Living Networks

I’m lucky that I haven’t had to be glued to my laptop screen as others have during the last few months, but still I can’t help noticing the way that everyday communication is changing. Without the ability to meet in person, technology is bridging the gap between old and new normal. Whereas a video chat used to be a monthly check-in to appease the parents, or a 6-monthly event with an old friend perhaps, now if a day goes by without using my smartphone’s video chat feature, it’s a strange one. And that’s changing things.

A group chat with old university friends that used to require a few week’s coordination, now happens overnight. Colleague living in a different time-zone? No worries! I find myself receiving more calendar notifications than old school text messages these days, and that’s changing things. It’s profound for me because I spent a lot of years building short term connections with people, and having them fall away. I travelled a lot and crossed paths with many wonderful and interesting characters, but never for very long. And that was fine, but now that I’m more stationary than ever, I find myself investing time in keeping old connections alive; keeping that pulse going. It’s a small thing to dedicate oneself to, really, but I realised only once my ability to create new social connections was curtailed did I start to appreciate the ones I already had.

The value of these living networks is impossible to estimate. I always found it so liberating for each connection I made to be fresh and new, ripe with possibility and free of any baggage whatsoever. But now I see their limitations, and that the true infinite possibility lies in the cradle of long term connections, nurtured and developed over time, with foundations of support, understanding, and perhaps even a little
shared endeavour.

Hmm…

But that’s just community, isn’t it. In these times where physical interaction is so heavily policed, there has been such danger of losing community, but it hasn’t happened. We’ve found new ways to support each other, from the most vulnerable, so a simple video chat with your Gran at the weekend. For sure I’m concerned that it’s desensitising; certainly, it’s disturbing to me, watching old TV shows and instinctively thinking “Oh God! They’re not social distancing!”. The world’s changing, but if there’s one thing we humans are good at, it’s adapting to change. And the human spirit won’t be suppressed.

In fact, I think more than “bridging the gap,” technology is busily sketching the blueprint for how the future will look. For now, that means keeping connections alive, keeping communities supportive and vibrant, and maybe even breathing life into a few relationships that have been all but forgotten.

And that’s okay with me.

By Joseph

EuroPeers Virtual Space

A while ago we have asked for your thoughts on the prospect of developing our very own online virtual space. 

Over the last few months, the EuroPeers UK team has been working on a new level of innovation that aims to generate a different kind of online presence for young people. In partnership with Momentum World and Chesterfield College, a new 360 virtual space is being developed.

The virtual space will be accessed via a web browser meaning no special equipment is needed. Using a mouse and keyboard you will be able to navigate through various rooms exploring different aspects of EuroPeers UK.

The different rooms we hope to include are:
 The main foyer
 The International room
 The EuroPeers cinema space
 The EuroPeers library
 The Communication room
 The Newsroom
 Then there will be a portal to the ‘contact us’ and the ‘get involved’ room.

Project Manager Paul Oxborough shared:

“We are trying to redefine how young people access information online – most people have been ‘zoomed’ to death throughout 2020 so we have to look at new creative ways to re-engage them. By working with Chesterfield College it means the students can take on meaningful work experience with us as a client and develop a product they can add to their portfolios. This will help when they go for future jobs”.

Watch this space, we will do another feature in the next newsletter.

By EuroPeers UK Team

Eurodesk: a snapshot in 30 stories

This new Eurodesk UK publication showcases 30 original stories covering young people’s experiences and the work of the youth sector. 

Eurodesk’s mission is to help young people experience the world. Engaging and inspiring young people – and those who work with them in the youth sector – is key to this. At Eurodesk UK we love sharing their travels, projects, thoughts, and views on our website and social media, and now in our new publication ‘Eurodesk: a snapshot in 30 stories’.  

The range of experiences covers six topic areas: Have Your Say, Study, Travel, Volunteer, Work, and Youth Work. From volunteering placements to studying for a semester abroad, everyone has a unique experience and a story to tell, not only on what they did but how it affected them personally. 

The publication is interactive so you can navigate between different stories and explore them at your own pace, selecting preferred topics and/or specific stories. It is also accessible for text readers. 

Eurodesk: a snapshot in 30 stories is available here: https://www.eurodesk.org.uk/resource/eurodesk-snapshot-30-stories

By Eurodesk UK Team

Community building in Greece

Reporting from Port of Call, November 26th, 2020

Arrival day: October 17th, 2020

Participants: 18
Location: Porto Rafti, Greece
Theme: Non-formal learning activity building.
Nation range: 4 Spanish, 1 Austrian, 1 Croatian, 2 Portuguese, 3 Greek, 4 Romanian, 2 French. And me.

We walk into a villa (sorry, cottage?). Elipsis.

Hands down, I’ve been feeling all radical and awkward in my bones, but only for the last 25 years. So that’s quite alright. This virus has affected me in ways that have not been too bad. I’m in my homeland as a foreign participant. That’s oxymorous and thrilling. I’m surrounded by graduates of mental health degrees; that’s handy.

