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Start date: Feb 1, 2015, End date: Dec 1, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The project titled “happiness” has been an international youth exchange in which participants from five European countries were brought together to work on the theme happiness. During the eight days of the projects, the participants worked together as a team and had the opportunity to take a look at the happiness in a fellow European Union country. The project was organized by “Go Foundation”, an organization focused on stimulating youngsters from the Northern part of the Netherlands (Noord-Groningen) to grow and increase an open-mindedness towards Europe through EVS and exchanges. In this exchange there participated 30 youngsters and 12 group leaders from the countries: the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Croatia and Romania. A wide range of backgrounds could be found within the group of participants. Highly educated university students and disadvantaged youngsters worked and participated together in this exchange. All youngsters were in the age range of 15 to 24 year. During this exchange, the participants got the opportunity to become more aware of the intercultural differences towards the theme “happiness” and find out what the similarities and differences are between the participating countries. The participants had the chance to develop themselves in the group and form a family of happy international youngsters, they also had the opportunity to develop a personal sense of happiness. Each participant walked their own path to ‘happiness’ during the exchange. Part of the program was developed by the participants. Each country had one of the themes: Creativity, Relationships, Health, Materialism and Belief (e.g. religion, believing in yourself). And each team of participants had to develop an activity that consisted of a mental and a physical aspect which addressed their theme and the relation of it to happiness. The groups succeeded to incorporate these themes in a playful and serious manner in which they stimulated more cultural awareness among each other. Besides the theme related activates the organizer incorporated physical activities that not only promoted collaboration among the participants, but also showed the cultural heritage that is available in the northern part of the Netherlands. Activities in the program were: icebreaker to get to know each other, creation of moodboards and poster that could be presented to each other, hiking trip through the sea in the northern part of the Netherlands (wadlopen), visiting local centers and communities to become more aware of the environment where the exchange took place, and a cooking workshop of food that they had to find themselves. All activities were there to promote intercultural collaboration and building relationships among the participants. The group developed themselves into a dynamical group in which the borders of their backgrounds faded to become a big happy family. During the evening each country presented their cultural habits, their geographical highlights and presented the rest with their culinary heritage. Participants learned from each other and reached new grounds in their personal development to a happy European citizen. In addition the goal to create awareness and acceptance towards the differences resulted in the youngsters realizing that active participation in the society could not only benefit the society, but them on a personal level as well. This awareness and realization is what the brought home to give forth to their home environment. Some participants became interested in working on a follow up project, in which the results of the exchange will be exploited and used to develop a new program. In this program, different youngsters from the European union will be involved and stimulated to develop their ideas in a similar way as during this project. The goal is to create a higher awareness of each other and evolve towards an European citizen.
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