When, in early May 2012, the IMVF accepted the invitation of the Italian organisation Gruppo di Voluntariato Civile (GVC) to participate in a  ‘Youth in Action’ initiative against human trafficking, we could not guess what the experience would give to the Portuguese youth group. The result was a week in a small village 50 minutes from Bologna, a “camp” that brought together 20 young people between 18 and 25 years old – four different nationalities – to informally learn more about human trafficking.

A well spent week and a better understanding of the topic were the general conclusions of the participants, including the Portuguese delegation that was represented by five young people.

‘Youth in Action’ is a European Union (EU) programme that aims at inspiring active citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among young Europeans and to involve them in shaping the future of the EU itself.

The day to day life at the camp

Monday, May 28th

May 28th was the date of departure and by 6:50 a.m. the Portuguese participants were already at the Lisbon Airport, bags packed and smiling, ready for the journey.

Arriving in Bologna, we moved from the airport to the train station where we meet with participants from other countries for introductions and integration in the spirit of the camp. Then we went to Ville Torre – the village that hosted the event, located in the Natural Park of Gessi Bolognesi and Calanchi della Abbadessa.

Two hours and two buses later we reached the natural park. A 5km walk was still waiting for us to reach the farm but due to the heat – and the fact that we were up since 6 a.m. – the organisation provided cars to travel to the place. Dinner was provided at 8 p.m., and until then Portuguese, Italians, Bulgarians and Romanians occupied the gardens of the farm, chatting with each other.

Some delicious bruschetta and tagliatelle bolognese was our dinner that ended with a strawberry ice cream cake – all prepared with organic products, fair trade or produced by local farmers. After dinner, there was talk about the programme and expectations for the intense week and by 11 p.m. most participants headed for the rooms. The journey that began by 6 a.m. required hours of sleep to guarantee a vigorous and active next day.


The Portuguese five young people who´ve been in Bologna.

Tuesday, May 29th

The day began with an earthquake shortly before 9 a.m. in the morning. 5.8 on the Richter scale with the epicentre 100 km from Ville Torre. The few who by this time were still asleep quickly rose to the shaking ground. After messages and phone calls to family and friends to warn that we were all right, we went to the field where the day’s activities would happen. After an invigorating team activity, we heard from Silvia from Casa delle Donne who spoke about human trafficking and her experience in rescuing and recovering women, illegal migrants, trafficked to Italy for sexual slavery.

“Sisters” – a Serbian film from 2011 produced by Vladimir Paskaljevic – was the choice for viewing and discussion during the afternoon. The film tells the story of two sisters, Romanian, who left the country to search for a better future, and ended up trapped in the mesh of prostitution and women trafficking.

The evening would end on the way to Bologna where the whole group attended a fundraising dinner for the Gruppo Voluntariato Civile to facilitate access to water, agriculture and health in Palestine.

Wednesday, May 30th 

It wasn´t 10 a.m. yet and all participants formed a circle to know what would be the first activity in the morning. In groups of five, they should analyse a text about an experience of human trafficking – written in the first person – and then draw a map of the route from the country of origin of the victim until his arrival in Europe.

In the text, Dag, a boy from Eritrea, explained how he had to flee his country and look for a better future after war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia and how it took a year and a half to reach Lampedusa, Italy. He was repatriated and trafficked five times by the Libyan police. This was followed by a documentary – depicting how Africans are treated until they reach Europe and obtain a visa.

The afternoon began with an improvised theatre after the viewing of several advocacy campaigns, including those of Amnesty International, one of the most active voices against human trafficking.

The end of the afternoon was used to prepare the intercultural night. Portugal would play the role of Bulgaria and Italians would play the role of Portugal. After dinner were the plays, which led to many laughs, and a night of Brazilian and Italian music sung and played by the chef Marcelo, a Brazilian living in Italy for about three years.

Thursday, May 31st

The morning began with a quick breakfast and a play where several situations of human trafficking: groups of seven had to rehearse a play where there was an aggressor, a victim, an accomplice of the offender, a accomplice of the victim and three neutral characters. The desirable end result would be a positive action by the neutral characters in order to rescue the victim of the human trafficking network.

The afternoon continued with activities of Creative Writing and Stencil Art – an expression of urban art that is characterised by drawing geometric shapes and openings. The group chose this workshop aimed to create an image of human trafficking to replicate in T-shirts, while the creative writing group would have to create a blog on the subject.

By late afternoon the participants meet again this time for a visit to Dulcamara, an organic farm whose goal is to live according to what the land gives, adopting behaviours that respect the land and animals. The visit ended with a vegetarian lasagne dinner provided by the owners of the farm!


One of the activities of the week and on the right part of the assembled group.

Friday, June 1

Friday was a free day. A day for the participants to head to Bologna and discover this wonderful university city – lively and cosmopolitan – with about 390,000 inhabitants. It is the seventh largest Italian city and the one with the most arcades in the world. It is also said (but we did not see it!) that it?s possible to move around the entire city on a stormy day without having to use an umbrella.

The tour began with a stop at the Tower of Asinelli and a visit to the Jewish quarter, followed by lunch at Osteria del Sole, a very small restaurant where anyone can bring their own lunch you just have to buy a drink.

After lunch, and now accompanied by an Italian ice cream, we started by discovering the Neptune Square and the Basilica of San Petronio, the sixth largest church in the world. At the end of the day, tired, we took the bus back to the farmhouse, and after a shower and a delicious dinner, it was time to rest.

Saturday and Sunday, 2nd and 3rd June

Saturday was entirely devoted to workshops. The stencil group had at hand 20 sweatshirts to paint and the creative writing group a blog to finish. The result of their work was then presented to colleagues on Sunday: the first group summarised what Stencil Art is, how it is done, and how they got the image printed on the jerseys. The second group presented the blog and explained the sections and types of texts chosen to compose it.

The afternoon was dedicated to evaluation: a week well spent and a better understanding of the topic were the general conclusions. Closing the ‘camp’, and not forgetting that we were in Italy ? we were still time for a pizza lab where participants learned the differences between the northern pizza – thinner – and those in southern Italy, with thicker crust!

It was a night of farewell: many hugs, photos and exchanged contacts marked the event.

Monday, June 4th 

At 7 a.m. the Portuguese delegation had the backpacks at the door, ready for the long journey in two buses, one aero bus and finally a plane, that would take them back home. When, at 4 p.m., we landed in Lisbon, the desire to pass on all the learning done of the week to friends, colleagues and family was huge. An experience to repeat, agreed all participants.

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