“Youth across the world, especially in the European Union, are encouraged and have the right to take part as active citizens in creating communities they belong to, locally and in society at large. However young people are often referred and seen as “citizens in the making”, “future leaders” and have somehow been ignored today. Youth struggle to be fully integrated and actively engaged in understanding, raising awareness or solving socially relevant issues of their own local communities”, says project coordinator Director Make Room Europe Miks Celmins.
Additionally, young people with fewer opportunities, specifically from migrant and refugee backgrounds and/or rural areas often experience further barriers that prevent their participation and contribution in raising awareness and understanding of local community issues. Currently, mainstream rural academic educational institutions across Europe lack understanding of locally socially relevant issues and are not encouraging youth to understand or contribute to solving or raising awareness of the issues faced by their own communities.
The “Youth Arts for Social Change” is an international mobility of young people project supported by the Erasmus+ programme and administered with the support of the Agency for International Programs for Youth of the Republic of Latvia. The main curators of the project are not for profit organizations and/or rural educational institutions - Dobeles Makslas skola (Latvia), I.I.S.S. Enrico Medi (Italy), Association Alba (Spain), NGO Argonaftes (Cyprus), Young Teachers Team of Cekdev (Turkey) and Liceul Teoretic Constantin Serban (Romania).
Each one of the project partners are represented by groups of 6 young people aged between 13 and 16. The project has been planned across 7 different activities of which two are international level activities - 1) Project Planning Visit in Galatone, Italy that took place from March 17th to March 20th 2018 and 2) Youth Exchange scheduled to take place in Dobele, Latvia from June 10th to June 16th 2018.
The youth representatives of all 6 participating countries have identified socially relevant youth-oriented issues in their own communities: 1) Low self-esteem of youth (Latvia); 2) Lack of free-time opportunities for youth (Italy); 3) High alcohol consumption by youth (Cyprus); 4) Poor quality of education (Turkey); 5) Poor transport connectivity of rural areas (Spain) and 6) School bullying among youth (Romania).
At the Project Planning Visit in Galatone, Italy the youth representatives presented the locally identified youth oriented issues and all together agreed upon the structure of the “Info Material” they need to create elaborating on the identified issues as well discussed various innovative art techniques that could be used to raise awareness of the issues within the represented communities.
Now, the youth representatives are back in their own countries preparing for the Youth Exchange planned to take place in Dobele, Latvia in June 2018. Now the youth groups are working to create well-detailed “Info materials” explaining the local problems they have identified gathering local data, interviews from peers and family, analysing local news and proposing interventions in response to the identified issues.
“It is often a challenge to find a way to involve young people in decision-making. It is a challenge to understand youth and ensure our youth of today within our communities feel comfortable to open up and take initiative. Throughout the Planning Visit in Italy, although, it was very short, we managed together with our great youth representatives to create an enabling environment to foster learning and promote active citizenship”, says Alina Buzle, Project Coordinator-Romania & Make Room Changemaker.
“After the ice-breakers our fears disappeared. A few minutes and we knew everyone's' names, we recognized new voices and enjoyed new smiles. At the beginning we were nervous knowing that we have to present our youth-oriented issues we have all identified together with our peers at home. It was a surprise to me how we all changed from day 1 to the last day of the Planning Visit. We became like a family, like best friends - fears were gone and the fact that none of us spoke the same language was not an obstacle to communicate properly. We learned new words and phrases in Romanian, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Greek and also Latvian” says Monta (16), a youth representative from Latvia.
To read more about the project, please visit Erasmus+ Projects' Page