The Czech Republic
The Czech Republic. What a week!
Four students from year 9 got the chance to visit the Czech Republic for a Comenius camp, a project that allows students to learn from each other and encourage mobility across the EU. Lara Ferguson shares her experiences...
When you think about it, a week abroad in an eastern European country, with 3 of your friends seems pretty amazing. How does a night in Prague sound compared to double Maths? A “jolly spiffing” game of golf, during last period History? Brilliant! Yep please! It was obvious from the onset why, Tea, Alexis, Almuez and I (Lara) were so thrilled to have been given the opportunity! We knew it was going to be fantastic. If not, it was freedom from school!
What I wasn’t expecting though, was to be saying, at the end of the week, that the part I played in the Comenius project has honesty changed the way I view myself, others and the world. It was far more than a holiday; it was an experience that has changed me as a person.
It all started with our first night in Prague; what an amazing city! Wonderful food, a beautiful hotel and the architecture was what I could only call exquisite. However, one thing still stood out, masked behind streets lined with Prada, DKNY and Comme de Garcon. Poverty. Certainly not what I was expecting. One man in particular was puny, scrawny and most possibly emaciated. But it wasn’t the way he looked that caught my attention; it was his actions. I have never seen someone in such a desperate state, he was on his knees, effectively begging for a chance at life. Person after person walked passed him, snarling in disgust, I honesty could not believe my eyes. Minutes past and not even one person, Czech national nor tourist, gave this man a warm gesture; not even something as small as a smile.
That was until us.
For me, this symbolised what the Comenius project was all about: abolishing racism, wiping out discrimination and creating a fair and equal place for our fellow homo sapiens to thrive. It’s just a shame not everybody shares our views.
During our 4 day stay in the Czech Republic, the home of John Comenius, we were taught about the unfair persecution of the Romany Travelling communities, not only in the Czech Republic but across the world. During our trip we stayed with very affluent families in the Brno suburb of Slavkov. Here the Romanies were certainly in the minority, yet there was still a profound negative view of the travelling community who make up 3% of the population.
I don’t get how we, the citizens of our tiny island, feel it necessary to treat anyone differently just because the colour of their skin is not the same as yours, they’re from an ethnic minority group, or are less financially stable than yourself? It needs to stop. Now. Let’s, finally, listen to John Comenius and make a change.
Working with different people from around Europe, all with different ways of life and with languages that sounded obscure to my naive ear, made me realise that, yes, we are all so different, yet all exactly the same. We were all young people trying to make a life in our shared home-the Earth.