In Florence, Italy between the 20th and 22nd of November, we held a Networking Meeting in conjunction with our partners from Diaconia Valdese. About 20 participants and another 10 guests gathered for a few days of conversation, learning, and planning. CSD (Commissione Sinodale per la Diaconia) – Diaconia Valdese is part of the Waldesian Church and has long history with voluntary service, working with the Italian, French and German national programs and with International volunteer programs in Europe, south America and India.
We started the event off with short introductions from everyone including where they came from and what organization they are involved in. They also talked about vulnerable youth in their environment. Participants came from various places, ranging from India to Nicaragua with many different places in between. Colleagues from Phiren Amenca then presented a guide on Volunteerism that has been in the works since the Study Session in September. The activity was focusing on “Volunteering as a Tool for Roma Youth Participation” and the guide was created with the help of the participants of that event. Pieces of the guide were discussed in groups based on the preference and expertise of each person and both old and new ideas were worked through. The guide includes chapters on organizational responsibilities to create space and opportunities for young (Roma) people for volunteering, how to recruit and support a volunteer but also how to keep volunteers engaged in a long-term, especially after the service. The goal of this presentation and time for contribution was to allow new minds to give feedback and be able to finish the guide as a whole to be distributed in the near future.
Another major part of the meeting revolved around supporting volunteers; and managing conflicts. We shared conversations of different ways to solve conflict and what different organizations have experienced. Most of these scenarios occurred in the realm of volunteering and hosting volunteers. In smaller groups, the participants worked through given conflict scenarios, half of the group from the view of the volunteer(s) and the other half from the view of the hosting organization. The conversations were fruitful and realistic as the conflict scenarios were real scenarios that happen within volunteering.
One morning, we welcomed Victoria Lovelock, an expert in International Volunteering who works with CCIVS: Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service. She led a presentation on international volunteering, the positive impacts, and how a network can promote volunteering. She shared about CCIVS as a network and what types of volunteer projects they carry out throughout the world. After this, we were also able to hear stories from previous international volunteers and learn about their experiences as well as how it shaped their careers.
Towards the end of our time together, we spent time discussing the topic of shifting volunteering into active citizenship. The main focus of this discussion was especially on young people with fewer opportunities as well as Roma youth. Participants brainstormed ways to empower youth after volunteer service to continue to be involved in their communities and/or organization. In addition to this, we spent time allowing the participants present what past, current, and future projects each of their organizations are doing. This part also gave us space to announce our next year activities and engage partners already.
To finish out the event, participants brainstormed possible projects they would like to work on with partners present at the event. Collecting these ideas and then creating a few different groups based on common themes, participants fully went through the process involved when building and implementing a project, especially when partnering internationally.
The meeting created space for organizations from Europe, south America and India to meet and exchange knowledge, practices, experiences and realities working with marginalized groups. CSD Valdese implemented a capacity building project called “Change! ¡Cambia! – Management and training tools for international volunteering” in cooperation with organizations from south America and India, between October 2016 and November 2017. The project aimed to improve the volunteer projects, as learning experiences, an active tool to achieve competences and to promote social inclusion. Through the project 15 volunteers from five different countries spent 9 months of volunteering in several placements working with young people with fewer opportunities. As a continuation of that, between 2018 and 2019 with the involvement of Phiren Amenca the partnership focused on “networking” and developed a guide how a strong network works and operates. These results were also shared during the meeting and supported us to better identify how do we work together as a strong network with the main aim of challenging discrimination and racism towards marginalized groups all around the world and how volunteering is an important tool for that.
Participating organizations were:
CSD Diaconia Valdese (Italy)
Phiren Amenca International Network (Belgium)
RGDTS Nonprofit Kft (Hungary)
Association of Young Roma (Slovakia)
Finnish Roma Association (Finland)
Asociación Juvenil Intercambia (Spain)
Arete Youth Foundation (Bulgaria)
Roma Active Albania (Albania)
European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (Germany)
ERGO Network (Belgium)
Residencia El Sol – Asoc. Sumando Voluntades (Argentina)
Fundación Marijn (Nicaragua)
Asociación Chinantlan (Nicaragua)
Obra Ecumenica Barrio Borro (Uruguay)