Some time ago, at the end of April, ENVTL members Hedvig, Helen and Merle went to visit their partners in the Netherlands (Stichting HerstelTalent) that together with them and Icelandic partners (Hugarafl) to make interim summaries and new plans for the Erasmus+ project Peer Support+. Fast, exciting and busy days passed there, which included a lot of warmth, care and sincere contact with like-minded people.
Currently, the project has three major activities on the horizon:
- As a result of the joint effort of the partners, the main content for the online course has been put together. The course provides those interested with an introduction and the basics of providing experiential support in the field of mental health.
- During the summer, the target is also ready to write an e-book, which, in addition to the basics, also includes more comprehensive material and a small toolbox of methods.
- A seminar will be held in September, where people and organizations interested in providing experience-based support can get to know what has been created during the project.
What are our project team's impressions of the meeting?
Helen gives us such a nice overview: "Erasmus+ projects, trainings, seminars, etc. have been close to my heart since the first time, when I was 19 years old, I could participate in the first youth exchange. However, Peer Support+ is a long-term project where I am honored and happy to be a team member for the first time. This means that in addition to participating in the training, which took place last August, I also have the opportunity to see behind the scenes and contribute to the creation of project materials. In order for all three organizations to have a common understanding of the division of tasks, their goals and content, we made a small working visit to the hometown of the Dutch organization. We only spent 3 days there in total, but during that time we were able to do both hard mental work and enjoy the full role of a tourist, being under the care of lovely and hospitable Dutch people. In addition, I was able to spend time with my most favorite Icelandic friends, whom I met a few years ago in another Erasmus+ project and whom I hold in my heart like family members. Lovely people, work close to the heart and good food - 10/10 weekend!"
However, Hedvig admits the following: "Honestly, I wasn't looking forward to this trip, worried that there would be a lot of work and I could barely catch my breath, but I discovered again how inspiring it is to work with warm and open people, especially in the still photogenic Netherlands in towns. With the Peer Support+ project, we have been slowly rebelling for years, constantly postponing face-to-face meetings due to corona, and it was extremely refreshing to get to know our Dutch and Icelandic project partners as people. It was also somehow comforting and empowering to realize that even though we come from different countries, our struggles and goals are sometimes very similar, and we can draw support from each other as we stubbornly push forward as activists. But most importantly - I found several cats to pet on the streets of Middelburg and Vlissingen! "
Merle also shares her impressions of the trip and the project: "Even though the trip was short, it gave me an important boost - we were able to enjoy much springier weather, good food, make new acquaintances and grow cooperation. It was also in my heart that it was reflected as a valuable and heartfelt experience by the members of the Dutch organization who entertained us, drove us and participated in discussions during the weekend.
The Peer Support+ project has been incredibly challenging. Due to the corona pandemic, the schedule of the long project has changed wildly, and only two of the four international steps could take place. Almost all the organizations that participated in the project and their project managers have experienced decent crises. All of this has given a good boost to motivation and stamina, but in its own hard way has increased endurance and an understanding of how important and necessary the development of experience-based support and wider availability in the field of mental health really is."
Some time ago, at the end of April, three members of ENVTL – Hedvig, Helen and Merle – flew to the Netherlands to visit our dear partner Stichting HerstelTalent. Together with members from our Icelandic partner Hugarafl, we had an international meeting for our project Peer Support+. We made recaps of what's already been done and what is still in the works with the exciting Erasmus+ project on peer support in mental health. The days in the province of Zeeland flew by with such speed, but in addition to work, they were also filled with warmth, caring and heart-to-heart connections.
Currently we are working on three bigger elements of the project:
- As a joint effort from all the partners, we have put together the main content for our online course. The e-learning course is created to give an introduction and the basics about providing peer support in the field of mental health.
- Through the summer we are writing an ebook to accompany the course – in addition to the basics of peer support, it contains more in-depth material about peer support and a toolkit of methods.
- A local seminar that takes place in September, where people and organizations interested in providing peer support can take part in interesting discussions and get acquainted with the outputs of this project.
How do our team members reflect on the international meeting?
Helen gives us the following overview of her experience:
"Ever since I was 19 years old and got to experience my first youth exchange, Erasmus+ projects, trainings, seminars, etc. have gained a very important place in my heart. However, Peer Support+ is the first long-term project that I have the honor and joy to be a team member of. This means that other than just taking part of the training, which we had in August last year, I also have the opportunity to see behind the curtains of this project and contribute to the creation of its final outcomes and materials. In order for all of our three organizations to have the same understanding about the division of tasks and the goals and the content of them, we got to do a little working visit to the hometown of the Dutch organization. Even though having spent only 3 days there, we did a lot of brainstorming about the assignments as well as got to be in the role of being a tourist, getting taken care of by the sweetest and most hospitable Dutch people. In addition to that I got to spend time with my favorite Icelandic friends, whom I met a few years ago in another Erasmus+ project and whom I keep in my heart like family members. Overall, sweet people, work that's close to my heart and good food – 10/10 weekend!”
Hedvig shared with us her thoughts and impressions:
"To be completely honest - at first, I was not looking forward to this trip with too much excitement; as I was worried about the amount of work we needed to do and if I'd feel too overwhelmed. Luckily I got a chance to rediscover how inspiring it is to work together with kind and open-minded people, especially in picturesque Dutch towns. We have strived towards the goals of this project for more than a year - as the pandemic forced us to postpone and cancel several face-to-face meetings, it was especially refreshing to get to meet our Dutch and Icelandic project partners as people. It was also somewhat comforting and empowering to acknowledge that even though we are from very different countries, our many struggles and goals have great similarities. And thus we can draw much-needed support from each other as we strive forward as willful activists. Most importantly – I found many cats to pet on the streets of Middelburg and Vlissingen! 🙂
Merle describes her experiences of the trip and the project as follows:
"Even though the trip was a short one, it gave my spirits a big boost - we got to enjoy a much warmer springtime weather, good food and to grow our partnerships. I'm especially moved by the heartfelt impressions of the meeting shared by the members of HerstelTalent, who hosted us so kindly during the weekend.
The project of Peer Support+ has faced several challenges. Due to the pandemic, the project timeline has changed significantly and the cherished options to have international meetings were cut in half. Crises haven't spared these mighty project teams. All of this has taken its toll on motivation and energy, but in its rough ways it has provided an opportunity to grow resilience and to thoroughly understand how important and necessary it is to develop peer support in the mental health field and to make it widely attainable .”