Storytelling for social change: EU CARES training for youth in conflict and reconciliation contexts

Friday 23 February 2024

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A group of Paleolithic men gather around a fire, one of them making grand gestures with his arms, everyone listening attentively; the daily phone call with mom, “how are you, what’s new?”; the detailed description of a sore throat to the family doctor: humans, in nearly every interaction, tell stories. Why do we do this? Communicative needs, social norms, but also a way to feel like protagonists of our own lives, heroes of our own tale. A way to put difficulties into perspective and accept pain as one of the trials that separate us from our goals, making its achievement even more meaningful.

The energetic and healing potential of storytelling is at the core of the EU CARES project, aimed at promoting the use of narrative techniques in informal education contexts. The project starts from the observation that often conflicts of the past have not been processed by those who lived through them. This unresolved aspect is passed on to younger generations, risking instilling in them feelings of fear, resentment, and hatred, as if the conflict were still alive. Faced with this situation, which compromises peace and social harmony, EU CARES promotes the use of storytelling techniques to encourage young people to address the theme of reconciliation and generational traumas linked to conflict. Resulting from the work of a consortium mostly from the Western Balkans, the theme of conflict is not limited to its most immediate meaning, war, but unfolds in various ways in different partner countries.

The project is now in its experimentation phase. Partner countries gathered from February 1st to 6th in Palermo to test the effectiveness of storytelling techniques identified in the research phase. This took the form of a 6-day training for 35 young people from partner countries. The results of the training were excellent for both trainers and participants: the former were able to note the uncertainties and complications that arise in the execution of the techniques, while the latter were able to share a creative space of learning, reflection, and exchange on themes such as trauma, social inclusion, and the healing process of a post-conflict community. The feeling of being in a safe space was crucial, according to participants, to openly confront and share life experiences and testimonies.

The EU CARES project is now moving to the next phase, where practical applications will have more space, with greater awareness after the experience of this training. Each partner country will hold a local workshop lasting five days. CESIE, attentive to the urban and social dimension of conflict, will involve individuals with a migratory background in a photographic storytelling workshop in May.

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EU CARES – EUropean Collective narratives for Reconciliation and trauma healing through youth engagement and Storytelling is a project funded by ERASMUS-YOUTH-2022-CB, Erasmus+ Capacity Buildin. EU-CARES aims to empower youth workers and increase their competences to foster youth participation and engagement, intercultural understanding and solidarity and contribute to the reconciliation process in the Western Balkans through storytelling.


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