Valentin and Ana know just how hard it can be for teenagers in rural Moldova to access the range of EU opportunities available to young people: coming from underprivileged backgrounds themselves, they were determined to give young people in their community a better chance. And so these two members of the EU4Youth Alumni Network set out to implement the “Start Stauceni” project.
The project focused on 14–16-year-old boys and girls, none of whom knew anything about the opportunities available for their age group. They also had no experience with non-formal education and were not taking part in any volunteering activities. Ana Podoleanu and Valentin Gherman were motivated by their empathy for these young people: “I know how it is. I didn’t have the opportunity to be informed about my topics of interest. We were in their shoes not long ago,” explains Valentin, who before becoming an Alumnus had participated in several Erasmus projects, including youth exchanges and trainings in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Georgia.
The EU4Youth Alumni network brings together former beneficiaries of EU-funded youth programmes to apply their skills and the experience they have gained to support disadvantaged youth in their community. Through the 10-month programme, the Alumni work with an experienced mentor to create and implement their own initiatives on the ground, allowing them to gain new tools and skills for working with young people.
For most of the 15 young beneficiaries from Stauceni, this was their first youth project, and they came with no experience in non-formal education, international exchanges, or volunteering. But despite the lack of information, the young people had keenly developed individual areas of interest. In general terms, these were primarily focused on financial education, volunteer activities, learning English and, of course, personal development.
Collaborating with other members of the Alumni Network, Valentin and Ana organised discussion clubs, debate competitions, hikes and other outdoor activities for their mentees. In total, they implemented 11 activities with their 15 beneficiaries between May and June 2022.
These included study visits to show the range of opportunities available. Groups got to meet with various youth service providers in Moldova, NGOs like the MilleniuM Training and Development Institute, the Chişinău Municipal Youth Centre, the Tohateen HUB, the CIR PRO BONO information centre, and some digital infrastructure hubs (Digital Park, Tekwill, Artcor). All these organisations are designed to improve young people’s competences in one way or another, and to support them through a variety of educational activities.
Ana and Valentin’s main goal was to help the participants to develop soft skills. As well as involving them in local community initiatives, the two Alumni also hoped that these teenagers would be inspired to take part in projects available under Erasmus+ Youth in Action, the European Solidarity Corps and the EU4Youth programme.
Valentin adds that “at the end of the project the participants became more open to the world, to the worldwide opportunities and to the volunteering possibilities”. The participants developed their public speaking, self-confidence, and debating skills, and by developing their ideas became more open-minded.
In rural areas, the low levels of information and awareness among young people can act as a barrier that limits their participation in future decision-making processes. But, as this project has shown, it’s not an insurmountable obstacle.
The EU4Youth Alumni Network brings together young beneficiaries of the EU4Youth, Erasmus+ Youth in Action and European Solidarity Corps programmes, and the network of Young European Ambassadors from the Eastern partner countries.
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