I think there are few places in the world where hugs are exonerated. In Ommen, hugs were not kept for special occasions, they did not discriminate but they were for everyone and for every day. And who can forget the first time that courageously someone said ”Group hug” and took the first step and then all the bodies full of love run against this person and become one?
I would also like to refer to a spontaneous moment during an evening that was about dancing and enjoyment. During the celebration anyone who didn’t feel like they were in the mood for a party sat in the sad corner, that’s how we called it the first 5 minutes. This corner was spontaneously created on the stairs of the house without saying anything, with the sole purpose of giving space for those who for any reason feel sad to talk, to hug, and when and if they feel ready to get up and participate again in the festive spirit of the day. How often do we not have to apologize for being sad? Why does our sadness not fit in with the general climate? How beautiful to need none of this. There was room for everything: for joy, for a party, for sadness, for tears.
And I still want to talk about the day we went out of our house to go to Zwolle. We were divided into groups and conducted separate activism actions in order to influence even one passerby. There was a need for courage to present yourself as vulnerable to the world and to look the passengers in the eyes. In my group, we sat with our backs on the wall of a busy street, placed pillows opposite us, and for three hours we sat silently while above us we had a banner hanging over us that was written:
We don’t need words to communicate.
We are young Queer people from Greece, Portugal, and Italy and we are here to represent those from the LGBTQ + community who feel they should remain hidden.
Take the courage to sit on one of the pillows and share with us a moment of silence and eye contact. You can sit as long as you want.
During those three hours, we were given the opportunity to observe the passers-by, their reactions positive and negative. I remember smiles of support, fists rising with rebelliousness in the air, an old lady passing by and saying to her husband ”sorry but I need to stop” and looking you in the eyes with love.
I remember moms stopping to explain to their children and forming with their hands the shape of the heart. I will not forget young children would be fifteen – sixteen years old coming silently to sit next to us, to look at us, to reveal themselves to the world and one of these children to say ” Now I supposed to be at school but this is more important”
The participants themselves during the program described ‘’YOUth IN ACTivism The Camp’’ as a utopia. But it happened. It was a dream that actually happened. It may have happened in the small bubble of Olde Vechte but this is nothing but proof that it can be done everywhere. And the 35 of YOUth IN ACTivism The Camp will not stop fighting until it is done.