Written by Ilze Zirina, the coordinator of the project

This project met the challenge of Pandemic during the most important moment – after the first partner meeting when all the participants got on the same page, groups of young people were formed and everybody was excited to experience the Kick Off Seminar in Latvia…..

….March, 2020.

Latvian National team was excited to welcome international partners for Kick Off Seminar. It was supposed to happen in Rauna, Latvia, March 31 – April 4, 2020. The facilitators were more than ready: the avio tickets – bought, accommodation– organized, young people – ready to participate and meet international guests. In March 11, 2020 concerns about the the Covid 19 attack was so high that we seriously considered about the cancelation of the meeting in Latvia. And in March 12, the seminar in Latvia was canceled.

What’s next?!

Everybody confused and full of concerns. We came together on zoom platform April 3 to agree in next moves. We resisted digital platform. Some more than others. We all agreed that the essence of the project is about being together – physically in one room and time. Besides we were sceptical about kinesthetic learning on digital platform. Greece was more ready to start looking for new ways to connect through digital platform than rest of us. But… it took long and painful time till pandemic broke us and we started to look for digital tools. We did extension for the project 2 times. Final changes – we extended as far as we could – until December 31, 2021.

Summer/ Autumn 2020.

During the summer Poland, Greece, Latvia managed to run one more workshop, meeting their target group physically. Still, as Latvian team observed – the trust was gone. Participants were quiet and denial comparing to the last time we met them before the Pandemic. The first wave of Corona 19 was easier on Latvia, so also in October we could organize activities physically being in one space. We decided to step in Footprints of Greece ( Creating and Stepping in Footprints is 3 h long workshop created and described on paper by each partner for others to check how easy or difficult is to interpretate written description, created by another). Well, 4 people came. We run the workshop live on facebook for our partners to see if they wish. But that was the last time we met our young people in presence.

Partner Meeting 2 in Poland was supposed to happen in August. At some point it felt that it can actually happen, I mean – physical international meeting. But pretty soon many reasons showed that it is impossible. We met on ZOOM platform in July to think what to do with the international partner meeting and project in general. The meeting in the big group was heavy and stiff. Nevertheless, we came to common ground and agreed to extend the project and see if we can postpone the Partner Meeting 2 in Poland to October/November. We also agreed to have regular digital meetings in thematic smaller groups starting from September. Project’s FB group should be the platform where all the material of the project is collected but information should exchanged also through emails as few participants are not active FB followers.

Autumn 2020

As we know Partner Meeting in Poland did not happen also in Autumn 2020. We extended the project as much as we could – till the end of 2021. Still in October Latvian team did what they could to meet youngsters. As it metioned before, we stepped in Greek team’s footprints – implemented a workshop, created by Greek team in Rauna. Only four youngsters came. Of course we enjoyed to implement something what our foreign friends have created and also youngsters enjoyed when they forgot that they are so few.. but energy was not the same as before the pandemic.

In November we started online workshops within the target group. Latvian team started with “Dance Never Lies” facilitated by Inta Balode. It was a ZOOM talk/workshop about how dance is a good testing field of your real stance about issues in understanding, accepting and valuing the diversity.

Besides digital meetings we also started to collect materials for the final result of the project – the digital reading material. All the process was slow and heavy as people struggled with their everyday duties. And lack of energy exchange made to keep on moving the project each day more and more difficult.

Winter 2021

In January Greek team came up with a nice gift – an online workshop “ When Art Meets You!” The theme of the workshop was kinesthetic dialogue with our favorite piece of art. The workshop was great because first of all it was a possibility just to enjoy the facilitation of Greek team and participate being receiver and it also brought up some questions about the issues what could appear working digitally with youngsters and movement.

February was dark and quiet – no international nor local activity was heard in frames of project.

Spring 2021

In March Latvian National team started digital laboratories of kinesthetic learning among themselves but also opened that space for partners and later – even their friends to join. All in total Latvian team run 4 digital laboratories of kinesthetic learning and they found these meeting times meaningful both for professional and for personal interests.

