Leadership Training Course for Young Ukrainians in Europe
by Elisabeth Alster
In October 2013 Lastivka and a number of international partner organisations arranged a weeklong training course for leaders from Ukrainian youth organisations in other European countries.
The project was entitled “Getting started: youth projects as a tool for inclusion of young immigrants”. The course took place in Brønshøj, Copenhagen from October 18th to 27th. The participants were 24 young leaders from Ukrainian youth organisations in Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia.
The course received a grant of 24,996 EUR from The European Union’s ‘Youth in Action’ Programme. Since 2007 Youth in Action has supported 21,800 projects with the purpose of promoting and developing cooperation, solidarity, active citizenship and mutual understanding between young people in Europe.
Many young immigrants lack activities which give them the opportunity to become more integrated into their new social, cultural and political environment. For this reason, the purpose of the course was to train young leaders to organise youth projects and activities which may help young people getting more involved in their new local communities.
The course dealt with international project management, intercultural understanding and dialogue as well as integration of young people with immigrant backgrounds.
All participants were themselves immigrants who contributed their own experiences of integration and cultural differences. At the end of the third day there was an intercultural evening where the participants presented the countries in which they currently live and talked about the significance of their new communities to their own cultures and identities.
The course also focused on European citizenship. The teaching was based on values such as freedom, equality, democracy and human rights as mentioned in the Lisbon Treaty. The participants were taught the opportunities and rules for work with young people within the framework of the European Union and the European Council, and they had ample opportunity to establish new contacts which can lead to more collaboration between youth organisations in several European countries.
The teaching emphasised promotion of solidarity and mutual understanding between people in different countries. The participants did exercises on cultural differences which were intended to break down prejudice and promote non-violent communication, empathy and tolerance. More than half of the participants wrote in their evaluations that their attitude towards other cultures had changed for the better during the training, whereas one quarter indicated that their attitude stayed the same, as it had always been positive and respectful. 80% of the participants reported that they are now ready to establish intercultural dialogue.
The course used teaching methods such as presentations, group work, simulation exercises, discussions and interactive exercises. Along with their new skills and knowledge, the participants can use the methods in their work as youth leaders at home.
The participants’ evaluation of the course was mainly positive. 75% thought the course reached all or almost all its goals. Everyone enjoyed working together and would like to continue. A participant wrote: “I wish project like this would happen often and provide opportunity for young people from different countries to meet, get to know each others and do things together as a follow-up.”
The organizers were praised for creating an atmosphere of comfort and safety which allowed open communication between the participants and provided opportunities for them to learn from each other. Another participant wrote: “I liked this system of education! Through the tasks we could make our own conclusions and learn from each other!!!”.
After the course the participants have had meetings with the members of their organisations in order to present their project ideas and the opportunities for international youth cooperation. In the long term, the participants are supposed to implement the project ideas that were developed during the course. They are still in touch via Facebook, where they inform each other about the possibilities of the Youth in Action Programme. The organisers are also still in touch and are planning more training projects for young people.