Between the 11th and the 24th of July 2023, our volunteers Bri, Anda, Andrew, Denisa, Julia and Izabela participated in the youth exchange In Connection. The project took place in Ommen, the Netherlands and it was organised by the Olde Vechte Foundation.

The “In Connection” program in Ommen, The Netherlands, proved to be an unforgettable experience that surpassed all expectations. Participants from diverse countries came together for an amazing 12 days event, centered around fun games designed to create deep connections among individuals. The activities encouraged empathy, understanding, and a shared sense of purpose, fostering an environment of open-mindedness and respect.

One of the most extraordinary challenges presented to the participants was a 72-hour survival experience without food, money, phones, or a place to sleep. But we managed to build a raft at first, then we went biking and in the end, we found a place to sleep at dutch people houses and we had the best time of our life. “This experience pushed us to our limits, promoting resourcefulness, teamwork, and resilience”.

This program served as a testament to the power of human connection and how shared experiences can transcend borders and create lasting bonds, also, we carried with us cherished memories and an extended global family bound by the spirit of unity and friendship.

Izabela wrote at her testimonial:

“During my time in Ommen, Netherlands, I had an amazing experience trying new activities and meeting people from all over the world. My friends and I connected on a deep level, getting to know each other better, and I believe our Romanian team wouldn’t have been complete without one of us. Also, the people there were incredibly nice, and saying goodbye was truly emotional, knowing I might not see them again.

I learned not to give up, even when things get tough, and that age doesn’t matter when it comes to making friends. Despite being the youngest in the group, we integrated well and formed strong bonds.
Moreover, I realized how important teamwork is when working in a group with so many different personalities, perspectives and opinions.

Participating in the three outdoor days made me realize how much I like spending time in nature and from now on I will make sure I will do so.
Even though it was challenging and demanding, reaching the end brought a great sense of accomplishment. Moreover, I was able to form friendships with people I never thought I’d interact with. The In-Connection Project provided me with unforgettable memories and valuable life lessons.
Bri, Anda, Deni, Julia and Andrew, thank you so much for these 12 days together! I’m glad I got to take part of this amazing experience with you!”

Denisa wrote that:

“It has been almost two weeks since I got home from Olde Vechte. I was in a beautiful project called “In Connection”. There, we got to see a world, different from ours. It has been a great opportunity for each of us to meet new people and embrace new cultures. I learned to be more in control and not to panic in challenging situations. I think everyone should try to participate in this project, to get out of their comfort zone and have fun at the same time.
I really liked the outdoor adventure which was 3 days. It was the type of experience that is once in a lifetime. Some parts of the adventure were really hard and challenging but I managed to do it with the support of my team. The support was unconditional and was a huge help for my success. Even if it was hard I enjoyed the outdoor adventure and I would like to repeat some parts of it. It was for sure one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. If someone proposes me to repeat it, I would say yes without hesitating.”

Andrew wrote that:

“It has been almost 3 weeks since I got back home, and oh boy, I already miss all of it! The people, the town, the activities, all you can think of. I was part of a project called “In Connection” that took place in Ommen, a little town from the Netherlands. There we had to live and participate in activities with people from other countries. When I arrived, I was a little bit shocked, because I was expecting for the other participants to be 15 or 16 years old like me, but that was not the case because most of them were over 20 years old. I was scared that I will not get along with them because of the big age gap between us, but to my surprise I became friend’s with almost all of them in the first days. They are some amazing people with unique personalities, and I will sure keep in touch with some of them.

I really enjoyed all the moments spent in the Netherlands, but my favorite by far was the 3 day outdoor adventure. This challenge consisted in doing tasks, like building a boat to go on the river, or biking ten’s of kilometers to move from town to town. It seems easy at first, but there is a catch… We were divided in teams of 5, and only one member of the team could have his phone on him. We were not allowed to have money with us, and the best part is that we didn’t had a place to sleep. We needed to go on random people’s houses and ask them if they could let us sleep in their houses. It was super hard, but it’s the best experience of my life so far!

In this project I learnt a lot of useful things. One of them is that I can survive almost anywhere without money, a phone or a place to sleep. By far the most important thing I learnt is that I can become friend’s with any good-hearted person, despite the cultural differences, or the big age gap between us. This adventure in the Netherlands was an amazing and beautiful experience that I will never forget, and I am looking forward for new opportunities like this one!”

Bri wrote that:

“This was the most interesting experience that I’ve ever lived. I’ve done a lot of unexpected things, that got me out of my comfort zone. One of the most relevant things was the 3 days spent around the country. In these 3 days I’ve learnt how to build a raft, how to find a place to sleep in Dutch people’s houses and how to save energy for long bike trips. Beside this outdoor journey we also played a lot of fun games and we got to know each other and learn about other cultures. In addition these activities helped us develop our teamwork skills. Overall, I’m beyond grateful that I took part in this amazing project and I encourage people to change their perspective through their lives. I suggest anyone to step out of their comfort zone because for me it was a life changing adventure.

It changed me a lot in a very good way, and honestly I would repeat this experience again and again.”

photographer: Ausma Cīrulniece.

Anda wrote that:

“This summer I had the amazing opportunity of visiting Ommen, and in my humble opinion it’s maybe one of the most beautiful cities from the Netherlands. As this was my second Erasmus+ project I already had something in mind how the trip will be, but the people I have met, the interaction, the activities and the Dutch landscape were definitely above all my expectations. Our international group was extremely nice and it was very interesting to see how these many people could collaborate in achieving their goals. We managed to link friendships that I hope will last a life time.
Some of the activities sounded a little scary at first and have proven to be very demanding, but with help from my team I managed to find the strength to accomplish and overcome my fears. We did some crazy things that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do and the Dutch people we have met were as nice as I have hoped for, even more, so nothing was impossible.

In conclusion I will definitely remember this exchange as being an important part of my personal development. Thank you all for the support and attention.”

And last but not least, Julia mentioned at her testimonial that:

“What I liked about this project was the people I met there, and the connections that were made between the participants. It was really fun and interesting working together with people from other countries because we got to share different opinions, and life experiences that brought us closer everyday. The 3 days outdoor adventure was the highlight of the project for me. I was reminded how important is to be organized and to communicate with the people around you. Another thing that I liked during this project was the teambuilding activities and games. Everyday I was very excited and looking forward to spend time with everyone there.
I really enjoyed my time during this project because I had the chance to disconnect from the real world and be a part of this amazing team.”

During September our volunteers will create the dissemination activities, so stay tuned!