Prior to Malta I have never traveled within Europe before so before setting off I was a bit anxious but this was overshadowed with the excitement of getting to represent the United Kingdom on an international level.
In preparation for the conference we met in Belfast to discuss the previous EUYC which was held in Slovakia, and the actions to take from the recommendations. Following this and using the report as a guide we prepared an action plan on how we would achieve the recommendations that came out of the Kosice conference.
Upon arrival and once registered, the conference was underway. There were some minor problems with workshop allocations but this was easily rectified and after some brief introductions the workshops themselves were underway.
My workshop was the fifth one and focused on two recommendations that were generated at the Slovakia.
The European commission and the member states should ensure that every young person, regardless of their personal and social situation, can fully engage in volunteering activities by making them accessible. Engagement should be ensured, for instance in youth organisations to create a sense of belonging and to empower young people as citizens.
Educational institutions and local stakeholders in cooperation with young people, should provide tailor made support, accessible service as well as create space for meaningful interaction, so that all young people can discover and emphasise their individual identity and values. This is the basis for building material trust between young people from different backgrounds.
Whilst sharing and debating some ideas, accessibility was mentioned with relation to the socio-cultural economic implications of the diversity of societies. Involving NWG, NGO, Local Authorities, Devolved Nations, and UK Govt. in generating accessible networks for young people across the EU. Youth organisations are a platform for personal development and distinction has been made between youth led orgs, and Youth orgs. Empowering young people to develop their societies and communities and have pride in their cultures. The actions that will be generated in this workshop will be generalised to ensure it is applicable for all with a minor focus on vulnerable groups.
An interactive part of the work shop was a visit to the Voluntary Council of Volunteers in Valletta the capital of Malta. The work of the council is built upon three pillars, characteristic building, training, and financial support for organisations. The support allows for peer to peer learning and is targeted for young people to go into Europe, with a focus on local volunteering and then international volunteering (Africa, Europe, and Asia). They also allow for development by providing facilities for organisations and young people.
They are part funded by the government with paid staff however, there is a board of governors which is 11 representatives from the sector and is fully voluntary. There is legislation on the voluntary sector which relates to the funding of voluntary monies. Organisations wishing to apply for funding must be registered with the commissioner of Malta and the budgets are scrutinised by a member of staff with funding released over time and only finalised once the final report released. Funding can be specific for sectors where the council enables them to apply for funding from individual govt. departments, i.e. Environment, sport/arts funding.
There are two funding streams which are open across the sector and is not specific to the organisations sector. They class a volunteer which does a service or gives time, expertise or energy that benefits another without requiring remuneration. 1100 voluntary organisations registered (2000 estimated) in Malta which has a population of ½ million, one organisation for every 455 citizens. The funding should be complemented and Malta has manged to do this effectively. There is a specific funding for young people to emphasise the benefit of volunteering whilst encouraging young people by ensuring a financial safeguard for young people. CVS is starting a more comprehensive skill based learning education by removing students who find conventional school environment difficult and placing them in a mixed environment of different voluntary organisations where they can learn the skills they need in a work environment out with the classroom. The CVS allows for safe guarding of volunteers by ensuring stringent regulation of the voluntary sector. CVS enable vulnerable groups by having a contingency funding stream for groups which may require additional funding before the current cycle ends, however, in general these groups follow the same requirements as other organisations. Good practices are not only shared within Malta but also at an international level.
Now – the event was not ALL meetings and there were some great opportunities to network and a visit to the national aquarium. This made the work filled days’ worth it! We were also treated to a specialist Maltese celebration which was amazing considering the weather was rather warm and enjoyable.
The most important part of the conference however is the result of the workshops, where my workshop focused on the key aspect of researching as to why those who do not openly engage in volunteering activities etc., struggle to engage and would be a continuous process to ensure that young people continue to participate and are encouraged to engage in volunteering activities