In many towns and cities there are spaces which sadly become abandoned. This can happen for many different reasons such as lack of economic resources or poor management practices. When this happens, the area can become dirty, damaged and even sometimes unsafe. It is not only a waste of space but it also brings a sad, neglected feeling to the community.
However, these spaces do not have to remain this way. With even just a few small touches, it is possible to revive and make more welcoming and usable. This was the premise of the Erasmus+ training course “Re-NEWed Spaces”. People are coming up with creative ways to transform abandoned spaces into places that the community can enjoy and these restoration projects are happening all over. We wanted to bring this concept to the coastal town of Maiori where some parts of the city have been neglected and are no longer fit for use.
We invited youth workers and leaders from 10 different European countries to Maiori to participate in this training course. They came from; Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania, Germany and Estonia to spend 1 week (17-24 October) working together on the topic. The group stayed in the Convento di San Francesco, an old convent which is now used for hospitality on the seafront at the edge of Maiori.
The idea of the training course was to combine the participants previous knowledge from similar projects with the practical task of re-newing a space in Maiori. The experience level, knowledge of the topic and education within the field varied throughout the group which created a dynamic exchange of ideas, skills and creativity. The schedule of the training course was packed tight with full days of activities to get the most out of the limited time.
The first days were spent getting to know one another and the topic. There were activities and games to learn the names of the participants and hear their background stories and experience within the topic. They also got to know Maiori with a tour of the Convent where they were living, a visit to the municipality, a meeting with a member of the council, and a small tour around the town. During the tour, the group were presented with the abandoned space that was available for a small restoration project.
Given the short time frame of the course, the group were very busy everyday. The first days included; presentations of good practice examples, discussions of social entrepreneurship and sustainable business and role-play of how to involve the youth in community work.
Then, there was the brain-storming, planning and preparing for the practical workshop. There was only 1 day and a half available for the actual restoration of the space so the group had to be realistic about what was feasible in this time-frame. On the visit to the space, we met with some children who were playing in the area. It became apparent that it was mostly young kids who used this space and so we should consider that in the planning.
On the day of the workshop, all of the participants got stuck in and started to work hard. They cleaned the space, painted the walls to cover up the graffiti and painted some fun activities for the children on the floor. Using old wooden pallets, some of the group created a little seating area and others created colourful sign posts to give a brighter feel to the space. It was really impressive to see how the place was transformed in such a short space of time with few materials but lots of imagination and enthusiasm from the participants.
The training course wasn’t just about the practical workshop, but also focused on creating some outcomes that can be used in future projects. There was the making of an educational tool which was a magazine used as a guide to implement a similar restoration project in different places. The participants also wrote articles about the training course and made a short video to showcase the work that was done during the training course.
Erasmus+ courses always have a motivation of the cultural exchange, which was brought to life through the intercultural night, sharing of language, traditions, anecdotes and history. The group also got to see some of the sights of the Amalfi Coast and interact with the local community. It wouldn’t be a complete trip to Italy without a pizza tasting so one evening was spent in a restaurant trying different types of pizza.
We are thankful to the municipality of Maiori especially to Chiara Gambardella who met with the group, to the convento de san Francesco for hosting us and especially Gerardo for the tour and also to all of the participants for their contributions and effort.
The “move-to-action” video, created by the participants during the Training: