Working with teenagers in Sjenica started in December 2016, when we entered the Technical-Agricultural Vocational School premises with the “Border is Closed” documentary exhibition on the life and the journey of migrants and the educational materials that were an integral part of the exhibition program. In this way, we prepared the high school students for meeting with their peers from the neighbourhood – young people staying at the Centre for Accommodation of Asylum Seekers in Sjenica. In addition, our team visited the Centre, where we talked with teenagers about workshops planned in school and about socialising with peers from the community.
During their first meeting at school, besides socialising, boys and girls were involved in the preparation of the opening program of the exhibition: a group composed of “locals” presented the exhibits, and “guests” spoke about themselves, as well as about their impressions and reflections regarding the exhibition.
From then on, every month, until the end of April, we organised several days of workshops and socialising with this interesting group from Sjenica, comprised of teenagers from Afghanistan, Iraq … and students from the Technical School, High School and “12. Decembar” Elementary School. The Technical-Agricultural Vocational School always welcomed us, and the school staff often joined us in our work. The artistic team that led them were Ivana Bogićević Leko and Luka Knežević Strika, while the precious and valuable in communication were interpreters and cultural mediators Mihajlo Medaković and Ana Lazović. They were drama, video and photographic workshops, dealing with the topics that people in that age find intriguing, interesting or worrying.
By learning about the elements of drama, dramatic conflict and motives, and by creating small dramatic scenes out of excerpts from their own lives, boys and girls learned about each other and became much closer. The first steps were the exercises of body and voice relaxation. The aim of the exercise was to relax the participants, to communicate and build mutual trust. They talked about themselves: their journey, their favourite and important objects, people; interests, ambitions, and turned all these stories into short dramatic situations or short films. The themes of the short films were: friendship, love, education, of girls especially, reasons for leaving their country, etc.
After the long and cold winter in Sjenica, we decided to leave the school and move all the actions to the nearby meadows, next to the stream. Our picnics were active: workshops on culture, language, habits; sports activities and art workshops. Students who participated in School on Migration were involved in the work with children: besides theoretical knowledge, they also gained practical experience.
The result of these visits, we are very proud with, was that the children began to socialise and gather together event when we were not present. They independently held actions around the town, visited each other, made cakes for the holidays and went on trips.
Photos: Luka Knežević Strika
Project: INVOLVED – INclusiVe COmmunities Lead to the Vibrant SociEty without Discrimination; Our new neighbours – a step closer
Goal: Project goal is raising awareness of asylum seekers and migrants, general and professional public on social, economic and cultural rights of asylum seekers and migrants; Contribution to the development of the reception system for different categories of migrants and an open and tolerant society.
Implementers: Group 484 (Educational Program “We and the Others”)
Support: The Delegation of European Union in RS – European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR); Open Society Foundation Serbia