Translated from Vatican News (original article in Spanish by Manuel Cubías and Sofia Lobos)
The aim of this initiative is to combat racist prejudices among adolescents and foster a welcoming and inclusive climate for the migrant population arriving in the Spanish city of Pamplona. The Spanish Network of Service Learning (REDAPS) will confer the award on December 11 from Caceres, in an online ceremony because of the pandemic. Vatican News interviewed Josemari Aymerich Soler, Professor at Colegio Sagrado Corazón and coordinator of the "Service Learning" projects.
The students in their first year at the High School of the Sacred Heart of Pamplona (FESB) have won the national prize of Immigration and Coexistence for the "Pamplona, Open City" project, awarded by the Spanish Network of Service Learning. This is an initiative that was developed here in the 2019-2020 academic year, with the collaboration of the social entities ALBOAN and SEI.
The aim was to combat racist prejudices among adolescents and promote a welcoming and inclusive climate for the migrant population arriving in this Spanish city. The award ceremony will take place on December 11 from Caceres, in an online ceremony because of the pandemic.
It is worth noting that this is the third consecutive year that the Sacred Heart School in Pamplona has received a national service learning award for linking what they teach in the classroom to the improvement of the immediate environment. This award is endowed with 1,500 euros, which the school will donate in its entirety to the associations with which it has collaborated in this educational experience.
In this context, Vatican News spoke with Josemari Aymerich Soler, a teacher at this school and the coordinator of the "Service Learning" projects.
Learning the dynamics of migration
"Pamplona, an open city, was born when a group of 22 students from the 1st year of high school wanted to collaborate in some way to make their city a place where all people could fit in, whatever their origin," explains Josemari, emphasizing that to do this (from different subjects), the young people have learned the dynamics of migration and the situation of the refugees who arrive in Pamplona: what are the reasons why they have had to leave their countries of origin and what has led them to abandon their homes to seek a better life elsewhere.
"We are very happy for the recognition conferred by this prize. Not only because of the prize itself, but because we think it is very important that these attitudes are made visible. That in these times, when there is so much exclusion of those who are not from here, we draw attention to the fact that there are young people who do not let themselves be dragged down by the majority, and who want to make a better, more human, more habitable and fairer world. This is the great value of the prize."
In addition, the project coordinator indicates that, as part of this learning process, the boys and girls come into contact with organizations that have been working with migrants in Pamplona for many years: Alboan, SEI, CEAR or the Argaray COA, among others.
Improving coexistence in our city
They begin by giving training workshops on this topic to their classmates from secondary school and high school, adapting the messages to the age of each group. Also, they actively collaborate with groups of migrant adolescents of the SEI association by promoting leisure activities that encourage relationships between peer groups.
"These meetings were very beautiful and enriching. The aim is to improve the coexistence [of different groups] in our city. In recent years, Pamplona has received many migrants from various countries and sometimes it happens that social coexistence is not as good as it should be," adds Josemari Aymerich, explaining that at the Sacred Heart School, this student project and many others are promoted with the aim of learning and serving.
"They choose the subjects they want to be trained in and the activities they want to carry out, they look for contacts and they organize them. They have even had the opportunity to talk about their experiences in various forums, aimed at both professionals from social entities and teachers."
On the other hand, Professor Aymerich argues that most of the migrants who come to Pamplona come from Latin American countries and from the Maghreb, the northern region of Africa that is of Arab origin. Among the many challenges they have to face are their own uprooting, social integration (for many there is a big language barrier), the lack of work, the economic crisis and the clash between diverse cultures.
Hence the importance of projects such as "Pamplona, open city", which promote building bridges of brotherhood and coexistence among inhabitants, instead of building walls of division and exclusion.
When asked about what feelings this project and the recognition of the award generates in him personally, he replies:
"As a teacher, I feel deeply proud to see that, in a difficult context, where racism and xenophobia are very much present, there is a group of students who want to change this situation. They are going against the tide in seeing and developing these values, because unfortunately this behavior is not common, it is not what you see the most on the streets or in the media or on the networks. I get enormous satisfaction from seeing such committed people."
To better understand the essence of this initiative, please watch this video (in Spanish) of Carmen and Leire, two students who participated in these activities and who recount their own experiences, to better understand the situation of migrants and to help forge a better coexistence among all of us.
Leire uses one word to describe what she felt when she came into contact with these young migrants: "admiration", for the effort they make and the challenges they have to face when they arrive in unknown lands.
Watch the video below (in Spanish)