An Erasmus+ Training Course reuniting Margiis across Europe
Learn more about how to write successful Erasmus+ youth projects, see and share best practices in writing, organizing and facilitating learning activities, create new partnerships and strengthen existing ones, come up with exciting ideas for new projects together, enjoy camping in nature and living in a sustainable community, meditate next a beautiful river and swim in it.
These were some of the benefits we got from participating in a 7-day training held between June 22 to 28 at Ananda Kalyani regenerative lifestyle community in Portugal. We were 11 participants from 9 organizations coming from Denmark, Malta, Italy, Romania, Portugal and Greece – all except one connected with various types of Ananda Marga service projects in Europe. One of the subtexts of this project was to strengthen cooperation between different Ananda Marga projects in Europe, an objective which was successfully developed.
A very scenic location to match the project
The training was held at the beautiful Ananda Kalyani regenerative lifestyle learning project tucked into the foothills of the Serra da Estrala mountains in central Portugal. The community makes the most of the beautiful river which runs right through the middle of it with beautiful swimming spots and pleasant places to camp, hold workshops, do yoga and meditate located at various spots along the river. We had a very interesting tour at the start of the training which introduced us to the extensive garden, a large yurt for meditation, play areas for children, a new dormitory project, pleasantly looking and functional compost toilets and the already existing main building with its nicely designed covered veranda for dining, spacious kitchen and an indoor area for workshops and office space. It was a good learning experience to see a well-organized community in action and observe how they organized their cooking, cleaning, volunteering, hosting, food growing, building, planning and coordinating.
The weather took some time getting used to. The training started off cold and cloudy, surprisingly colder than what we expected. Within a few days however, the temperatures soared during the day but dropped down to very cold again in the early hours of the morning. It took a few days to learn how to adapt to these large variations in temperature.
The training made good use of the natural surroundings. We held our morning circle in a small grove of trees near the river, we spent the hotter hours indoors and returned to the river again for our afternoon feedback sessions in the early evening meditations. Meals were served on the covered veranda looking out over the Valley which was very pleasant.
Food was another good feature of the training. The community follows the yogic vegetarian diet which emphasizes foods which are not only good for the body but also good for the mind. Breakfast always had a nice selection of fruits and nuts as well as a variety of grains to go with them. Lunches and dinners had some really nice soups salads and other tasty dishes. Participants helped out with different cleaning duties to help keep the program running smoothly.
A program thoughtfully crafted
The daily routine for the training was a good example of best practices for running an Erasmus+ training activity. The program was not too rushed and the time was well organized so we had enough time to do everything we needed to do. We spent the first day focusing on setting up the culture for the training, reviewing our expectations and concerns establishing practices for communication and dealing with issues, introducing ourselves and doing some icebreakers.
The facilitators modelled some excellent practices which we noted for use in our own activities and we really appreciated how they gave a high priority to setting up a good flow both at the beginning of the training and at the beginning and end of each day. There was time for optional yoga and meditation before breakfast, time for our volunteer cleaning duties after breakfast, then the morning circle to bring us together and get us in sync followed by a content-focused session introducing important information about Erasmus+ and then lunch.
After lunch time was focused on more participatory activities where we were given team learning and creation tasks, such as researching and presenting aspects of Erasmus+ and coming up with topic ideas and finally starting on the process of creating partner groups and outlining and writing projects. One of the interesting discoveries here was how people with creative, analytical and action mindsets could complement each other to create a nice outcome. After the group work was over the last formal activity of the day was for splitting up into pairs to review the day’s learning activities, discuss any issues that needed dealing with and then report that back to the facilitators so they could monitor and adapt to any issues as they arose. We then had free time for meditation and yoga before dinner.
After dinner, we had the option to join open space activities which we could also contribute to as participants.
The impact of the project
One of the most useful practices we took away from the training was the practice of creating an awareness board where people can post concerns or problems before they get bigger and then make a rule if necessary, e.g. ask permission before hugging. The board had 4 elements: Awareness (issue arising), Implementing, Practicing, and Mastering. Implementing means agreeing on how to do it. Practicing means doing it. If practicing faces problems then bring it back to implementing again to discuss how to do it better. This creates culture. And a fifth element – Parking – no action now.
One of the primary outcomes that the training was hoping to achieve was that the participants could get together and actually create some projects which they could submit for the upcoming project deadline in October. Three partnership projects were created, among which: one aimed at designing a syllabus for both the youth worker trainings and the youth exchanges focusing on healthy use of digital technologies, the spirit being how you can use digital technologies to become an enlightened being rather than a depressed addict and another aimed at empowering refugee women.
In conclusion, the training integrated useful and interesting Erasmus+ content, inspiring and helpful practical examples, especially in the way the training was organized and facilitated, and stimulating opportunities for the participants to engage their own creativity and come up with concrete projects. Thanks to Ananda Kalyani Community for providing the beautiful environment, good food and hospitality and thanks to the facilitators for setting such a good example in the way they hosted the event.