“I have to say that I am stunned by the participants’ openness as they were willing to share their opinions and open up about often difficult topics. I don’t know if I could have been as open as they were if I was their age.” – Petr Vrchota, one of the speakers at this year’s Safe Space event.

AFS Safe Space was this year’s pilot project during which we, the AFS community together with the public, have decided to dedicate time and energy to talk about topics, which are to this day a bit controversial but concern our volunteers, exchange students, colleagues from the office and even many others. All these groups have also been present during the event as we were able to welcome a broad variety of volunteers, students preparing for their programs, the office employees as well as members of the public to our Safe Space. From the very beginning, we tried to achieve the traditional friendly AFS atmosphere to create a truly safe environment where debates and discussions can take place and we can proudly say that we have succeeded in doing so. We are grateful to have people who are determined to openly discuss even those topics and educate themselves about them as a part of the AFS community. By doing so, they support and expand the safe space, which is the main point of this event.

In the morning, we were honored to welcome Jana Myšáková, the founder of Respektuju, as our first lecturer. She went through topics such as self-love, confidence, self-appreciation, independence, and getting out of toxic relationships. Together with her, we also discussed body-shaming and its prevention. Her contribution served as a very pleasant start and introduced us to some of the many challenging topics to come.

The day continued with a workshop about mental health performed by Michaela Kríková from Loono.cz. We were introduced to some common myths and misconceptions regarding mental disorders/diseases, their prevention, and advice on what to do if someone we know (or we ourselves) suffer from psychological problems. Furthermore, we also discussed depression caused by social media and the term “FOMO” – fear of missing out. The entire workshop was very interactive, so we had the opportunity to actively partake and ask questions if something was unclear to us. As a bonus, Míša finished the workshop by talking about the brain’s neuroplasticity where traveling, intercultural learning, and discovering new things are the key elements!

After the lunch break, Peter Vrchota from Scioschool had his workshop “For education to make sense”, which started with a so-called big question: “What could the school have prepared you for but did not?” This question immediately started a fiery debate filled with many intriguing ideas and wise statements. We first exchanged our opinions in pairs and later went through them together with Peter. We talked about some principles, which should be considered a crucial part of education such as the human approach, freedom, safe space, respectful communication, and the opportunity to keep on learning and learn from one’s mistakes.

The event’s last lecture was led by Lenka Králová, who had her come out first when she was 37 years old. We went through what coming out means, how did hers look like, and how her life was influenced by the laws regarding the LGBTQI+ community here in the Czech Republic. We left the lecture with many useful tips and information based on the knowledge and experiences she has gained throughout her life. Lenka works as a software developer and a moderator of the popular YouTube program called “V Transu” (In Trance) serving as a tool to spread awareness about the transgender people in the Czech Republic, their lives, and experiences. Apart from that, she is also a member of the Transparent Association, which strives to improve the lives of Czech transgender people.

In the end, I would like to thank all the participants on behalf of the organizers’ team for creating a great atmosphere and for their openness. Good luck!

– Simona O, volunteer of European Solidarity Corps

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