Thursday 21 November 2019

You want to explore the world? Take your pick!

Charis Hughes, Léargas

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Stock image

Irish youth organisations and informal groups of young people have a lot of options in Erasmus+. It all depends on their interests: whether they want to exchange with another youth group, take part in a joint project, volunteer, or make their voices heard in society.

Youth Exchanges are a great way to share culture with young people from other countries, and explore topics and issues important to both groups. In a recent project, 'F:Ire and Ice', a group from Cobh YMCA exchanged with a youth sports organisation from remote East Iceland. (If you're wondering, the 'F' stood for 'Fun, Fitness, Further yourself, Future plans'!) The members of the Cobh group had all experienced some difficulties with second-level education and had limited travel experience, but in no time they were hiking across glaciers and at the end of the exchange held a joint exhibition of their photos and artwork in a Cork gallery.

Many young people take their first steps into Europe as volunteers. As well as benefitting the communities and people they work with, young volunteers have a unique chance to develop their own skills in communication, organisation, intercultural learning and self-reliance. People from 17-30 can volunteer abroad for two weeks to 12 months with the European Voluntary Service (EVS), and have their travel and living costs paid. EVS volunteers work in local organisations that are active in areas like culture, environment, social care or sports. Recently a new initiative, the European Solidarity Corps, was set up specifically for projects that reinforce the European values of solidarity, respect for human dignity and human rights.

Erasmus+ also has opportunities for youth workers to strengthen their own skills and learning. Youth organisations can send their staff to other countries for training, job shadowing or study visits.

They can also collaborate with other organisations - either from the youth work field or outside it - in joint projects to exchange good practice or support innovation. For example, Galway Community Circus is now working with two Czech circus groups to help young people become junior leaders in their youth circus organisations.

Young people interested in taking an active part in democratic life can engage directly with policy makers in a 'Structured Dialogue' project. This can be at a national or international level.

One such project, YOUth Speak, connects young refugees and asylum seekers living in Direct Provision in Ireland with those who make the policies that affect them. Their hope is that the young people will feel more engaged in society while the policy-makers better understand, value and listen to young voices and experiences when forming new policy goals.

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