32nd Youth Convention! - Interview with YEU President, Simona Jonas
Another YEU International Youth Convention has just finished. It’s been already 32nd edition of this annual project of YEU. Some of you maybe have had a chance to participate, some of you might have already heard about it, but maybe there are still people who have no idea about what convention actually is. Whatever you know or not, we can all go back to the roots and get to know it a little bit more!
Simona Jonas, President of Youth for Exchange and Understanding International, is going to introduce us briefly to the history.
Dear, could you tell us what is the origin of YEU International Youth Convention? How did it all start?
Let’s start from the beginning - the history began in 1980, when the non-formal Catholic group, from Germany, decided to make an international camp. The idea of the event had been waited to become true and realized after one year in the Bavarian Alps, on the beautiful lake Koshelsee, during the summer of 1981. Participants were youth from Italy, Austria and Germany. The same group organized the camp in Schrottenbaummuhle next year, under the topic “Symbols in our lives“, with much more participants than previously. And this is how it all started… After this event, the group decided to organize a very big camp, in the same place. That event was one of the main events which influenced the whole development of YEU. It was the first International Youth Convention, which took part in August in 1983. The topic of the event was more than symbolic, “Borders between people and people”, like a symbol of exchanges between countries, especially between youth in Europe. The camp was divided into four villages and each camp village consisted of several sleeping tents and one larger meeting place – tent. To tell the exact number of participants is very hard, but it was between 120 and 140 youngsters from Europe who were facilitated by twenty animators.
What is the idea of this project? What does it mean for YEU?
The main idea of this event is to gather bunch of young people into one place for at least two weeks in order while using non formal education tools to discuss on a certain topic. Usually convention takes place at 3 different locations in the same country which gives participants an amazing opportunity to explore country better and it is hosted by a member organization at a different country each year. Also, whenever it’s possible, we try to have some real cultural exchange while accommodating our participants at the local families. This event particularly is the longest by its duration (between 13-21 day) and the biggest by the number of participants attending (between 50-120). There is a group of people (approximately 6) who are a core team members responsible for the whole program and are supported by a bigger group of facilitators (between 8-12 people) who take a lead on a work in a “village groups” – smaller working groups, which lets participants to feel more comfortable and communicate easier while interacting with each other. At the end of the project the public action – “act it out” while presenting results and interacting with the local community is always done. For YEU it means that each year participants from all member organizations have a chance to meet all together to work on promoting peace, understanding and co-operation between the young people of the world, in a spirit of respect for human rights – which is the main mission of YEU. Additionally, to see, how the member organization which is hosting the convention is doing at the local level and ability to interact with the local community. Having in mind that YEU development started from the international youth camp we are eager to keep this important event happening for many years in ahead.
How does this project look like? Does it have any constant elements?
How time is passing and generations changing YEU conventions are a bit changing too, however the main things like involvement of as many countries of our member organizations, working in "village groups”, using non formal education, intercultural learning, human rights and discussing on the key topics for the youth of the year is kept. This event is mainly focused on the new members of YEU to give them an idea and better understanding what YEU is and how it works. We say that real YEU member has at least once in his/her life to take part at this event as it’s like a huge family reunion event.
Just to finish with this event might be the one which gives you a life lasting friendships, new prospect on the different cultures, religious, countries, traditions or better understanding on the intercultural similarities and differences, even willingness to be a more active member of a civil society in your own country. I have to admit that YEU convention has influenced my life a lot J . Each of you, who have at least once participated there, could tell your own story…