Three days, three high schools, 13 workshops, one city: Palermo!

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Palermo is the capital city of Sicily, Italy. Because of its position at the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, the city’s history has been ‘shaped’ by three different geographical areas: Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East.

On the 5th of March, three Italian volunteers, Rachele (from Turin), Paola and Michela (from Milan), together with the author of this post (from Rome) met at the airport of Palermo ‘Falcone e Borsellino’ for 48 intense hours, full of hard work but also of rewarding moments.

We have been asked to deliver our workshops to 12 classes in three high schools, counting exchange students from 14 different countries. The three high schools we visited included one International Classic High School, and two Linguistic High Schools (one private and two public).

The schools wanted us to focus on Intercultural Communication (especially for the younger students, 9th and 10th grades), and on Discrimination (especially for the students from grade 11th to 13th). Accordingly to that, we prepared and shaped five different workshops: “International Conference”, “Buildation bridgeation”, “Around the world”, “Circle of Society”, and “Paper bin game”.

Although none of the classes we visited were familiar with non-formal education methods and never had before these kinds of workshops, all the students were very enthusiastic and receptive to the topics.

We set ourselves the goal to try making all students reflect about how to improve their knowledge, and give them theoretical tools with which they can build their own strategies to communicate better, and fight discrimination.  The response from the students was overall positive, with some classes being more active than others (especially in the classical high school). Also the level of interaction of students was higher for those who did not request to have their workshop facilitated in English.

We delivered in fact a couple of workshops in English with mixed results. If on the one hand, it highlighted the importance of speaking English, as one of the most useful languages to communicate worldwide and to diversify the sources of information, on the other hand it affected negatively those who were not able to express their thoughts well in this language.

All in all, we noticed that young people were highly interested in becoming able to communicate effectively in another language. In the last few centuries, Sicily from being the center of a big trading area became a periphery of Europe, suffering the negative impacts of the recent refugee crisis. The Sicilian young people feel a bit alienated by what happens at the heart of Europe, but they really desire to be a part of a bigger community!

I really hope we will be able to boost our work here, and involve more young people in the individual and common effort to improve communication and fight discrimination.

Written by Tamoi Fujii, YFU Italia School Ambassador