From 13 to 18 December 2021, the coordination team of the project “Young Verified Leaders“ met in Sousse (Solijugend, ADEEJ and ALEJ from Algeria and We Love Sousse from Tunisia). The goal was to plan the upcoming workshops, to prepare our international youth encounters, to exchange about methods of non-formal child and youth work – and last but not least to finally get to know each other personally.
After two years without physical meetings and five months since the beginning of the Young Verified Leaders program, the entire organizing team (Nasser, Nassim, Haifa, Carolina and Adeline) and the members of WLS were finally able to meet face to face. After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, we met Haifa and Samra, who picked the German and Algerian delegations up at the hotel reception. At the same time, they were joined by our translator Lamine, who was to accompany the team for the week. His task was to translate from French into German during the work meetings and excursions.
The day started at the city gate “bab el gharbi“ and the visit of the Medina (Arabic word for Old City), which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The organizing team of the YVL program and members of WLS then met at the café “Kasba“, over traditional Tunisian coffee, to further get to know each other personally and talk roughly about the upcoming program of the week. Afterwards we visited the museum “dar essid“ to learn about the historical Islamic way of life and to enjoy the Tunisian interior architecture. In the process, we learned a lot about the daily life, clothing and lifestyle of an Islamic family hundreds of years ago.
During our exchange of professionals, the festival “Voix des femmes“ (Voices of Women) was also held, organized and carried out by WLS members on a voluntary basis. Before lunch, we were invited to watch the short film “Aicha“ by Moroccan director Zakaria Nouri. The whole thing took place next to the museum “el Kobba“, where the members of WLS take care of children from financially weak families and support them regularly in the afternoon with sports and an educational program.
The lunch took place in a so-called “Maison d’hôtes“, a guest house where the owners of the house cook and serve culinary specialties to the guests themselves.
Afterwards we drove to the office of WLS, where the first project team meeting and the recording of a podcast was supposed to take place. The podcast was hosted by Iheb Helali and was intended to raise awareness of the Young Verified Leaders project. We were aware of the content of the planned audio recording, but no one had experience with recording a podcast. The good mood and hospitality of the moderator helped to create a very pleasant and entertaining atmosphere. Exhausted by the many impressions, we postponed another working meeting in the evening to end the day at the “Théâtre municipal“, the municipal theater of Sousse. There we witnessed a breathtaking performance of the newcomer singer Mayssoun Fatnassi, who truly lived up to the name of the festival with her wonderful voice.
The day started with a third working group meeting. In the planning phase we (Haifa, Nassim, Nasser, Carolina and Adeline) had divided the different task areas between our four organizations and on Thursday the part to be presented was worked on by the Algerian colleagues, Nassim and Nasser.
After two intense hours of work, it was time for a traditional window shopping in the old town. We were joined by Farah, who helped us not only to find our way around the narrow streets of the old town, but also to negotiate prices with the local vendors and craftsmen.We spent lunch at a snack bar with freshly squeezed juices and “makloub“, a delicious Tunisian sandwich.
In the afternoon, the YVL team was received by the director of the first Tunisian youth house, (“Maisons de Jeunes”) in Riadh in Erriadh, a district of Sousse. Here we discussed the specifics of such an institution and a possible collaboration in the project.
To end the day in an informal setting, we met again in the afternoon with the members of WLS at Café Don Pablo for coffee and extremely sweet “Chocolat Chaud“, got to know each other again in a completely new way and talked about possible strategic approaches in the project.
At 10:00 a.m. Haifa was waiting in the hotel lobby to say goodbye to us. Our Algerian friends Nasser and Nassim drove directly to Tunis. Carolina was driven to the airport at 12:00 and Adeline added a few more vacation days to the work meeting.
The exchange of professionals in Sousse was the first activity of the YVL project in presence and we hope that it was only the first of many more to come.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire We Love Sousse team, from Haifa and Anis to every single member who accompanied us during this week. Despite all the unexpectedness on time and in regard to the pandemic, the team of WLS was very flexible, always there for us, and each*person was very attentive to our needs and concerns during the project meeting. We would also like to thank our Algerian partners Nassim and Nasser for their inspiring collaboration and commitment to meet together in Tunisia.
Besides a very dense program and various exciting working groups, we had the opportunity to get to know each other better, but this time not hidden behind a screen, thousands of kilometers away. In particular, we appreciated the informal discussions with the coordination team of ALEJ, ADEEJ and WLS. These helped not only to better identify the diverse views, but also to meet more in person. A project of this scale and with so many intertwined intercultural levels can only succeed sustainably if everyone is given the space to develop and feel comfortable. Only in this way can we convey the values that are so central to us and foster interpersonal relationships between partners and our members. We remain firmly convinced that communication at eye level and mutual trust are the main elements of our cooperation. For us, this is one of the most important foundations for immediate program success. We feel confident that we are ready to meet the challenges and are already looking forward to the next steps of action in the coming year!