Empowering Young People: APY Reflects on the Success of the Up2You(th) project

Armenian Progressive Youth is thrilled to share the inspiring journey and successful conclusion of the Up2You(th) KA2 project, a collaborative initiative undertaken with the Center for Intercultural Dialogue (CID) and Youthfully Yours (YY). The project aimed to tackle the prevalent issue of youth disengagement in Slovakia, North Macedonia, and Armenia. The culmination of this transformative project was marked by a dissemination event on August 22, 2023, where APY members and colleagues gathered to learn, discuss, and celebrate the impactful results.

The Up2You(th) project began with a critical examination of the prevailing sense of disillusionment among young individuals in Europe, particularly in Armenia. A noticeable disconnect with governmental structures and a feeling of being undervalued had led many youth to distance themselves from political and community endeavors. Recognizing the detrimental effects of this alienation, the project took on the challenge of strengthening youth voices and fostering active engagement.

The initiative spanned multiple phases, each contributing to a deeper understanding of the barriers, aspirations, and potential solutions to increase youth participation. Engaging with over 1,300 young individuals across three countries, the Up2You(th) project conducted comprehensive desk research, country surveys, focus group discussions, and practical local workshops. The emphasis on direct youth involvement ensured that the resulting knowledge and strategies were not only empirically grounded but also endorsed by the very demographic they aimed to empower.

Learning from Project Activities:

  1. Desk Research: The foundational understanding of youth disengagement was laid through comprehensive desk research.
  2. Country Surveys: Delving into youth perspectives on community participation across Slovakia, North Macedonia, and Armenia provided diverse insights.
  3. Focus Group Reports: Synthesizing local discussions captured how young people perceive the barriers and potential solutions for increasing their community engagement.
  4. Local Workshops: Practical sessions were conducted to address specific needs and areas of interest highlighted by the youth during the project.
  5. Recommendations: The Up2You(th) Initiative concluded with actionable strategies to reinforce youth engagement, tailored for stakeholders on regional, national, and European levels.

As we reflect on the Up2You(th) project’s journey, APY is proud to have been part of a transformative initiative that addressed the challenges of youth disengagement head-on. The dissemination event on August 22 allowed us to celebrate the project’s success, share valuable insights, and inspire further commitment to fostering active citizenship among the youth. The Up2You(th) project is not just a conclusion; it’s a beginning – a testament to the power of collaboration and youth-led initiatives in shaping a brighter future.

My EVS story

Thinking about a short description for my previous year in Germany, looking back at my journey that started due to APY and continued in LandKunstLeben e.V., I often come to this title – EVS ruined my life.  Most of the time, people get confused, was it that bad? The answer is in my short story.

My story is not about crazy travelling through Europe (visiting more than 15 cities, 6 countries), making amazing, lifelong friends, nor it is about foreign languages that I learnt from basics or improved or got the interest to start learning nor it is about new cultures, new skills, new experiences that I gained, participating in the coolest workshops, competitions, trainings, getting better in my hobbies ( cooking, baking, SMM and many more).  My gratitude to EVS project is not even for the opportunity to experience for the first time in my life things like ecological gardening, planting, working in an office, even biking, eating Bretzel, meeting Finnish people and breaking the stereotype, that they are not funny ( they can really be) and many other things.

My story and my gratitude is not about all this wonderful, life-changing experiences, it is all about getting lost in the stations, breaking my leg ( while learning to bike), facing hardships, it is about destroying ideas and beliefs that I never questioned, destroying dreams that were fake to be brave enough to realize the real ones, my gratitude is about finding myself,  learning to learn, it is about ruining the life that once was full of fears, stereotypes, complexes to fill it with self-understanding, love, respect, friendship, honesty, strength, ability to fail, empathy, support, solidarity and happiness…

Was it that good, you might ask…

No, of course not. ( Because of constant happiness and delicious food, there is a high possibility of gaining weight).

My EVS story

I am Ani from Yerevan, Armenia and I did EVS/ESC in the heart of Vienna, Austria. Yes, I was a lucky person.

I applied for the EVS because I wanted to change my life for better, making it more interesting and diverse, to become more independent, do career and make new friends from all over the world. Now, when my ten months of EVS are over, I can say that I have accomplished that mission.

It has only been ten months but I learned and accomplished a lot of things during that period: I learned a totally new language from basics, German, I met new awesome people from different countries and with different background and became good friends with them, I was exposed to the culture of the country that hosted me, and the more I learned about that country and its people, the more I loved them. I miss Austria sometimes, as it became my second homeland or a country that I am quite familiar with and if being dropped there one day again I will not be lost there, for sure.I worked on my language skills, developed my social skills and career.  And I definitely became more independent. I was a volunteer at Kindergruppe Butterbrot. I was working with 2-6 years old kids. My work at the kindergruppe was very beneficial for me as it gave me an opportunity to grow, I gave as much as I could and I learned new methods of working with kids from my co-workers and I hope I can apply that knowledge one day here, in my country. And what is most important- I once again realized that I love kids and will be working with them in the future. And I really miss my kids there.

I had to work there for five days per week, for six hours a day. My tasks would include taking care of kids, reading books to them, playing different games with them, preparing food, putting the plates in the dishwashing machine, sometimes telling kids interesting things, doing crafts with them. My kindergruppe would also organize some excursions to museums, theaters, celebrations of some kind of festivals together so I would join the kids during the excursions as well and enjoy the theatre performances with them.

While being abroad, traveling becomes easier and one of my tips for the next volunteers is to travel as much as possible. I managed to visit two new countries while volunteering, but I know that I could allocate more time for traveling. It broadens one’s mind, and I had a feeling that I was a small piece of a whole; it gave me a feeling of integrity.

Volunteering is a responsibility, but at the same time it is fun. Now, already back to my country, I feel that I have left a piece from my heart in Austria which was just another European country for me before I did my EVS there. I wish it was possible to do another EVS/ESC again:) Of course, I don’t want to say that everything was smooth, without any problems. I have encountered some challenges but I was able to overcome them because I never felt lonely there, I was always surrounded with kind people, people from my hosting, receiving, sending organizations and NA, who were always next to me, ready to support. I would like to express my special gratitude to all these organizations and people involved in them who made my life so beautiful during these ten long months.

Although being in a pre-designed project which is supposed to go smoothly, it is a part of real life, where you have certain roles and you have to make decisions for yourself, perhaps for the first time in your life. And that is challenging and at the same time so wonderful.

I want other volunteers to put their doubts aside and apply for EVS without fears, being open to changes. You can do that! Don’t be afraid to do EVS, EVS is for everybody, EVS is for you!