Youth Network On The Road

After two years, the project that involved nine European countries and empowered a Strong Youth Network for a Long Term Positive Change in CE Europe is about to be finished. What did we reach during the two years? Where should we head next? What kind of programs would we like to create together in the future? – the Malteser Youth International Network was trying to find answers for these questions during their meeting in October, in Germany.

Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine – nine countries, nine Malteser organisations, nine different approaches to youth work. What connects them despite all the differences? How can they help each other?

Malteser Youth International Network is trying to answer these questions. The network was born following an international project aimed to revitalize and improve the quality of existing youth work operations within the Order of Malta Relief Organizations in Central and Eastern Europe. The project continued in 2016-2017, and currently the network is set up from the youth representatives of the above mentioned nine countries.

German-Lithuanian discussion (Photo: Michal Rzysko)

The final meeting of the project which was supporting the Network development took place in Ehreshoven, Germany in the building of Malteser Kommende. The objectives of the meeting were to close and evaluate the Strong Youth Network for a Long Term Positive Change project, to share the vision and create plans for the future of the network, and to encourage personal and professional development by sharing skills and competences.

To go forward, it is needed to start with the evaluation of the previous period. During the first day the members of the network could go through the aims of the project, in order to see which of the initial plans were realized, and what missing details need to be finished until the closure of the project. Following that, the action bubbles of the previous period could present their achievements with their groups, adding the difficulties they had to face during the road.

The meeting with the Steering Committee (the advisory body of the Malteser organisations in Central and Eastern Europe) was one of the focal points of the meeting. During the morning session spent together, the Steering Committee could get answers from each countries for questions such as “What are the barriers and obstacles to develop youth work in your countries?” and “What do you need to make your youth work successful?” Regarding the future, the Steering Committee transferred some messages towards the youth leaders: “The Steering Committee initiated the creation of a Malteser youth network and we will not leave you alone after the end of the project” – said Michael Lülsdorff, member of the Steering Committee. “We will be present in the life of the network in an advisory role and offer you active guidance and support, but the planning and implementation of programs remain your task in the future as well.”

Talking about the programs of the network, during the meeting there was time to develop two projects which will be in the focus of Malteser Youth International Network in the following year. Based on the plans, the first international summer camp initiated by the network will take place in August 2018, in Romania. The organising process already started, all the countries appointed one volunteer, who will be the member of the preparation team – with this there will be new youngsters getting the chance to be more involved in international youth work. “Most of us have summer camps implemented in our countries. Now we have the chance to gather all the experience and bring it to the next level to organise an international camp, where our volunteers can meet, exchange experience and be part of the international Malteser youth spirit” – told Ira Freude, one of the coordinators of the summer camp action bubble.

Planning of the international summer camp (Photo: Michal Rzysko)

The second program in focus was the kick-off meeting of a new project, funded by Renovabis, aiming at improving communication both at local level, as well as among the members of the Network. “How can we create a promo video easily and rapidly? What kinds of messages have the most impact? How can we communicate effectively about our actions?… and many other questions we would try to find answers together in the following 6 months“ – the Romanian Malteser organization, coordinator of the project, summarized the project in a Facebook post.

Preparation for the kick-off meeting of the communication project (Photo: Ira Freude)

Besides launching and developing projects, there was time for sharing skills and competences. Participants could choose between attending one of the two workshops: the first one focusing on the prevention of sexual abuse, the second one about facilitation and working with tools in non-formal education.

On Friday, Dr. Marc Möres, the leader of the Malteser Spiritual Centre at Ehreshoven facilitated a session, focusing on spirituality and faith. Following the session, as part of the spiritual afternoon, he offered a guided tour in Cologne Cathedral during which the network members could have a view on the cathedral from a unique perspective, focusing on the spiritual elements and atmosphere of the building. Saturday evening the youth representatives attended a Holy Mass in the chapel of the Malteser Kommende building.

Group photo in front of the Cologne Cathedral (Photo: Csaba Babus)

Another important part of the meeting was the election of the third person in the leadership team of the network, following the resignation of Róbert Székely, the Romanian youth representative. The election resulted in Aidas Gedminas, Lithuanian youth leader taking the position in the leadership team, besides Anastasiia Kostiuk, Ukrainian youth leader and Reka Szakszon, Hungarian youth leader.

At the end of the meeting, network members could join the active action bubbles (representation, projects for network development, common projects in the countries), and select their coordinator, who will support the continuity of the working groups.

The leadership team presented the further opportunities for the sustainability of the network, and created a calendar for 2018, including the programs and meetings of the network next year.

More than a football group (Photo: Ruth Werthmann)

The frame and focus is changing, the Malteser Youth International Network is continuously developing, but the common vision of the network accompanies the youth representatives on their way: Their aim is to “inspire youth work that matters” on both local and international levels.