From Small Steps to Big Changes
1 January 2018 – 31 August 2018
The “From Small Steps to Big Changes” project aims to tackle the growing discriminatory attitudes and practices in the contemporary EU.
With the rise of xenophobia and fears against refugees, migrants and generally ‘others’, the situation of minorities has worsened, and even people who were indifferent to those groups before now begin to manifest discriminatory attitudes. The news that media consumers get about the terrorist attacks and the radical Islam make them fearful, and even though the news present cases of individuals (whereas the whole communities of ‘others’ – mostly migrants and Muslims – live peacefully in Europe), the image of “evil Muslims”, “refugees-terrorists” and “dangerous others” begins to prevail in public discourse, and influences a lot individual attitudes. As lack of knowledge and mostly one-sided media images lead to the growth of stereotypes and prejudices, discriminatory practices start to grow. Minority group members report that it gets much harder to get a job, rent a flat, and often just walking on the streets is a challenge.
There are many efforts in Europe to stop and turn back the growth of exclusion and discriminatory attitudes; however, youth workers all around Europe encounter tough challenges working with this issue. They often are more than willing to help and act, but they lack expertise – both in theoretical preparation, and practical experience. Fortunately, the initiatives for supporting inclusion and combating discrimination are on the rise, but even more efforts and helpful hands will be needed in order to increase awareness and tolerance of societies and local communities in all EU countries.
SCI as a movement for peace and solidarity is aware of the situation and is proactively looking for ways for involvement and active participation in tackling today’s challenges of discrimination in our societies. Having regular contact and cooperation among the members and enhancing the knowledge sharing among them, we have received requests for further development of the capacities of the partner organisations and decided to proactively address the problem of “willingness and motivation but lacking the tools” by proving content and methodological support and offering SCI approach and expertise, based on recognised non-formal education methodology.
“From Small Steps to Big Changes” was an 8-month long project that consisted of 2 main elements: a training course and Country actions.
Training course “From Small Steps to Big Changes: Tackling discrimination in everyday life”
Antwerp (Belgium), 12 – 18 April 2018
The training course hosted 27 participants from Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. It has included elements of both theory, direct encounter with minorities, practice, and action planning.
Implemented by the participants to the training course after their training, in the Countries where they come from.
Project partners and supporters
The “From Small Steps to Big Changes” project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and by SCI.
Impression from a participant
Written by Maja Mestek
When a friend from Voluntariat told me about the training “From small steps to big changes” and asked me if I could participate, I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it. I even ended my trip to Skopje earlier to be able to go. The topic is really close to my heart because I’d like to work with refugees and I did my 10-month EVS in the centre for Roma street kids. I also wanted to learn more about the human library because I haven’t heard about it before. It was definitely the right decision. I had an amazing time, I’ve met many extraordinary people and most importantly, I believe I took a lot out of it. The trainers were amazing. They used diverse and interesting learning methods making it easy to follow and stay focused throughout the whole time, although the program was quite intense. They were able to shift many of our perspectives and the human library had an even more powerful effect on us. I definitely want to organize one in my country.
After this experience, I am even more motivated to dedicate my time to make a difference in this world. I personally believe that instead of blaming we should show understanding. There is always a reason why somebody acts in a certain way. Maybe we would have been the same if we had been born in a different culture with a family constantly filling our heads with hostile/negative/fearful beliefs. By attacking or punishing people who are actively practising discrimination we won’t really do much. I think that people need to feel safe in order to open their minds to a different kind of thinking, otherwise they will just go into a defensive mode and continue with their behaviour. I am not saying that it is easy to change somebody’s perspective, but I strongly believe that it is worth it.
I have learned in this training that every act counts. Maybe one person can’t change the whole world, but we can make at least one person happier every single day. Just by showing them they matter. By showing them respect or support. By smiling at a stranger. When we witness discrimination it is easier to just look the other way, but what if it would happen to our loved ones and nobody would be there for them? There is also a butterfly effect. Sometimes we are not even aware of how much we influence others. I loved the story that a trainer shared with us. She organized a workshop about anti-discrimination many years ago. Later on, one of the participants entered politics and started fighting for the cause. In a TV-interview, he mentioned that he was inspired by the workshop he attended in high school and it completely changed his views.
What we all can do is to stop generalizing. When we look at a person we should see a human being and not a bunch of labels and stereotypes. Everyone deserves an opportunity and many times people have amazing and inspiring stories. We can focus on the things that unite us instead of what divide us. At the end, every human being just wants to be happy.