Friday, 06 July 2012

Europe Week: a day to day review

written by John Oostdyk

European youth discover their common heritage

Europe Week: a day to day review

From June 22 - July 1, fourty young people from five countries gather  in the Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom to discover their common heritage! They come from the Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and, of course, The Netherlands


All participating groups arrive at the Vierslag, the training centre of Atlantic Bridge in Kruiningen. After introductions, program explanation and a few icebreakers, they set out for a much needed night of rest.



Meet the teams!

First, the European Volunteers and one of the Circuit Riders for the week: Monika (Czech Republic), Paloma (Spain), Anke (Germany), Dennis Ritchie (Connecticut USA), and the two Romanian volunteers, Daciana and Robert.Not shown here is Nel Ottema, the coordinator of the Europe Week.

The Hungarian team from the Kossuth Gymnazium in Mosonmagyarovar!


The Czech team from the Zatec Gymnazium


The Slovenian team – from Lutheran churches in the Murska Sobota region


The Italian team – from the Youth4Youth organisation in Boves.


Some of the Dutch participants ecstatic about what's coming!


SATURDAY June 23rd

Today is for getting acquainted, team building and for setting the tone for the coming week. Each morning we start with Oxford Chimes, a devotional moment led by Circuit Rider Dennis Ritchie. This morning Dennis shares his PUZZLE! We are all part of the puzzle of life and without our piece the world is not complete. 


We look at our national identities by having each country group make a Heritage Shield.

Our very first 'small group' team building activity is a game that  takes us into Kruiningen to discover this typical Dutch village. Each country is represented in each small group. Later on Cathy Faber’s session on being a good guest prepares us for going to guest homes. In the evening the Dutch team present themselves and their country.

After a day full of adapting to new things, new people, new cultures, we are glad to have Circuit Riders like Dennis Ritchie (Connecticut USA) and Steve and Ainsley Apirana (Australia) to help make the connections and lead the way.

SUNDAY, June 24th

Today is the first FAITH DISCOVERY day. We split up into smaller groups to visit different churches in Bergen op Zoom. Some services last two, others one hour. We evaluate our experiences afterwards.

In the afternoon we walk into town and witness the history of Christianity in the form of a procession. It is the annual MARIA OMMEGANG, a unique event organised by the Roman Catholic Church. We are quite surprised and amazed to see our FAITH HERITAGE walk right by us on the streets!

 Check it out:

The host families arrive later in the afternoon and take us home!

MONDAY, June 25th

We start most mornings with icebreakers, a short evaluation of the previous day “Yesterday, I learned…” and sharing the highlights and low points of the previous day giving previous day a mark between 1 and 10. During the morning Oxford Chimes, Dennis talks about friends and enemies. When Jesus said that we should treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves, He laid the basis for the care for and service to others.  When He added that we should love our enemies, He provided the means for an unusual counter-culture that spread all across Europe.  Throughout history these words have been put into practice in the various faith traditions.  Are the implications of these words found in the institutions of today?



What about politics?  This morning each small group forms a political party, chooses a candidate and makes a speech. This engages everyone in political conversation and helps us to understand the different government policies and issues. Some of us really get into it! Can we really make a change?  


Service project . In the afternoon we divide into groups for various service projects. Most of us are  involved in a project with older or disabled people to learn about how the elderly and disabled are provided for.


So what’s for dinner?

For the “Progresssive Dinner” we visit homes in small groups to taste a special part of the local cuisine: asparagus, strawberries and anchovies (in Dutch they are called the three A’s – Asperges-Aardbeien-Ansjovis). 

This activity gets very high marks! Meeting people and tasting the delicious cuisine of the region while having fun together going around the town! Wow! Some groups had dessert first and the main course at the end. One group got lost and had dessert twice!

Tuesday, June 26th

We start the morning with icebreakers, music, announcements, and an evaluation of the previous day. In the Oxford Chimes Dennis speaks about our common value of justice.

Each group is asked to create a new culture and make a presentation about what they came up with, finding ways to celebrate special moments like Christmas, Easter, Weddings, National days etc. It opens up discussion about traditions, cultures and ceremonies, and helps us think about our common heritage.

In the afternoon we discover the historical sites of the city of Bergen op Zoom, learning about the architecture, history, strife, religious events and so forth.

Country Presentation. In the evening, the Hungarian and Czech teams make great country presentations. They use video, talks, a quiz, a dance and games through which we learn about the history, geography, politics, traditions, music and food of the two countries.

Wednesday, June 27th

It's your turn. After four days of being overwhelmed with activities, new people, new places, new ideas, new messages, we may safely assume that everyone is suffering from a mild culture shock.  So it was time for a different pace, time for a change. That change took place during the daily Oxford Chimes. Dennis basically opened by saying: “now it’s your turn”. As we shared our thoughts and ideas with each other, we listened.

Relaxing workshops allow us to digest some of the things we heard, we express them through the arts; music, painting and making bracelets. 

In the afternoon it is all about old GAMES. Tying this to the 800 year birthday of the city, Robert, our Romanian EVS-er dug up old games that were played long ago. When he first showed us the variety of such games, it looked like we might need a special medical team to come alongside. But gladly he left those games out of the tournament and used simple and safe games.

Pancakes. For dinner and the evening it's pancakes in the forest. We discover another very interesting part of this city...its large forest!

Thursday, June 28th

The day starts with a much needed extra sleep. Late in the morning we climb on a tour bus to begin our discovery of the region focused on water. We visit places where salt water is cleverly divided from fresh water and we catch a glimpse of the struggle with the sea over the past centuries, creating a mindset that brought forth the statement that “God made the world but the Dutch made Holland”. We end with a few hours on a nice beach. 

Country Presentation. In the evening it is the Italian and Slovenian teams’ turn to do their country presentations. In a very creative way we look from a different perspective to find out what makes Italy and Slovenia special and what the participants love about their country. Using images, videos, games, quiz, acting, skits and with lots of humor they present us historic, geographic, political and cultural aspects of their countries. Putting a lot of effort into the presentation, the Slovenian team cook a specific dish, Dodole, so that we could taste their delicious cuisine


Friday, June 29th

Showcase Preparation. As the week runs its course, the participants are given time to evaluate and to reflect on the week, making a summary of what they learned and how they would implement this at home. An open discussion in each of the color groups is the result, where everyone is encouraged to speak about how they have experienced the Europe Week. Each group prepares something to share with the other participants, the host families, on Saturday evening.


Further discovery of Bergen op Zoom. We are not finished yet with discovering Bergen op Zoom, and we search for specific places by doing variuous tasks, gettin gin touch with local people, observing the architecture and the cultural values of the town and enjoying a fun walk through the beautiful city.

Saturday, June 30th

Host Family DAY. The participants spend the day with their host families. In the evening, we all get together: the participants; the host families; the Progressive Dinner families; various volunteers who helped to organize the week; and the staff of Atlantic Bridge.  to enjoy a BBQ and sing all the songs that we learned throughout the week. Each color team gives its presentation during the Cultural Heritage Showcase. It is our last Europe Week evening together.


Sunday July 1

For the last day, a Faith Discovery at De Schuilplaats is  planned for all the participants. The church welcomes us with a special service that includes a special prayer blessing for each of us. For the last time we sing together and perform the Flash Mob one more time. Cody, the Czech group’s leader from Hawaii, performs the Hawaiian Dance of worship

Europe Week ends after lunch and we evaluate the church experience and fill in the final evaluation papers. The first goodbyes are already said to the Italians who are the first to leave.