The first networking meeting of the Phiren Amenca International Network in 2021 started in the morning of the 7th of May, with heartfelt greetings and some ice-breakers suitable for online in order to set a joyous mood for the rest of the day. Member and partner organizations were happy to see each other after such a long time, even if only online. In the next hour or so each organizational representative had the chance to share heir updates with the group. The foci of these summaries were coping with the global pandemic and challenges we have faced; ongoing projects- their types, participants, and locations; future plans in terms of project applications; and updates about the European Solidarity Corps Quality Label application/renewal process. All the updates have also been recorded on an online platform which remains available for all participants, so they can look for partners and their contact details.
In sum, all member and partner organizations were forced to make changes to their international project plans, and especially to the dates because of travel restrictions and the general insecurities. Some decided not to partner with organizations outside of the EU in the coming period as obtaining visas and entering Europe have become quite difficult due to the emergency measures.
A dilemma also came up during the discussions, whether some organizations being able to continue volunteering activities during the lockdowns when young people were not able to execute their normal tasks but had to invent online activities was a good thing. This prevented them from building meaningful connections and acquiring intercultural competences, but most of the organizations still managed to involve them in their work meaningfully.
After the updates, the Phiren Amenca coordination office presented their plans for the near future and assessed the interest in a Quality Label writing workshop for the organizations present. We agreed that in the second half of the year, another two networking meetings will be held focusing on recruitment methods for mobilizing and engaging young people with fewer opportunities in international mobility projects; and on successful methods and cooperation for disseminating project results and successes among the wider public.
After a short break, an extensive amount of time was spent with discussing the organizations’ difficulties, methods and ideas about recruiting volunteers. It was agreed that in the last years the interest has lowered and that organizations who work in grassroots communities must organize more fun events to attract young people, and that social media should be better utilized for raising the interest of young people in volunteering abroad.
In the final part of the meeting, new organizations from within and outside of the European Union joined us, presented themselves. In smaller breakout rooms, all representatives could spend time with planning future cooperation, sending and hosting volunteers from each other. We hope that more and more young people will get the chance to take part in the Network’s life as a result of these new partnerships.
The project is funded with the support of Otto per Mille of the Waldensian Church of Italy