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Between 10 and 13 September 2018, Galashiels in the Scottish Borders was a place where new friendships were made, knowledge was shared and young people from across Europe were able to learn about how youth and placemaking go together. PAS and Galashiels Academy hosted there the European Youth Camp – an event delivered as part of the existing Bridging the Gap partnership. The camp’s motto was “My town – past, present and future”.

The European Youth Camp involved groups of teenagers from Scotland, Germany, Latvia, Norway and Poland. The participants from abroad were invited to Galashiels via the Innovation Circle Network. This non-profit network was developed as part of an EU project 11 years ago and its members (municipalities, NGOs and individuals) aim to strengthen and to learn from each other in rural regions of Europe through joint projects.

The Youth Camp aimed to build international relationships and create a space where young people could discuss their place and share their experience. Another opportunity stemming from this event was a chance for the participants to learn and gain insight and knowledge of how other young people in Europe view and engage with decision-making in their local area.

The programme of the camp followed the Past – Present – Future structure. The participants were given numerous opportunities to get to know the host town and its heritage, such as Abbotsford House or Borders Railway; this included themed walks in Galashiels delivered by the pupils of Alice Crawford, head of PTC Social Subjects at Galashiels Academy. The variety of interactive workshops and activities, including Claire Pencak’s meditative take on how we dwell in the world, meant that young people could exchange their current experiences, learn about other countries’ approaches to specific civic issues, and take a hopeful inspiration for the future.

Group photo with Children’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson, Christine Grahame MSP and Cllr Shona Haslam at Galashiels Academy

Even more importantly, the camp was a time of getting to know others and building international relationships. This was not just on the official scale, like during the meeting between the foreign guests and the politicians, Councillor Shona Haslam and Christine Grahame MSP, but also on a personal and very human scale, during the young guests’ stays at homes of the host families in Galashiels.
To see more of what happened during the European Youth Camp, make sure to see the video!

Here’s what the young participants had to say about their participation in the camp and the effect it had on them:

  • “This exchange was really something special. It didn’t just take us personally through the many impressions and gave us an insight into a foreign culture. It also ensured that we look at our town with a fresh look and recognize new opportunities for the KiJuPa [local youth parliament]”. – Mortischa Mokelke (Rathenow, Germany)
  • “This experience was really good for us because we can take something home and give other young people new ideas” – Mārtiņš Skuja (Jelgava, Latvia)
  • “You need to be proud about what you have, you can change the world […]. If you are scared of something, just go ahead and do it!” – Krista Ļūmane (Jelgava, Latvia)
  • “I’m not a very outgoing person, so I was nervous [about the camp]. But I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how welcoming everyone has been, everyone from other countries and people from Scotland. We didn’t have as much pride in where we’re from as we do now. We feel we should use our youth council more, now that we know many people don’t even have this opportunity and not take it for granted”. – Emil Hansen (Askim, Norway)
  • “I feel privileged to know that a person in the Scottish Parliament [Christine Grahame MSP] wants me to email her!”. – Ida Hansen (Askim, Norway)
  • “We learnt that we can improve a lot in our town and schools by seeing the situation in Scotland and also other countries. We’ve learnt how to develop the abilities that we have, as we sometimes forget about them”. – Paula (Suwałki, Poland)
  • “We have learnt how to make international contacts, meet new people, create amazing memories… It’s beautiful!” – Wiktoria Chojnowska (Suwałki, Poland)
  • “We learnt about other languages and cultures and what connects us and unites us”. – Ewa Putra (Suwałki, Poland)
  • “We know what to appreciate in Poland now. For example, there’s greater respect for youth – Scottish students said that they can’t hang around [in many places]. We don’t have that – we can hang out wherever and whenever we want”. – Gabriela Bagan (Suwałki, Poland)