Antonis Bertos works as psychologist and coordinator for art projects in „Connect Your City“ Youth Centre in Athens that is connected with the Greek NGO IASIS. In Augsut 2020 they plan their first exchange with Germany in Saxony. What the planned youth exchange has to do with stereotypes and dancetheatre he tells us in this interview.
Agorayouth: Antonis, tell us a little bit more about the “Connect Your City Culture Youth Centre” in Athens. What are you doing there exactly?
Antonis Bertos: I work as a psychologist and specialized trainer in non-violent communication, youth and community art. Connect Your City is a service of Iasis NGO. Their operation is to provide free activities and actions for young people aged 16 to 30. Each young person can develop, design, organize and implement their own ideas while enjoying and participating in the ideas of others. There is a focus on further enhancing the idea of teamwork, collaboration, innovation and open dialogue. Through creative play and non-formal learning, the feeling of offering, responsibility, creativity, teamwork, flexibility, equality, tolerance and honesty is promoted.
Agorayouth: Iasis was founded in 2005 and is one of the largest institutions for mental health in Greece – what is their concern?
Bertos: The vision is to create a world with no discrimination and no injustice through education and support. Our values are solidarity, cooperation, support and care. So we provide psychosocial support, combat social exclusion of vulnerable groups, provide psychological and counselling services, create equal opportunities and new perspectives for vulnerable groups of the population. We promote mental health, psychiatric care in the community based on the principles of Social Psychiatry and Psychosocial Rehabilitation, provision of specialized psychiatric services and psychoeducational interventions to standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The total number of beneficiaries of the organization is calculated up to 380.000 people since 2006. In the field of education and lifelong learning, Iasis has been certified since 2015 as an official centre for Lifelong Learning and Education, thereby giving both, its target populations and young scientists the opportunity to train in many disciplines. As well Iasis is actively involved in research and in the design, implementation and evaluation of European innovative programmes.
Agorayouth: So Connect Your City Athens is one of the services of Iasis that is addressed to youngsters?
Bertos: There are five „Connect Your City“ youth centres: four based in Athens and Attiki (culture, gaming, business and sports) and the fifth is based in Brussels in Belgium. The NGO and its youth centres have a variety of different facilities, so they can support different methods of trainings. For example the hostel in the area of Porto Rafti near the main airport of Athens is ideal for youth exchanges as it offers accommodation for 30 people, a football and a volleyball court, a swimming pool, ping pong, lounge areas and so on.
Agorayouth: In terms of international youth exchanges you came in contact with youth organizations in Germany in 2018, right?
Bertos: Yes, we have developed the 3D project “Dare Dance Digitalize” that is an innovative interdisciplinary artistic, social and educational youth and community art project. The inspiration and the idea was firstly developed in a barcamp for German and Greek youth organizations in Cologne in 2018. Dancetheatre, non violent communication and digital technology are the basic tools of the project – in addition with the most important technology we own: our Human bodies and our psychology.
Agorayouth: And in 2019 you came back to Germany with the project, this time to Düsseldorf.
Bertos: A success of this project was to be funded and implemented in the frame of the European program „i-portunus creative europe mobility project“. It is a co-production of Connect Your City youth centre Athens, Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf and KRASS Düsseldorf. In 2019 four performances have been performed in the centre of Athens, in Leipzig, during the European music Day in Varnava Square in Athens and in Düsseldorf. 14 artists (dancers and musicians), 70 youngsters who were from 16 to 30 years old and 14 youngsters from vulnerable social groups participated in these performances. The audience reached up to 500 people.
The vision and the aim of the project is to unite more cities, people, different social groups and organizations through dreamy artistic dialogues that will bring versatile groups in Greece, Germany and Europe together. In times where the challenges are huge, the answers should contain more art-communication-inclusion and more passion for life.
Agorayouth: In 2020 you started collaborating with Landesvereinigung Kulturelle Jugendbildung in Sachsen e.V. How did this start?
Bertos: I am very happy about the collaboration with LKJ Sachsen! Through IJAB and the progress of the “3D project Dare Dance Digitalize” we got in contact. I know that LKJ is a big cultural organization and implements a lot of nice activities for young people. So we are planning a youth exchange in mid August 2020 in Saxony (more information on the call here).
“In times where the challenges are huge, the answers should contain more art-communication-inclusion and more passion for life.”
Agorayouth: In times of Corona everything is uncertain, but what is the plan for the exchange?
Bertos: Due to the virus we are not sure if it will be implemented in August or if we have to reschedule it. The main topic are stereotypes and how they affect the lives and points of view of young people. Stereotypes remind me of “Hydra” that is a serpentine water monster in Greek and Roman mythology. It possessed a lot of heads. So it is with the stereotypes: We have to deal with a lot of them and help young people to see things from their own perspective and overcome these stereotypes.
The participants will be between 14 and 18 years old. There will be a lot of music and dance workshops. Eirini Kourouvani, an athlete and a professional dancer, and me will be the trainers of one of the workshops. The participants from Greece will be dance students who are preparing themselves for entering dancing schools in Greece. The participants from LKJ Sachsen will be young people who love music and dance. I am sure that the exchange will make us all gain new experiences and find solutions for our everyday life in Greece and Germany.
Bilder: Connect Your City