Asfar and Erasmus+ 2015

During 2015, Asfar held its first EU Erasmus+ Youth Exchange programmes.

Organising 4 Youth Exchanges activities throughout the year in Istanbul, Turkey; Amman, Jordan; Jerusalem, Israel; and London, UK, providing cultural learning and international opportunities for over 30 young people in 2015: to participate in inter-cultural activities; learn about the EU, citizenship and human rights; develop language skills; and overcome community and personal barriers, such as unemployment; low skills; xenophobia; racism; social conflicts; and ultimately to learn about the UK, Europe and the Middle East.

In 2015, Asfar with our partners, have completed 2 projects: Inspire Europe and Dynamo Youth Exchange, in the UK, Turkey and Jordan.

While in September and October 2015, Asfar launched our activities for Strategic Partnership project: Micro-Enterprise and Social Action; and Youth Exchange project focusing on how the First World War still effects our society today: Europe, Gallipoli and the Arab Revolt, through transnationals in Turkey and Israel.

Asfar also held our first Youth Worker event, through a job shadowing activity in Istanbul, where two of our colleagues visited the city and met with our partner Takım Yıldızı, to learn about the youth sector, develop new youth work skills and to learn more about international youth work, in an international city.

Istanbul, Turkey

March 2015, found Asfar in Istanbul, Turkey, a former capital of Empires and one of the most cosmopolitan in Europe and Asia. Both participants and Asfar’s team, remembers this as our most favourite youth exchange to date, although at the time, we were all exhausted due to the wide range of activities.

Starting with an initial morning of icebreakers, the afternoon was spent outside in the pouring rain in Istanbul’s old city: Sultan Ahmet, completing a fun scavenger hunt, in small teams. Working out clues, collecting group photos, speaking Shakespearean Sonnets, acting out Agatha Christie’s murder scenes at the site where the Oriental Express leaves, learning about Ottoman history, haggling for free Cinnamon in the Spice Bazaar and ultimately getting soaking wet, our groups from the UK and Turkey spent the entire afternoon really getting to know each other, getting to know Istanbul and developing their language skills English and Turkish.

Following days included informal learning workshops focusing on employability skills; human rights; EU citizenship; conflict resolutions; as well as visits to IHH. Participants were also invited to the Erasmus University picnic, for all students involved in the Erasmus programme. From here they met with peer young people from a range of backgrounds, living and studying in Istanbul.

The week ended, with a visit to the Asian side of Istanbul: Kadıköy, crossing the Bosporus on the ferry, walking through the markets and sitting by the Straits, watching the sun setting. This was followed by a traditional Kebabcı dinner. Our new Turkish friends, were so sad to leave us leave, that many stayed at the hotel and took us to the airport the next day to see us off properly. A great youth exchange!

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan in May 2015, was a creative-enterprise week, of skills building; cultural understanding; social action and citizenship through informal learning techniques.

Asfar’s young people engaged with Youth Spirit’s young people, who led the project themselves. Over the week, creative and enterprise activities included: Arab silk painting; digital skills development; project design; photography and enterprise skills.

Following the activity, a number of the participants’ from Jordan, have established their own social enterprise: Oxygen, which Asfar hopes to work with in the near future.

Young people also participated in an Amman’s scavenger hunt, around the old city, further developing their communication, team and leadership skills.

Participants also learned about Jordan’s cultural past, including Christianity, especially Coptic Christianity; the Ottomans; the Mamluks; the Byzantium; and Romans.

All participants learned about the creative arts and music industry in Jordan, as many of the Jordanian participants were freelance designers, artists or worked in the media. One morning, participants learned about the art of Japanese silk screen printing, developing stencils and creating unique silk screen canvases together.

Youth Spirit delivered a series of Arabic informal learning workshops, which allowed UK participants to develop their language skills, while also support Jordanian participants with their English.

Other activities included: a visit to Souq Jara; hiking around Wadi Al-hidan; and Madaba.

On the last day, as a farewell activities, everyone visited the Dead Sea and went to one of the Jordanian participant’s farm for a traditional outside door feast.

London, UK

In September 2015, Youth Spirit sent their participants from Jordan to London.

Some of the highlights of the week included: a visit to Europe House to learn about the EU; a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe; a cultural activity in Brixton, led by Michael Groce, where participants enjoyed in a tour and learned about the Brixton Riots, which included a visit to the Black Archives, as well as engaging with a fellow Youth Exchange from Italy through Asfar’s partners Momentum World.

It ended with a traditional family BBQ, organised by one of our participants, who really wanted to say thank you to Youth Spirit for the fantastic time, we all had in Amman. Thanks again Clare!

Asfar’s Dynamo end of project film is now online and available here.

