2023 will go down in the annals of C4C history as the year we first partnered with the EU Erasmus+ initiative, taking four groups of five teens from socially challenged foster backgrounds on trips all around Europe.
For those not familiar with the iconic, 35 year old EU Erasmus+ initiative – here´s what it is all about in short: propelled forward by a hefty Euro 26.6 billion budget, the program focuses on social inclusion and promoting young people’s participation in democratic life, besides many other aspects and strategic goals.
The “DiscoverEU” project of the Erasmus+ program is targeting 18-year-olds with fewer opportunities, offering them to travel and be on equal footing with their peers while promoting an “EU State of Mind” and exploring the EU’s enormous cultural diversity.
“What stood out to me was that the Erasmus+ program very much complements the goals and aims of C4C´s Springboard to Life initiative – getting young, socially disadvantaged youngsters ready for life”, comments Petra Erguvanli, project manager of the program. STL aims to assist young residents of children´s homes with their transition into society and helps them to either succeed in the job market or pursue a higher education.
Erasmus+ and C4C partnered for a total of four trips that took the participating teens throughout Europe. C4C´s Petra Erguvanli, Michal Jiru, and Rafal Wojas managed and organized the individual trips and served as overseers for the teens.
The trips took place between May and August 2023 and included notable destinations:
– Berlin, Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Paris (1st trip)
– Bratislava, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Warsaw and Krakov (2nd trip)
– Hamburg, Gdansk and the Baltic coastal regions of Germany and Poland (3rd trip)
– Budapest, the Balaton Lake, and Vienna (4th trip)
“Our goal was to give the teens from children’s homes and foster backgrounds the opportunity to have some of the same life experiences as their peers form functional families, and assume responsibilities that were completely new to them“, says Michal, C4C teacher and mentor, who was part of the team of coaches accompanying the teens.
As it turned out, lives were changed, and the teens returned from the trip with new perspectives and more self-confidence and esteem. The “been there – done that“ type of feeling… They learned how to plan, assume financial responsibility, and how to navigate strange, uncharted seas and shores. For most of them, it was the first time they traveled beyond the borders of the Czech Republic and experienced countries, cultures, and customs foreign and strange to them.
“We were just a safety net for them“, comments Rafal, C4C co-founder, who came along on one of the trips. „But they were really on their own in a lot of ways, having to make decisions, book trips, accommodations and feed themselves. They did well and met most challenges head-on!“
”Before the trip, I had mixed feelings (fear, anxiety, depression, raw nerves, etc.), but I was also looking forward to everything that awaited me, and as the trip unfolded, I started to understand that those fears and concerns were unnecessary. We were able to function as individuals and as a team!” smiles Aninka, 18, from the Zabřeh na Moravě children home.
And finally – credit where credit is due: Without the Erasmus+ initiative none of this would been possible! So, all of us – the teens, the coaches, and the entire C4C team would like to express our sincerest appreciation and thankfulness for the resources and financing provided by Erasmus+! We definitely could not have done it without them! Great program!
P.S. It is worth mentioning that most photos below were taken by teen participants of the trip. The best of them are on display in the lobby of the CPI Comfort Hotel Prague for an extended period to raise awareness of these talented young photographers. On September 16th, the Hotel, as a longtime partner of C4C, also hosted a meeting of all participants and everyone involved, replete with drinks and snacks and a grill – out in the garden – all on a complimentary basis, as their contribution to a more inclusive world! Thank you, CPI!