Nine Countries on the Same Road

Reaching the common view, increasing motivation and communication, strengthening group cohesion – these were the objectives of the meeting of the Malteser Youth International Network in Poland, in the beginning of November. The hard work resulted in a new structure, promising project ideas and an elected leadership team, helping the journey of the network in the future.

The creation of the network began in 2013 with an international project to revitalize and improve the quality of existing youth work operations within the Order of Malta Relief Organisations in Central and Eastern Europe. From 2016 the network consists of nine countries: Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

Following the gatherings this year in Bratislava, Slovakia and in Malta, the third international meeting of the Malteser Youth International Network took place in Katowice, Poland between 3-6 November.

Photo: Eitvydas Bingelis

As one of the main objectives of the meeting was to strengthen group cohesion, after the introduction the event started with a team building session. The methods also helped in welcoming new participants and highlighted some issues coming from the network members, such as the need of leadership and a common understanding of our work.

The second day was built upon reaching the common view. Starting with a discussion about the past, present and future of the network and the personal commitment, all the members could individually express their feelings and ideas.

After that, the previously created Network Statement was revised by the country teams, who also had suggestions on certain changes.

Until the end of the day, the final draft of the Network Statement was created, including the mission of the network, which is “to develop the faith based youth and volunteer work of the OMROs through international partnerships. We agree that the network’s primary focus lies in the areas of youth, volunteer, social, humanitarian and first aid work”. Therefore, the objectives of the Network are:

  1. To foster international cooperative projects and activities between network members.
  2. To strengthen the work of youth workers and young volunteers on the national level.
  3. To increase the visibility, recognition and sustainability of the OMRO youth organisations on a national and international level and within the Order of Malta.

On Saturday, the previously working department structure was reviewed by the countries. After some suggestions, a new type of structure was formed with a common agreement of the members. The activity based structure is built upon action teams, with one responsible in each of them who is keeping track of the process within the group. Also, after the expressed need of leadership, a team was suggested to come together to coordinate the movements and have an overview of the network issues.

Photo: Eitvydas Bingelis

The last day of the workshop started with the election, where the leadership team of a leader and two vice leaders was elected. The main roles of the leaders will be the organizing tasks and representing the network.

Following the election, new action teams were formed on specific topics, such as finalizing the network statement, writing the Erasmus+ project on first aid, creating the logo and the presentation of the network and coming up with a program which can be performed in all the 9 member countries on the same day.

Photo: Eitvydas Bingelis

Several additional activities were included in the workshop, helping to strengthen group cohesion among the network members. Friday afternoon the members could take part in a guided tour at Guido coal mine, which is an important site of the Silesian region of Poland.

The next day, the Polish members of the network organised a study tour to Kęty, where the participants from other countries had the chance to meet the volunteers and the board of Maltese Medical Corps Foundation. After a short energizer and introduction, the Polish team performed a first aid show for the audience. The network members could also attend the Holy Mass in the nearby church, which was followed by a farewell dinner in the city.

The fruitful meeting finished with a group photo and lots of hopes and wishes for the upcoming months. Several details have changed and developed during the meeting in Katowice, but the vision of the network remained the same: “inspire youth work that matters”.

Reka Szakszon