In times of Crisis, Create!
Article submitted by Helen Jones from the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS), a Eurodesk UK Partner.
Not long ago I was a young person not in education, employment or training (NEET), volunteering part time, with no money and in a bleak depression. This last year however, after an internship at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (during which time I interviewed my present boss on methods of Youth Engagement), but mostly through working for the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS), has been one of the best in my life - all thanks to getting involved, being brave, feeling like I have a voice and am able to participate, meeting new, open, honest, kind people from all over Europe and beyond!
CWVYS is the representative body of voluntary youth work in Wales. We have over 90 members who together work with more than 200,000 young people.
But how did a newbie like me, short on money too, manage to travel to a different country to train for weeks at a time?! The SALTO network advertises training opportunities for people active in a youth organisation. Coupled with how easy their pages are to navigate and the support offered by the UK’s National Agency for Erasmus+ I felt eligible and able to make the leap and apply! Accommodation and food are almost always covered, and usually travel is reimbursed (in the case of opportunities supported by the UK National agency it used to cover 70% but now stretches to 100%!).
The course I attended was about Youth Worker Mobility and prepares you to apply for Erasmus+ funding for this sort of activity. One of the benefits of attending this training course is that when it comes to looking for partners to design future projects with, it is so much easier to make partnerships work with people that you've actually met as opposed to looking online and taking a shot in the dark with potential partners from organisations you're unfamiliar with and people you've never met (though there is a partner-finding tool which some of our members have had luck with).
What happened next – in a nutshell:
- I went on my first ever training course on democracy and togetherness in Armenia. There I met the director of German organisation Kreisau-Initiative (http://www.kreisau.de/en), Nina Lueders.
- A month later I emailed Nina to discuss ideas for Youth Worker Training courses related to identity, inclusion and creative expression among other things. Nina expressed an interest in partnering with us and work on a project focused on oppression and migration.
- After we managed to secure Erasmus+ funding, over 20 adults active in the youth field from Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Poland and the UK gathered in southern Poland for a week in the Summer of 2016. As a follow-up to the training, participants would need to plan and carry out micro projects with young people back in their home towns, in preparation for a 7 day youth meeting in Krzyżowa, Poland in Spring 2017. With this in mind there was plenty to think about, discuss and act upon, and participants basked in the intercultural learning experience during and outside of the workshops themselves.
- During the training there were multiple workshops, seminars and film and photo trainings. Participants approached questions such as "how can we humanly deal with the refugee situation, what do refugees actually experience", including how refugees are mis-represented in the media, the situation of the participant’s home countries (solidarity and discrimination) and how they can actively act and advocate for people in need.
We explored different methods of expression and I was even invited to lead a workshop on themes of storytelling, identity and belonging through image-making! In the past I’ve worked with school children in art workshops and I explore themes of belonging and the restorative powers of expression through my personal practice but I never thought I’d get to do this as part of my job! A year ago I couldn't have imagined having the confidence to do this in a room full of cultured and well-travelled professionals, especially asking them to peel back the years, get on the floor and get some paint on their hands!
It's a testament to the benefits of getting the chance to travel, of meeting different people and discussing such a range of topics over the last few months that has brought about a lift in personal confidence and a sense that good things are possible if you’re willing to be brave! If we could model culture on youth worker mobility courses I think our societal ills would dissolve rapidly!
We're all complicit in some way in the shape our culture takes, and perhaps not being in touch with that is what causes so many of us to feel depressed and powerless. It's not always easy and it takes time, but it can be so beneficial and downright fun! I often think the world would be a more encouraging, engaging place if the values of youth work were embraced by all and extended into every area of our lives. If we were all given the opportunity and means to express ourselves, to listen and to speak, things would be so much more positive than they can seem to be.