2013 YMCA Youth Exchange
Report by Stephen Marshall
I was lucky enough to have been a member of a 23 strong delegation from Newport led by Peter Landers who had had the opportunity to organise a return visit to Kutaisi after the successful visit to Newport made last summer by a group of Kutaisi young people.
Newport and Kutaisi have been twinned for 23 years and have shared culture and experiences between the peoples from both cities during that time, but never has a group of young people from Newport/ UK visited in such numbers before. I was excited to be the first of what I hope will be many exchanges between the two cities.
The first thing that I noticed after landing was Georgian driving, which is very different in comparison to the UK, and quite unsettling at first as it would seem quite dangerous. One quickly gets used to this, especially when travelling to various places such as to Batumi/ Sarpi (beach on Turkish border), Mestia and Ushguli (highest populated area in Europe) in the breath taking northern mountains, Prometheus Caves, Gelati Monastery, Stalin Museum (Gori) and Tbilisi and more.
In terms of the workshops (yes we did work) we found out the differences between our political systems and how to make changes in both. We toured the Georgian Parliament based in Kutaisi followed by a visit to the Mayor of the city, who, by surprise was the first exchange student from the city to study in Caerleon Campus, and had worked in The Priory Hotel. The other workshops focussed on differences between the two cultures and how we, as young ambassadors, can improve things in both our cities/countries.
We also learnt how to dance Georgian style and to perform in front of dignitaries and parents of the young people from Kutaisi. This had proved to be an amazing feat, seeing me having remedial dance classes with my now ‘Georgian brother’ Sergi.
The concert was a success and showed the close bond rekindled from last summer between both groups of young people, with the addition of a few new friends on both sides.
When it was close to going home we attended a Supra, a feast of mouth-
It brought a tear to my eye to leave after an incredible two weeks with inspirational young people who will remain friends.
We arrived back in Newport, not as guests or hosts but as long lasting friends. I will be pleased to be part of the Newport-
NKTA were pleased to play their part in supporting this initiative. A grant for the cost of the coach travel to & from the airport for the group was given. The Mayor of Newport gave a letter of friendship and gifts from Newport City Council. NKTA Chair, Sonia Fisher went to the YMCA on the morning of departure to wish them a safe journey.