Have you ever heard of Mislata, this little town neighboring Valencia, Spain? You will be soon impressed by its approach to strengthening the local community through fully incorporating diversity. Before going into details though, let’s start the story from the beginning.
On the 15-16 of October, OBESSU - along with the European Students’ Union (ESU) and Sirius Network - was invited to Mislata to participate in a Refugee Expert meeting organised by Education International (EI), the global union federation representing organisations of teachers and other education employees. The 4 platforms are all actively working on the topic of refugee inclusion either through re-granting funds to their membership to implement grass-root, regional or national level initiatives (EI, ESU, OBESSU) or by creating opportunities and space for stakeholders in the field of migrant education to forge stronger cooperation (Sirius). It has already been identified during previous meetings that by joining forces – together - school students, university students, teachers and researchers could achieve so much more while working towards building an inclusive local, regional, national community. In order to enhance cooperation between different stakeholders active on local and regional level, the 4 organisations committed themselves to finding synergies between the projects implemented in the same geographical areas.
To spare you from more technicalities, I would like to share with you my greatest discovery: Mislata itself!
During the two-day-long event we had the chance to get an insight into a project Education International is implementing in Mislata. Within this framework we met with two school directors, several school students (primary and secondary level), parents of students, teachers, the Mayor of Mislata – that is the cornerstones of the local community. All of them – regardless to their age or how they ended up living in Mislata - genuinely believed in the positive power of cultural diversity. From locals born and raised in this little town to newly arrived refugees, everybody underlined the importance of cherishing differences as they bring added value to the society. In case you were wondering, yes, the number of migrants and refugees is high in Mislata, as the town gives home to one of the four Refugee Reception Centers operated by the Spanish government.
Think about Mislata, when you want to reference a town where people born in many different countries, with diverse backgrounds, social and economic status, various personal histories peacefully live together and embrace the idea that diversity is not creating barriers but on the contrary, is empowering all members of the local community.
What is my conclusion after this event? We are far from living in inclusive societies, there is still so much work ahead of us. However, when seeing such a positive example, somehow you know that one should never give up hoping for a future where the majority will find strength in diversity and won’t fear it anymore.
Thank you Education International for the possibility to experience Mislata, and thank you Mislata for keeping the dream on-going!
Written by Eszter Somogyi, Seeds for Integration Programme Coordinator