Equal Volunteering Opportunities for All
The reason behind organising this seminar was to convene leaders of NGOs and volunteer centres from around Europe to reflect and learn together about the nature of volunteering, which is seen as an activity to be enjoyed by everybody, while thinking forward about its potential to engage one specific group of people that is often ignored: young people who are nationals of third non-EU countries (excluding Turkey and North Macedonia, Erasmus+ programme countries) who are living in Europe, including migrants, refugees and members of a cultural minority, with fewer opportunities and at risk of social exclusion and poverty, due to several factors, including being discriminated against and seen by an increasing number of people as ‘newcomers’ or ‘foreigners’, even if they were born in Europe.
This seminar was about why and specially, how we can encourage their participation in volunteering activities and projects, as a valid way to be part of the society, develop relevant competencies and, even, to become leaders of new initiatives, promoted by voluntary based NGOs, including the seminar promoter organisations themselves.
The fact is that this target group doesn’t have the same access to opportunities, including volunteering opportunities, as in many cases, they CAN NOT volunteer, due to the legal framework, that lacks the existence of a RIGHT TO VOLUNTEER, which is recognised as an individual right and an expression of human rights and freedoms that have existed in Europe for decades.
According to our experience, the positive impact of volunteering does not only imply to the people who are receiving the help, care and support from the volunteers and organizations, but also to the volunteers themselves, who, during their volunteering activities, are able to enjoy the opportunity of finding new interests, building new relationships and gaining new competences.
In other words, the basic idea behind this seminar was to help NGO leaders to play a more decisive role in helping young migrants and refugees to become active volunteers and community leaders, while helping us and our colleagues in the volunteering and youth sectors to understand the genuine nature of volunteering as an expression not only of citizenship, but also of freedom and human dignity.
Our approach was to gain ideas and inspiration from each other concerning managing diversity, giving value to different competences and perspectives, fighting against discrimination, fear and hate speech, to learn how to support young individuals who are suffering from uncertainty, unsafety and discrimination in many corners around Europe.
The 5 specific key competences (knowledge, skills and attitudes) we focused on were:
- Volunteer management
- Intercultural communication
- Cultural diversity management
- Conflict management
- Global awareness
The participants learned basic concepts and theories of conflict management, to understand how to identify, prevent and transform a conflict, and about global education, to increase awareness and have a wider perspective about global issues and the impact of an unbalanced north-south political and economic relationship defined by a culture of war.
The seminar general objectives were
- To learn how to be more inclusive to people with a diverse cultural background, both in theory and practice.
- To learn how to diversify, increase and improve the support given to young people who are migrants, refugees and part of a cultural minority to encourage them to become leaders of new projects and activities.
- To encourage a real exchange of ideas, information, tools, methodologies, practices, activities and projects regarding integration of third national countries.
- To promote cooperation and networking among youth workers (volunteer leaders, managers, mentors and supervisors) and NGOs active in the field of non-formal learning and volunteering at the European level
The seminar specific objectives were
- To learn/understand the basics of intercultural competence (including intercultural communication), and reflect on how to implement it, especially when recruiting / managing / supporting volunteers with a different cultural background, and gain new ideas and tools to identify, develop and recognize this competence.
- To share inspiring stories, practices and experiences, successful or not, we can learn from this to empower the target group to become active volunteers, leaders and citizens.
- To collect and spread the inspiring tools, ideas, practices and experiences at the local, regional and national level, in our communities and at the European and international