Uplifting! That is maybe the most suitable term to describe ‘the Partnerships for Participation’ (P4P) seminar organised by IFM-SEI and local member organisation Nueva Generacion Bolivia with the support of the European Commission through the Erasmus+ Programme. The seminar, which was held from 18th to 25 January 2015 in the centre of La Paz, Bolivia, was a kick-off of the global European Voluntary Service (EVS) project ‘Partnerships for Participation’ of IFM-SEI. It brought together the 10 EVS volunteers involved in the P4P project and their hosting organisations. Participants were from the following organisations: Esplac Catalunya (Spain), SJD Die Falken (Germany), Nuoret Kotkat (Finland), Liepajas Jaunie Vanagi (Latvia), IFM-SEI Secretariat (Belgium), OGCEYOD (Cameroon), CHAP 23 de Mayo (Peru), ACACIA (Colombia), KKSP (Indonesia) and Nueva Generacion (Bolivia).
The event was focused on three key points explored in a friendly atmosphere through non formal education methods. It aimed to provide participants with an in-depth understanding of the EVS and the child participation project as such, but also was an opportunity for volunteers and representatives of host organisations to get to know each other as well as to create a strong links. Throughout the week, participants were introduced to plenty of core elements such as the rules and procedures of the EVS programme and the different approaches of child participation. They were also invited to share their expectations towards the EVS as well as their understanding of the concept of child participation.
In addition, we together identified our learning needs and molded the work programmes of both EVS volunteers and hosts while deciding on how the P4P project should be implemented. In a few words, there will be a research phase and assessment of current participation practices in the different host countries. Then, volunteers and hosting organisations will have to persuade decision-makers of the advantages of youth participation, train them and young people in significant participation and produce a toolkit to disseminate and multiply the results obtained. We should bear in mind that with this project, IFM-SEI aim to contest the misperception that teenagers are only capable of participating in issues directly affecting them individually by involving them in the decision-making of schools and local authorities. In order to make sure that the stay of volunteers abroad runs smoothly, an intercultural learning session was integrated in the seminar. It consisted of preparing volunteers and hosts to manage possible integration difficulties that might happen during the service. On the other hand we also had the chance to visit our Bolivian member Nueva Generacion and meet their volunteers while discovering the scope of their activities.
If we refer to the final evaluation, we can firmly declare that the event was a real success!