Adana, Turkey

In September-October 2015, I visited Adana for a Micro-Enterprise and Social Action programme (MESAP) Transnational meeting for 2 days with Asfar’s partners Çukurova Üniversitesi and NAMCB.

The transnational meeting involved 2 days-worth of meetings to identify key aspects of how MESAP will be delivered throughout 2016-2017. Key actions were identified and I can announce that:

Enterprising the Youth Sector: training for youth workers wishing to learn more about enterprise to support young people to consider self-employment or enterprise as an alternative to traditional route-ways such as employment, education, training, or apprenticeships, will take place in Adana, January 2016.

Digitalising Enterprise, a youth exchange, will take place in Bulgaria, September 2016.

Final dates to be confirmed.

For more information on MESAP, please visit alternatively, contact me at

Jerusalem, Israel

In October 2015, Asfar sent a group of young people from the UK, to Jerusalem, Israel, as part of the Erasmus+ Europe, Gallipoli and the Arab Revolt programme.

Young people from the UK and Israel/Palestine, were able to meet, engage and learn about each other’s’ countries, history, specifically how the First World War influenced both Israel, Palestine and the UK.

Young people were also able to learn about each other’s different cultures, human rights in each other’s countries and coexistence between multi-ethnic and multi-faith communities in the UK, Israel and Palestine. Activities included a visit to the Swedish Institute, a key body in Jerusalem encouraging coexistence and learning between Israelis; Arabs-Palestinians; Jewish; Muslims; Christians; and other ethnicities/faiths living in Jerusalem.

Young people visited key sites throughout Jerusalem, including First World War cemeteries, and UK participants explained the significance of First World War, Remembrance Sunday and how different campaigns are remembered throughout the UK in contrast to Israel and Palestine, where it is barely considered, because neither community link the First World War as a key event in their social history. Our group visited Jaffa Gate, where Allenby entered Jerusalem as part of the Near Eastern/Arab Revolt campaign. Young people discussed reasons, Israeli and Palestinian should consider the significance of the First World War, in relation to the Balfour Declaration, the Hussein-McMahon correspondence and the foundations for the British Mandate and the UN’s Partition Plan, which resulted in a State for one community and statelessness for another.

Young people visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum and considered the consequences of the First World War, in relation to the Second World War and the Holocaust.

Young people visited the conservative Mea Shearim Jewish community, where traditionally, outsiders feel quite unwelcome. However, we were welcomed and enjoyed traditional Eastern European Jewish food and drinks.

UK Participants were also invited to a traditional Sabbath Friday evening meal and were able to learn more about Judaism and Islam in Israel.

Unfortunately, Arab-Palestinian participants were prevented in participating by current violence from both sides, however, partner Interfaith Encounter Association and their participants made us welcome and feel safe throughout the Youth Exchange.

This aspect, the lack of representation by one community, was a great disappointment, but we really hope we can welcome them all during the next activity in London February 2016.


Working in partnership internationally

The implementation and launch of programmes haven’t been easy. Partnerships and differences in working culturally, has made getting these projects completed tough, problematic and in some cases hair-raising.

A numbers of our partners’ view of Asfar, has been intriguing especially in relation to budget management and financing. I have had a number of strange conversations with partners, suggesting that I personally give more money to a project, believing that because I live in London, in the West, I ultimately must be very rich. Whereas other partners’ financial management methodology has been both confusing and worrying. I remind myself daily, these are the challenges of inter-cultural learning and international development projects. It is not just participants with different outlooks, but also partners.

Ultimately, these experiences have led to opportunities too. Asfar is now currently implementing a second project with Takım Yıldızı, and has learned to focus less on the project management and hitting targets, and to actually enjoy the experience of delivering a transnational youth programme.

I very much hope that this will be my main focus in 2016 and less of the scary KPIs.


The future

In recent weeks, Asfar has seen the finalisation of Dynamo Youth Exchange end of project film, which is released in this edition of the e-Journal and the launch of our new platform: The Wall, a dissemination vessel, for all those involved in an Asfar Erasmus+ project, whether they be young people; volunteers; staff; partners; or stakeholders.

In 2016, Asfar is committed to co-ordinating 9 Youth Exchanges, in the UK, the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus, as well as a number of other projects in implementation.

Asfar is always seeking young people to participate on these programmes and are currently welcoming applications now. Furthermore, Asfar is also seeking young Volunteers to support our projects. Asfar’s Volunteering opportunities, provide real work experience for young people seeking to develop a career in international development; youth work; education; and wider sectors.

Asfar is also seeking new partnerships, funders and ideas for our future. Please do not hesitate to get in touch, if you would like to discuss any ways we could work together. Only through partnership-working and collaboration, can we ultimately make a difference within the societies with work in.

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All writers' views in articles are their own and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Asfar team.

Published by Asfar in London, UK - ISSN 2055-7957 (Online)