Programme explores shared history of cities divided by walls

Walls SM Farm
Lorcan Doherty

Hostelling International Northern Ireland (HINI) and the German Youth Hostel Association (DJH – Deutsche Jugendherbergswerk) will deliver a ground breaking international youth exchange programme this summer, exploring the shared history of Belfast and Berlin by its young people.

The programme, funded by the EU as part of its Erasmus + scheme, began in White Park Bay, where 10 young people from Germany joined 10 from Northern Ireland who have both grown up in cities with a legacy of conflict and division. It marked the beginning of a two-week journey, both literal and metaphorical, which will explore Belfast and Berlin’s shared history of being divided by walls and what that means for young people today.

The project is exploring how they make sense of the division they encounter in the modern world that they have grown up in.

During their time together the young people will not only get the opportunity to travel to each other’s countries and enhance their intercultural awareness through direct life experiences, but they will also become deeply entrenched into topics such as culture, identity, stereotypes, conflict, history, freedom, diversity and tolerance.

Dermot O’Lynn, HINI CEO, says the programme is all about exchanging ideas about what the future holds for young people of the European Union and the individual scope of action each of them feels they have.

He commented: “Young (and young at heart) people travelling round the world to learn about different cultures and to have new experiences is what the hostelling movement is all about. We would like to thank our partners at DJH and our funders Erasmus + for making this ambitious project a reality.”

DJH CEO, Julian Schmitz added: “We are proud of the implementation of this new youth exchange with our partner HINI. ‘Crossing Borders’ is an important programme for our association to show the importance of peace to young Germans and that it is so important to overcome borders: on the personal level as well as politically.

“Secondly, the exchange is meaningful due to the German venue of the programme: Berlin. The Northern Irish participants will experience a former divided city, which took the chance of the German reunification for a peaceful, vital and diverse life together. These intercultural exchanges for young people are very significant, especially nowadays, to build and preserve a strong and united Europe.”

Both HINI and DJH are National Association members of the worldwide Hostelling International network, which provides safe and affordable Youth Hostels at 4,000 locations around the world for young (and young at heart) people to stay at on their travels.

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