»Because we are different« was an international youth exchange with the following partners: Mladinski center Trbovlje (Slovenia), Udruženje državljanov “Stopama pobednika” Lazarevac (Serbia) and SOU Goce Delcev from Valandovo (Republic of Macedonia). The youth exchange involved 24 young participants aged 13-16, accompanied by four youth leaders. The idea about renewed partnership came from the Municipality od Trbovlje, which wanted to include also elementary schools in the project. However the content of the project is exclusively the result of the ideas and work of a group of eight elementary school students from all three elementary schools in Trbovlje, who were included in all phases of the project. Among their peers they noticed that they are having many problems with accepting differences, whether they are of national, social or economic nature or even just the outer appearance and different hobbies that they are interested in. As a result small groups are formed within classes that exclude and mock those who deviate from their internal set criteria in any way. Consequently they also noticed the increase of bullying and hate speech. Throughout the exchange we worked on the mentioned topics with non-formal learning methods (theatre, dance-motion, multimedia workshops). Young people were involved in all stages of the project: planning, preparation of the application, advanced planning visit, preparation of the program, implementation of the exchange, dissemination, evaluation. In addition to the eight key competencies that were strengthened through activities deriving from their needs, wishes or interests, young participants gained also an international and intercultural experience. The biggest added value of the project was the realization that their peers in other cultures and countries face similar challenges in everyday life.

The project also addressed the needs of a cross-sectoral cooperation. With this project, MCT as a carrier of youth work and development in Trbovlje made strong connections also with elementary schools as the representatives of the formal education sector, which started to recognize the international projects and the intercultural dimension they bring as an added value to their curriculum. Partners in the project come from the twinned towns of the Municipality of Trbovlje, which regularly carried out connecting activities in the form of study visits and exchanges of young people with these towns in the past. In the last 20 years the contacts have been lost. With this project, we managed to strengthen cross-sectoral cooperation and renew international and intercultural cooperation, in the hope for a closer future cooperation between the three municipalities, which started to begin after the project and aims to develop into larger and longer-lasting projects. The project tdealt with the acceptance of diversity, tolerance and the establishment of intercultural friendship.

Objective: Young people have begun to accept diversity as an opportunity to bring them closer together instead of dividing them.

Achieved aims:
1. Students of elementary schools have become more open towards accepting diversity
2. Schools recognized youth work as an effective method to address crucial social problems among young people
3. Stronger cross-sectoral cooperation on the local level and closer cooperation between the three involved municipalities, which results in further cooperation on different areas (cooperation of citizens, young people, companies)

final event of the exchange
cards of good thoughts and actions
ZINE news
• one common meeting with representatives of the local community