Dear MEPs and PACE members, this is our Open Letter

In 2017, we coordinated the project “TOG(AE)THER in Europe: Living, working and shaping Europe together” financially supported by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union and the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. The project aimed at advocating and lobbying for the social inclusion and access to social rights of young people in Europe, by empowering them and providing them a space to meet and dialogue with policy-makers.

During this project, we confirmed once again that young people are ready and willing to share their ideas and needs of the present and future. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to find out that no member of the European Parliament came to meet with them to listen to their needs and ideas or engage into dialogue with them. The invitation was sent 2 months prior to the event to 60 European decision-makers (MEPs and PACE members).

We decided to send them an Open Letter. Here’s that letter.

Y-E-N’s Diary – Winter 2017

2017 started well at Y-E-N. It was full of beautiful local projects, new friends and a few work meetings under the mediterranean sun…

Local actions

Y-E-N’s first trimester of 2017 was specially productive at local level in Strasbourg, where it co-hosted four events around several topics: youth mobility, inclusion of the refugees and cross-border student exchanges.

The regional platform Alsace Mobility Crossroads, which was co-funded by Y-E-N, held the first of event of the year, an information evening which took place on the 28th of February. Six of our local partners involved in Youth Mobility were present to answer young people’s questions and doubts about cross-border, European and International mobility. Local French television was also here to film the event and interview the hosts, Fabienne Orban, associative organisational consultant at the House of Organisations of Strasbourg and Brigitte Ludmann, Mobility Projects Coordinator at Y-E-N. The event was a success and many young people left with a clearer view on the opportunities they could seize and the benefits of mobility, whether it be to study, work, help organisations…

On the 6th of March, Y-E-N and Eurodistrict organised together a cross-border « Project Market » gathering around 50 French and German youth workers and youth organisations to create a network around youth projects. As the event also closed Eurodistrict’s Fund for young refugee 2016, the focus was on projects benefiting the inclusion of young refugees. 5 organisations were invited to present their integration projects in little groups and 17 projects in favour of refugees were presented graphically. The participants were then able to share about their experiences on implementing cross-border and integration projects. Organisations could also gather information about external and internal fundraising.

Still in March, Y-E-N also coordinated 2 cross-border student exchanges between Germany and France. 2 groups of German students came to Strasbourg to meet French students and do vocational trainings or individual work placements. As part of this experience, they had the opportunity to have a language workshop and discover for the first time the french language thanks to non-formal education. Their first contact with the french culture was followed with a visit at the ICEI (Information Center of European Institutions) to learn about Europe, its institutions, its economical and political reality and the importance and future of the Franco-German relationship.

New faces

  • In January, Y-E-N’s Coordination Office welcomed Arbenita, young intern in Administration Management. Meet Arbenita!
  • In February, Margaux joined the team as a Communication Officer, the first ever in Y-E-N’s history! Meet Margaux!

Y-E-N says no to Hate Speech

In March, some members of the Coordination Office took part in a the local Training Course in Strasbourg for the No Hate Speech Movement: “Connections and alternatives: Populism, Sexism, Hate Speech, Discriminations – Training Course for Human Rights Education”. The training was co-held by the Municipality of Strasbourg, the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe and the French No Hate Speech Movement. The purpose of the training was to gather people from different backgrounds (youth and social workers, high schoolers, college students, activists, organisations…) and encourage them to brainstorm together and implement actions to celebrate World Refugee Day on the 20th of June in Strasbourg.

Under the Greek sun

Also in March, Y-E-N visited Greece and our local friends there, TWICE! First, for the first Board Meeting of the Year, and secondly, for the Preparation Meeting of the first activity of the Year Work Plan: Living in Europe Together. More about this one soon 😉

 

“Light your Rights” Seminar in Mollina, by Natalia Militello

“We have the light. You have the rights!”

“Light your rights: Reveal the social value of Youth Work” is a seminar organized by Youth Express Network (Y-E-N) and Roots and Routes (R&R) during the 16th edition of the University on Youth and Development. It took place between the 20th and the 27th of September in Mollina (Spain), where 22 young youth/social workers and young artists (coming from 9 different countries) gathered together to discuss about Social Inclusion, Social rights, the social value of youth work, and eventually, to promote all these topics through artistic tools. Being part of the UYD also meant that the participants had the opportunity to meet and discuss with other 150 participants coming from all over the world and who were participating in other trainings taking place at the same place.

The programme of “Light your rights” dedicated the first three days in exploring Social Inclusion, Social Rights and youth work, and then provide the participants with artistic tools.

First of all, through a simulation exercise, these young people tried 1) to define what social inclusion means to them and, 2) which are the elements necessary to reach social inclusion. It has to be said that during this activity the importance of social and youth work was already highlighted spontaneously by participants. Therefore the next step for everybody was to think about the most important moments on their roads to youth work. While sharing their stories (all of them emotional and powerful), the group suddenly realized that youth work is important for social inclusion not because a book says so, but because through youth work they were able to find the place where they belong to.

The day after, it was time also to explore Social Rights, because we have understood that being given only money and a roof above our heads is not enough to feel part of a community. Through the game “Enter Dignityland!”, participants understood better how social rights and policies work. Despite the fact of being playing in a “fictional country”, all of them immediately related the social rights and their policies to their own countries, sharing and comparing the different realities. Another important finding was also that youth workers and youth NGOs need to cooperate with other actors (teachers, lawyers..) in order to promote and fight for Social Rights. During the fourth day, it was time for creativity! Artistic workshops were organized and the participants explored different ways to express: drawing, theatre, music… To put in practice what they had learnt, each one was asked to think about an episode of social exclusion they have experienced and to represent, in a one-minute performance, the feeling engendered by being excluded. And they did it! They showed how one minute can be meaningful, rich of emotion but especially, how such short time can be enough to transmit a powerful message.

The fifth day was another opportunity to become even more creative, but this time as a group. Task of the day: to create ways and tools to promote Social Rights and social inclusion in artistic ways. Participants were able to show the results in the evening, in front of all other participants of the University on Youth and Development and the local community. Excellent slam poetry and dance, but above all, the message was clear to all and gave everybody the opportunity to think about social inclusion and Social Rights. Motto of the performance: “We have the light. You have the rights”.

Well, all good things come to an end and the last day arrived (for someone even too fast): time for “see you soon again” and to catch the flight back home. But even though the name on the ticket was the same as on the way to Spain, something inside was not the same any longer. The participants for sure left enriched with a new experience, new contacts, new friends or maybe more tired. But they also left with a new awareness: how meaningful social/youth work has been in their lives and what a powerful tool it is to promote social inclusion and social rights. Because as one of them said: “Knowing the social rights and their policies by heart may be up to lawyers. But caring about Social rights and helping people fight for it, is up to us!”

Written by Natalia Militello, team member of the seminar.

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