Social Inclusion in ESN - Why is it important?
If you have ever wondered if we as Eduk8ers/Facilitators/Trainers can make a difference, the passions and determination that the participants of this year’s ESN Academy showed that you don’t need worry about that any longer. In Sarajevo, the group of 15 workshop holders showed the participants tools of how to make ESN (and the world!) more inclusive for everyone.
But why is social inclusion such an important topic? Let some of the workshop holders share their point of view.
Why do you think social inclusion is important for ESN?
Linda Bücking / Eduk8er
“Social Inclusion is extremely important for ESN, since it is the core of what we do: Integrating international students into the local society as well as helping them to make friends is what we aim to do by offering events! Thus, if we understand social inclusion as well as the related opportunities and challenges, we will be able to organise even better events and to support students even more. Additionally, ESN is a lot about community - about creating a community of international people in your home city, about working in a community of a local ESN team, about having this community that is a network spread all over Europe. All these diverse communities are based on a common mindset, shared values, and the principle of equity. By living and growing these communities we practise social inclusion.”
Pablo Guillerna Franco / Eduk8er
“I think that Social Inclusion and ESN are two sides of the same coin, when looking at ESN’s mission, vision and values, at our projects, at the daily work performed by our more than 15.000 volunteers in over 40 countries and providing service to more than 200.000 exchange students per year it is clear to me that one of our main goals is to achieve Social Inclusion by bringing together thousands of students from different countries, with different backgrounds, cultures, languages, interests… and yet, we manage to forget about those differences and focus on what really matters, all things we have got in common.
Obviously, there is a long way to walk in terms of becoming a totally inclusive organization, but I guess we are on the right path.”
How was it to facilitate workshops about Social Inclusion and the subtopics?
“Social Inclusion is a topic that is present everywhere around us, especially in ESN, yet hard to grasp. Therefore, coming up with a common understanding of certain topics and a proper flow of the workshops at the Academy was fairly difficult. Often we would have different ideas and understandings of the same workshop topic among the co-facilitators. However, we did have good mentors who supported us and made sure we would focus on the right aspects. For me as a workshop holder, a big learning point was how important it is to not just talk about concepts but have outcomes that are actually applicable to the participants´ (ESN) realities.”
“The ESN Academy was the result of a long process but was 100% worth it, I personally felt comfortable with the main topic itself, but I have to admit that some of the subtopics were a bit challenging. Nonetheless, my biggest fear was how seriously would participants take the topic and the workshops themselves as after delivering and attending similar workshops I have experienced that not everyone feels comfortable talking about disabilities for example what means that not everyone will open up and give their best in order to take the most out of the event.
I believe that Social Inclusion is a very wide topic and even more when focusing on some of the subtopics that were addressed in some workshops such as accessibility, mental health, disabilities, gender equality… That even if we don’t want to admit it are kind of taboo topics nowadays. And it was totally awesome to see both participants and workshop holders working closely and creating a great atmosphere to allow everyone to take the most out of the experience and more importantly to have something tangible to take back to our sections and to ESN as a whole. To wrap it up, I think that by now everyone in ESN is convinced of the importance of Social Inclusion, and I personally see ESN as one of the main actors in building a strong European society where everyone has the same opportunities and rights. Which is the only way to overcome the current situation.”
It seems evident, that Social Inclusion is an important concept for the ESN reality, but has it followed the participants to their life after Academy?
“Since the Academy, I have noticed that I can include aspects about Social Inclusion into a lot of my other workshops, even when it is not a Social Inclusion workshop, as it is a topic that is relevant in a lot of different contexts.”
Also the participants of Academy have already had the chance to use their new knowledge and pass it on to the local and national level, as told to us by Jozef Botka, an Academy participant:
“We had National Platform of ESN Slovakia and ESN Czech Republic together last weekend and I held a workshop for Mental Health and wellbeing in ESN. The workshop was pretty successful and participants appreciated bringing this important topic to our network. It was nice how people started a discussion about this issue and they together tried to find solutions. I think this was a good start in raising awareness in our two networks. I couldn't be able to do it without great workshop from ESN Academy and two perfect workshop holders - Thank you!”