From innocent participant to dedicated organizer by Martijn Bergsma

Context of Author

Almost four years ago (2010), I set up an organization in the Netherlands called JUB, up to now, we have organized five international trainings, a couple of local actions.




Almost four years ago (2010), I joined a youth exchange in Italy, as a direct result of that experience I set up an organization in my country, the Netherlands. Up to now, we have organized five international trainings, a couple of local actions and there is much much more still to come. All our activities are based on non-formal learning and intercultural learning.

Story in Full

Back in 2010, via another student I saw an online message: “Would you like to join an international youth exchange in Bari, Italy?” I did not really know what it was supposed to be, but I checked the location of Bari and saw that it was located on the coast. It started to get interesting. Reading on: “70% travel reimbursement … conflict management … intercultural learning”. Still I did not know what kind of youth congress I should expect out there, but it was quite cheap and you could already see the beach in my eyes. Well, off I went, with a friend of mine, who also showed interest.

Arriving: we met a lot of people of our own age and immediately we had conversations about our lives, the differences and the commonalities. In the beginning we were a little bit shy because of the language, suddenly we had to speak English. But everybody was in the same situation and we tried to make the best of it. The exchange was with about 30 other young people from all over Europe and would last 7 days. I was surprised we had ‘sessions’ outside in the shade, in a circle of chairs. The participants were challenged with brain storms, discussions, games, and of course energizers. My friend and I felt a bit stupid sometimes, but everybody joined in and we found out that the energizers helped to build a good atmosphere, a good working environment. The educational games were mostly based on knowledge that was already in the group and worked to build on it. Teamwork was most essential and everybody agreed quickly that we should take extra care of the process. Throughout we were acquiring certain knowledge and skills. The whole group wanted everybody to be involved.

Meanwhile, after challenging workshops there was also time for relaxing on the beach. During evening times we organized our own parties, which I still remember. Perhaps the best was the ‘Intercultural Evening’, in which we shared stories, songs, dances, drinks and snacks from our countries. It was having fun and learning at the same time. When I was back, I saw this as a key element of what I experienced. Even months after the project, I was still thinking about what exactly had happened to me, it was all such a new and great experience.

Back home I decided I should try to pass on this experience. The organizers of the exchange were prepared to help me. I planned to organize a training, with two other students. To organize it, we would need a grant. In order to receive that grant we would need a bank account. And the bank requested to do business with a legal entity, so a couple of weeks later we were at a notary to officially establish our organization. It is called Jongeren voor Uitwisseling en Begrip (JUB), meaning literally Youth for Exchange and Understanding. We received our first fund and with the help of professional trainers we organized our first training, which was successful.

I continued to develop ideas for new projects with JUB. I want to see exploration on the meaning of democracy in our daily lives, how do we behave towards the other, what is our knowledge of prejudices, human rights and conflict transformation… Via the projects of JUB I hope to contribute to an open and critical society that involves everybody.