At the end of August, we had the opportunity to go on a youth exchange about LGBT+ Activism in Ommen, The Netherlands. We were a team of five Portuguese – Afonso, Beatriz, Cláudia, Ema, and Miguel and we joined people from Greece, Italy, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and The Netherlands for two weeks of learning. Together we discovered more about each other’s realities and we united as a community. Now, we share our experiences.
Being in Ommen surrounded by nature and an amazing community was the best experience we could have asked for. It was life-changing to experience firsthand such a strong bond and share so many things. I feel like each and every one of us learned so much about both ourselves, activism, and the LGBT+ community in general, it was the most complete and enriched exchange possible. Having some me-time where we could refocus and take some care of ourselves was also super important and something I’m very grateful for.
I believe that the time we had to reflect on the things we talked about and the experiences shared was necessary, given that meeting people from different parts of Europe was really eye-opening. We as Portuguese citizens mainly know our own experiences and the experiences from people close to us, which are already unlike depending on where a person lives. But hearing people talk about their struggles and victories, their countries’ laws, and day-to-day lives, we are confronted with realities that we never knew about. I know we learned a lot from each other and from the Team that organized the project, not only about activism in itself but also about the LGBT+ community.
It was during the most informal conversations that we would learn the most. Right from the beginning, the project allowed everyone to feel such a sense of comfort and community that sharing experiences was natural and opened everyone’s eyes to other perspectives. Personally, I realized that pushing away from my community, something that in the past I used to do, does nothing to help me or anyone. It was thanks to all the activities that I decided to be more present in the LGBT community and not only be aware of the struggles we face but also have an active role in facing those.