Rural Development: An extraordinary experience

Have you ever wished to experience an amazing adventure, while being able to learn through a non-formal educational program? Then Erasmus+ is a must!! Until now, I had only experienced youth exchanges, but a training course has a lot to offer to one’s mindset. This particular text and more specifically the following paragraphs, aim to summarize my role as a part of the “Rural Development” project and give my overall perception towards the matter.   
I'm Theodore representing Greece, particularly Social Inclusion, which is my sending organization. Thanks to my organization, I was able to achieve many of my dreams, such as meeting and interacting with amazing people, forming special relationships and learning more about sustainability, rural economy and the importance of repopulating a deserted village.
Let's take things from the beginning though. While I was filling my participation form, I couldn't imagine what was going to happen next. The exchange took place in Lamezia, a rural village at the beautiful region of Calabria, Italy. When I realized that we were going to spend a whole week in a sustainable ranch, I was overwhelmed. We had the opportunity to live the whole experience at a very different level.
From the beginning, it was pretty easy to interact with everyone. We had breakfast, while we were speaking about our backgrounds and our unique cultural heritage. We participated in a game where we got to know each other and pretty soon we dived into the world of rural economy, through videos and conversation. We learned the reasons behind the depopulation of the rural areas and the importance of bringing people back to revive the agricultural economy. Having that in mind, we visited another ranch, which was involved in not only the production of wine but also its export. Later, at the evening’s session we tried to come up with ideas which could make people interested in moving back to the villages.

The other day started with a team activity. The task at hand was to find 20 ways of using a spoon in only 2 minutes, while being part of a multicultural team and overcoming the language barrier. Furthermore, we witnessed the production of an important thing, the so-called Spirulina and how people can create new jobs by using new ideas. That day, we learned many things, not only about ourselves and our surroundings, but also about sustainable entrepreneurs. The next chapter of our adventure was to create a brief presentation of alternative ways for making rural areas attractive. My team and I, came up with the idea of alternative tourism in the form of a rural house without electricity, where anyone could enjoy some moments away from the routine of the city.  We were also in the pleasant position of showing to the other participants some local Greek dances. The study visit of the day was to be a part of a local startup, Mulinum. There, we could learn the history of a whole community and also taste some local cuisine.
Furthermore, a whole unique experience was awaiting us at the last day. I’m talking about our visit to a village called Riace and of course our meeting with the mayor of the place. From a populated village to a deserted place , Riace became the synonym of hospitality and humanity, because of the vision of one person, Lucano who wanted to transform it into a small paradise for migrants. To make a long story short, Lucano still fights for the human rights even though the state is his biggest enemy. Among many things, we learned that actions need to be made if we wish to change the world. It was really moving to experience Lucano’s   speech about his motive to help migrants find their place, while being surrounded by colorful murals about migration and its suffering. The last evaluation almost brought tears to the participants, who were about to say farewell to each other.

All in all, I truly recommend everyone who is reading this mere article to give Erasmus+ a try. What I’m trying to imply is that a project like this can be really fundamental, not only as a means of entertainment, but also as a source of inspiration and motivation. I will never forget the different point of view, which was illustrated by the other participants and everyone’s motive to change the world, making it a better place. Last but not least, I would like to thank the welcoming organization ITHACA , my sending organization Social Inclusion and of course the facilitator of the program and the participants themselves.

Thodoris Lintzos

July 19, 2024

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