Greeting New Year in Estonia
YEU has the tradition to greet New Year with an international youth exchange. This year we celebrated the start of the Cat year with an exchange in Estonia – Viimsi and Tallinn.
The exchange “Reaching Equilibrium – youth NGOs in inclusion and integrating youth immigrants” brought together 35 youngsters from Poland, Turkey, Egypt, Ukraine, Greece, Tunisia and Estonia. During the week the participants investigated the topic of immigration: what is the perception of immigrants in all of the mentioned countries, how is the situation regarding the mentioned in Europe and its surrounding areas, what steps are the authorities taking in order to integrate immigrants into the local communities and assure their rights, what could we do in order to involve youth immigrants into youth NGOs and make them feel home in the countries where they were living.
In was clear since the beginning that the perception of immigrants is very different across Europe and is strongly affected by the history. All of the participants agreed that immigration is a crucial issue that needs more attention and care. Thanks to the free mobility moving abroad has become a new “hobby” among the youth and though one could imagine that in the 21st century it is easy and convenient, there are still problems with integration and racism.
According to the vice-mayor of Viimsi, Urve Palo, who was also the Minister of Ethnic Affairs years ago, said that in most cases the problem of integration rises among older generations to whom foreigners coming to their countries is just unusual and new. How to make the older generations open-minded and reluctant to treat the immigrants as the fellow natives is considered to be the key issue. Furthermore, another crucial point that was brought out were wars – as many of the participating countries had been occupied for years, someone coming to their territory brings back all the memories of the pain and misery that everyone experienced during the wars.
During the exchange the participants also discussed the possible ways how to attract youth immigrants into youth NGOs in order to raise their inclusion into local communities and make everyone see that they are here not only looking for a better future but also willing to contribute to the development of the society.
At the end of the week the group had an Act it Out sessions in one of the newest shopping malls in the centre of Tallinn which was a great experience for all of them. As foreseen, it was difficult to interact with modest and closed Estonians but there were many curious observers trying to figure out what this punch of foreigner youngsters were doing.
The NYE in Estonia was a good experience to all of the countries. For some it was the first time to see the snow and a natural Christmas tree, for some it was the first time to witness the change of currencies and an UFO flying on the rooftop of the national opera, but definitely for everyone it was an unforgettable experienced that changed a bit in their lives.
Project Manager & Newsmail Editor