Personal development, vocational guidance, preventing violence in schools, online safety, ecology — these are some of the project themes developed by the participants of Terre des hommes Foundation Moldova’s training, ‘Civic Activism of the Volunteer Engaged Youngsters’ (ACTIV). Held in July and August, over 70 young people, Youth Centre managers, and education for society teachers from 23 districts participated in the ACTIV summer school.
‘Through these trainings we aim to empower young people to become more civically active. The participants are trained to identify the problems and needs of young people, to establish what they need in order to be more engaged and active at the community level, and as homework, they will develop a local initiative. Youth Centres will be responsible for this small project, but they will implement it with the involvement of young people and teachers of education for society. The initiatives will be implemented starting September, and the condition is to engage as many young people as possible and reach the most vulnerable’, explains Liliana Astrahan, child protection specialist at Tdh Moldova and the summer school coordinator.
In the first session, participants discovered the importance of teamwork: between school and Youth Centres, community analysis, how to plan and carry out an initiative engaging youngsters, and how to identify potential partners for implementation.
Nona Mihalcean, manager of the Youth Centre of Balti town and an ACTIV Summer School trainer, says that every participant brought with their own experience to these trainings, and therefore participants learned from each other. She believes that the symbiosis between young people, the managers of Youth Centres, and teachers will be very beneficial in implementing the community initiatives. ‘In these trainings we want the participants to feel and to connect with each other. It is great when actors of different ages meet — working together helps them get to know and understand each other, and to strengthen connections. Returning to their community, they will carry out at least one activity together.’
This objective has certainly been achieved by the organizers; the trainings served as a bridge between the participants. Maia Furdui, history and education for society teacher at Mihail Sadoveanu, a theoretical high school in Hânceşti, says she only met the manager of the Youth Centre from her town at this training. ‘We carry out various activities in the school and it would have been great if we would have had this connection earlier, to develop programs for teenagers together, but now that we have met, we will keep in touch and we will do so in the future,’ the teacher determined.
Ion Croitoru, interim manager of the Youth Centre from Hânceşti, recognizes that he came to trainings to ‘steal’ knowledge and experience from colleagues, ‘because no one is born knowing’. ‘These trainings have made us stronger and more confident in what we are going to do in the territory. Here we have charged our batteries and we are going to apply what we have learned in practice, to motivate the young people from our community to get involved and be as open as we are.’
Young people also need support, not only financially, but also in terms of responsibilities, involvement in projects and initiatives, and promotions at both the district and broader level, believes Sabina Furtuna from Hânceşti, a student in the eleventh grade.
In the second summer school session, working groups from each district — consisting of a youngster, a representative of the Youth Centre, and a local teacher — worked with mentors to define their civic engagement initiatives. Participants learned more about: group cohesion, peer-to-peer activities, how to analyse Youth Centre services, how to consolidate existing services, the problems and challenges young people have in accessing the services of the Centres, and what skills a youth worker should possess. They also worked on outreach: methods, benefits, and planning.
Alexei Buzu, Executive Director at ‘Partnership for Development’ and summer school trainer, explains what outreach services mean and why they are necessary in Youth Centres: ‘The main problem is that the Centres provide services to the youngsters from the neighbouring locality, and those from further away do not benefit from these services. We tried to see how these services could get out from the Centre – meaning, outreach — and, during the next three months, each of the Centres will select a beneficiary community and introduce some services there.’
For this to happen, explains Buzu, it is necessary for Youth Centre workers to take into account five basic aspects: identifying young people who need the services; identifying and analysing the needs of these young people, how services will be provided — through intermediaries, mobile teams, online, etc.; how to do case management; and how to measure the performance and level of engagement of young people in the provided service.
‘The next stage is the implementation of the elaborated projects, which will be carried out over several months, until the end of the year,’ Elena Madan, Director of Terre des hommes Moldova, announced. The teams will benefit from a small budget for the implementation of their civic engagement initiatives.
The trainings for young people, teachers, and Youth Centre managers were provided by Terre des hommes Moldova Foundation, as part of the Joint Fund of Ministry of Education, Culture and Research of the Republic of Moldova, Swiss Cooperation Office and the United Nations Population Fund on the Strengthened Participation and Civic Engagement of Young People in the Republic of Moldova for 2017–2022.