In April we understood that actual international meetings might not happen in frames of our project. So, we stopped waiting and set the date for digital Partner Meeting 2 – April 17,18. Of course, emotionally nobody was enthusiastic about it but we did not see another way. We met two days, 3 hours per day. When we actually met, we felt, that it was a right choice: first of all we were more familiar with the digital platform for communication both verbal and kinesthetic and felt more relaxed about it. Second, we moved on in terms of objectives of the project (thanks to JAMBOARD what Ieva brought in the process). Third we shared ideas and moved together. This gave a little bit of sense about being a team again. We did not manage to implement everything we wanted at these two days, so we agreed to continue partner meeting 2 in a month. Which we did in May 15,16.

Greek team invited partners to join an event they are orgnizing for PEPSAEE youngsters – Bollywood Dancing Party to shake away the negativity and tiredness from the Pandemic. In May 14th they also managed to implement stepping in footprints of other partners and organize movement workshop called ” Puzzle Dance Challenge”.

In May the restrictions loosened a bit and Latvian team came together for 2 days’ residency to move forward with some materials for digital reading material.

Summer 2021

June started with organized online workshop “When Art Meets You” by Greek team about the music element. They used the video with Daniel Wargin ‘s sketches from one of our international weekend meetings at the workshop. Which means that even in darkest times good ideas fly around… if just we are able to observe, listen and appreciate..

In summer we also organized international working groups working on such themes as Kinesthetic Learning, Competency Framework, Digital Reading Material, Visuals of project, Interviews with the Participants. We met online and worked on materials for the digital reading material – about content, structure and shape.

Online dance events seems really working in Greece, so, they organized one more – Bollywood / Hip Hop dance event in the end of June and they were open for us to witness the event as well. Talking about the digital job shadowing as well as about many other good ideas – it stayed good only theoretically. Practically they were not implemented even if proposals (like this one) appeared in the group. This is one of learning outcomes of this Pandemic period – there are many good ideas on paper or in mind which does not mean they should be implemented in reality knowing how busy we are with all our duties. We need to find the right ballance when we addapt some project to the reality. Doing something just because to fulfill something what is written on the paper is not the purpose of this project. It has to be beneficial both for youngsters as well as participants of the project.

At one point there was a hope to have the final meeting in Greece we planed. But soon, in July, it started to be clear that the cases of Covid 19 in Greece increses drastically and the islands start to be locked down again.

Summer was good for the Bulgarian team. Meaning that they could implement two activities for their youngsters “Human and Five Elements” in July and “ Motion – Emotion” in August.

August was good for all of us – few of us (one participant from each country and all Latvian gang) managed to meet in Latvia in frames of job shadowing activity in August 19-23, 2021. It was exciting, motivating and meaningful meeting. It feels that with this meeting we broke the Pandemic inside of us. I mean all the nightmare of Covid 19 still goes on, but it feels, we somehow got back on the track.

What are learning outcomes? First of all:

Do not give up! Nobody promised the journey will be easy. Even the simpliest project can become complicated because of many different reasons. Going through this complicated process opens up the themes of the project (understanding of self, skill of listening and observation, openness as an attitude, value of diversity) in much wider range than if it was sharply organized, running smoothly etc.

Second – kinesthetic learning on digital platform does not quite work as exploration and self awareness for people who have not been practicing movement before. It can be a tool for relaxation and having fun and communication though. There are people who feel more comfortable in digital world but there are people who do not feel comfortable there at all and there should be possibility to choose. Pandemic did not gave this choice. And that was the worst part for me in all this story.

Third – there are many good ideas which theoretically would be possible to implement. But only few of them find ground and get implemented. May be for others it is not time yet.

the Key to Connection is implemeneted in the framework of Erasmus+: Youth in Action programme – key action 2, Strategic Partnership for exchange experiences.