Opportunities for young people in Europe

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A brief insight on Youth for Exchange and Understanding (YEU) Malta

THE CONCEPT OF A EUROPEAN YOUTH POLICY
For a European Youth Policy to succeed it must be forged in close partnership with various youth organisa tions. This is the role of the Youth Directorate of the Council of Europe and it successfully carries out this idea through the use of the two European Youth Centres in Strasbourg and Budapest, and the European Youth Foundation. They operate in close intergovernmental co-operation aimed at opening up Europe to young people, and young people to Europe.
Study sessions, or seminars, tackle all the topical issues in today’s Europe: young people’s rights, social exclusion, unemployment, education, environment, gender equality, international solidarity, nationalism or racism, etc. The week-long (some projects are longer) sessions bring together thirty or more people from a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in one of the European Centres to study in depth a topic chosen by the organisation itself. International non-governmental youth organisations (INGYO) recruit the participants and propose a list of experts to be invited. The Youth Centres assign tutors specialised in international educational activities to plan the program with the INGYOs and to organise the sessions. They also provide information back-up, giving participants all the details they need.

Moreover, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers established the European Youth Foundation (EYF) to provide financial support for international activities organised by young people for young people. Because of this, youth organisations can undertake multilateral projects to “serve the promotion of peace, understanding and co-operation between the peoples of Europe and the world, in a spirit of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” (EYF Statute).

It is only through education that mutual respect between various cultures can become a reality, with the long-term aim of eliminating future conflicts. It is a hard road indeed, but young people today are the future. They must therefore be educated. Such programs aim to enable those actively involved in European youth questions (youth leaders, youth workers, elected representatives, volunteers and professional stuff of youth organisations, etc) to play a more active, efficient and informed role in European and International Youth work and to improve the quality of youth activities. Therefore, these seminars/study sessions have an additional role: they are the tools which enable prospective youth leaders to “go forth and multiply”. They enhance the leadership qualities of the participants involved such that the knowledge attained could be transmitted effectively (and multiplied) within the individual societies.

A NEW FORM OF EDUCATION
Education does not necessarily mean listening to discussions, talks and speakers all day long. Indeed it is a known fact that, according to Dale’s Cone of Experience, a person remembers only 10% of what he reads, and 20% of what he hears, but will remember 90% of what he does. This means that the preparatory team must be much more intelligent…because it is not he who blurps out the message of the seminar, but the participants themselves must bring it out themselves though exercises, games and workshops. The preparatory team must therefore act as a catalyst and a guide. This is a totally different perspective to the traditional teacher-student situations.

The methodology used is modern and very effective. An experienced preparatory team establishes program elements which form the backbone of the seminar, but the whole seminar, however, would be perceived as a mutual learning situation based on the participants’ own experiences. Great emphasis is placed on working from and extending this experience. Basically…active participation, group and team work and “LEARNING-BY-DOING”. The workshops themselves are to serve as tools given to the participants for their use, and the skills attained by active participation in these exercises are expected to be added to the experiences of each participant.

The lessons learnt can be adopted in all forms of situations, especially those involving one’s career, or indeed one’s life. After all, the principles of successful leadership apply universally.

Malta being a member of the Council of Europe has been active in such seminars through its youth organisations. However, such programs are still relatively unknown, and it was in this context that the Youth Coordinating Committee will be launching the Youth Programme of the EU in Malta on February 27, 2001, with the three main objectives of creating a greater sense of solidarity, to promote active involvement in the European ideal and to encourage a spirit of initiative and enterprise. This followed Malta’s candidature to the next expansion of the EU in 2004. “Preparing our youth for tomorrow’s world”, as the then Parliamentary Secretary Jesmond Mugliett rightly put it.

This was in fact in addition to other programmes from which local youth organisations could and did profit from, mainly the Euromed Programme and The European Youth Foundation.

However, even though awareness of these programmes has increased immensely over the past two years, the general young person is still in the blind about the opportunities available. The same goes for the young person’s perception of his/her role as an active citizen of today’s and to morrow’s world. A point to ponder? Surely. We augur well for the new Ministry for Youth, Sports and the Arts.

INTERCULTURAL LEARNING
The concept of intercultural learning is linked to society, to the very concept of society. The latter is based on value systems, behaviour, self-determination, power, solidarity and interests – thus European societies present themselves less and less as homogenous communities. On the contrary, diversity increases in the different countries: there is a transfer towards a multicultural society. But these changes do not translate into practice. There is no interaction within our societies.

Intercultural Learning is the educational approach to lay open these differences and tensions and to work on them towards peaceful solutions. Developing cultural awareness is a process of looking inward. Intercultural Learning is a similar and parallel process but is focused outward on the learning of other cultures. But that, I do not mean gathering information about other culture groups, but to learn another culture so as to be able to experience what it is like to be part of it and to view the world from its point of view; learning it so as to be able to function effectively and comfortably in it.
But one may here ask: “What is all this technical jargon? How does it effect me? How does it apply to the society I live and work in? What is my role in this?”
What is culture after all? It is a set of values which can be found common in the characters of people, it is a set of values which a dear to a group of people. Therefore, we have youth culture, pop culture, English culture, Maltese culture, football culture, entertainment culture, working culture. So, by definition, culture belongs to at least two people.

But not all Maltese people work at the same company, not all like football. This means that each person has an identity, formed from different cultures. In this respect, identities are widely diverse and these constitute the differences between peoples, which, if not used to unite may lead to conflicts between persons and, at national level, peoples.

A leader should therefore be able to identify the different identities of his team and regulate them such that they guide the respective project to success. This can be done at personal level…and may be helpful to each one of us to teach ourselves adopt a positive attitude to life.

YOUTH FOR EXCHANGE AND UNDERSTANDING (YEU) MALTA
Youth for Exchange and Understanding (YEU) was founded in Strasbourg in August, 1986 by a group of 120 young people from 11 different countries and since 1989 it has been recognized as a member association of the European Coordination Bureau (E.C.B.). Today we are member in the European Youth Forum in Brussels and considered by the C.o.E. & the E.U. as an INGYO.

AIMS OF YEU

  1. To foster closer co-operation and better understanding among the young people of the world, both between and within continents, particularly by encouraging the exchange of information & experience;
  2. To stimulate mutual aid in the developed and the developing countries for cultural, educational and social purposes;
  3. To encourage the interdenominational exchange of ideas and opinions;
  4. To improve the relationship among young people from countries with differing political systems, religious believes and traditions thus fostering tolerance;
  5. To work together on issues affecting people and their environment.

YEU Malta is the local branch of YEU, and naturally it adopts the same aims and objectives. As with the International organisation, YEU Malta is a grass-roots group aimed at fostering above all ACCEPTANCE.

It aims to offer the opportunities to local youths to experience the world around them, experience new cultures by living them in the various international events held during the year. It is all about meeting other people and making networks that last for everyone. There is something for everyone in YEU. It all depends on one thing: The will of the prospective young person to take this opportunity. It is all about fun. It is all about joie-de-vivre. You are about to enter a new world… YEU.

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