And I am way calm. I feel way British. I’m yawning a whole lot. Almost as much as I’m working; I’m working as much as one would be when premiering a community-building program in autumn 2020. Are you seeing me yet? And writing this is as hard as catching someone up in the middle of the show. And I guess as constructive. Settling in took about a week. At the end of this everyone knows each other by name, starting to suss out personalities. Forming alliances. Choosing docks and quarters. ‘Fitting in’

A general confusion, some vague answers, a definite direction, loose responsibilities. Work with the community was possible for the next week. We designed outdoor informal learning activities for groups of adults with mental health challenges. We did this for four full working days with an elevating sense of success before the Greek lockdown changed our plans for us.

Enter mild chaos. Our mentors from ROES Cooperativa took us off to Argolida for five days of intensive training, aiming at amplifying our community spirit. Good work there, the focus shift got there just in time; you know, ‘don’t fret dear. Just do things for yourself.’ Yourselves. Week four: So How Do You Feel About That Dynamic? I feel like watching good movies, counting my blessings, writing up my projects, and checking my influences.

Like allowing foreign influences, casually studying languages, and humming songs under my breath. Like appreciating people’s efforts, no matter how small and like celebrating small victories in a fitting manner.
Does it sound boring? Man, you should see my dreams.

To be continued…

By Sofia

My virtual internship

My name is Nell and I’m an 18-year-old dabbling creative from rural Norfolk. Currently, I’m on a gap year before I accept my deferred place at Sussex University to study Theatre and Performance in September 2021. Like many young people who chose to have a gap year right now, it’s not exactly turned out how I expected. I could dwell on the negatives of this
situation but instead I’m going to discuss my digital internship with Momentum World.

As I mentioned before at my core, I’m a creative, which has always been the main focus of my time and energy. As I’ve grown my responsibility and independence within organisations has obviously increased, until this year I was still always a participant, not an administrator.

But now, along with other more demanding roles, I’m the Social Media and Web Intern for Momentum World! This includes managing their online presence and attracting new
recognition.

I’m so grateful to be able to represent something with a message that I’m proud of, which encourages international opportunities for young people. Also, since studying immigrant experience literature I’ve wanted to widen my perspective and explore the intercultural concepts that Momentum World promotes. I’m looking forward to having an experience
to learn, grow as an individual, and help a worthwhile non-profit organisation. Over the next few months, I intend to establish new connections for the organisation, attract new participants for the future, and develop my professionalism alongside experts.

I won’t lie despite my enthusiasm I do lack confidence more than ever before. Although as a creative in this day and age I’m well versed in the art of self-promotion, I worry that I’m not
supposed to be doing this. However, instead of reciting my insecurities of imposter syndrome, I’m going to leave you with some advice that helped me with this concern.

Recently a friend’s parent said to me: ‘No one knows what they’re doing, even if they don’t admit it. Everyone is just as insecure and worried as us. All you have to do is remember to keep going, ask those ‘silly’ questions, smile, and be honest. Then you’ll realise you deserve
to be where you are.’

By Nell

EuroPeerathon 2020

2020 has been a challenging time for all of us. Looking back at the past months we can say, with confidence that we have adapted well to this new reality of delivering activities online, and reaching out to other young people using various digital tools.

Ana and Nathan, two EuroPeers UK had an idea to run an online event that would feature EuroPeers from all across the international network, and this plan was realised last week at our inaugural EuroPeerathon.

With the help of our digital team, we managed to keep the three days flowing seamlessly, and shared sessions presented by EuroPeers. EuroPeerathon acted as a good promotion for the individual accomplishments of young people whose lives have been changed forever by the Erasmus Plus programme.

We got to hear from NA representatives, working to engage more young people in international programmes, we heard from representatives of not for profits, trainers, and EuroPeers themselves. We hope to bring similar events to our audiences in near future.

You can revisit the full event at https://www.facebook.com/europeersgoeurope/

#ErasmusDays2020 #EuroPeers

By EuroPeers UK

In Chaos… there are opportunities

This has been a momentous year in so many ways, of uncertainty, restrictions, and self-isolation. However as once said, in chaos there are opportunities and I have constantly conditioned myself to see opportunities and positivity in the midst of uncertainty. Moreover, I think young people at this time have considered ‘what is next’, employment, education, and how to cope within the new normal. This has certainly been my year’s story of working from home, university turning into virtual education, and how to develop myself within this new normal.  

My experience has been immersing in online courses, projects that I kept pushing back, and more travelling! Though people may say is it safe, as for me I’ve thoroughly enjoyed travelling and meeting like-minded people that are even more positive in the midst of the new normal. This continues to motivate me to push boundaries and exchange ideas, experiences from all over. My theme is always “travel, explore and grasp all the opportunities” – and be part of the generation that reacted with solutions.

By Nadia

Updates from Tallinn

Hey EuroPeers,

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the last of the summer after probably the weirdest, not so wonderful summer of our lives! I have been in Tallinn for three weeks now and the transition from the UK to here has felt like a big step away from Coronavirus (fingers crossed) whilst taking a giant step towards readjustment to a new culture! The initial shock of no longer wearing masks, limited socialising and virtually no social distancing has taken a while to sink in. Sauna-ing with work colleagues, navigating different social cues, and getting lost in supermarket aisles are all part and parcel of settling in, a familiar feeling that I am sure many EuroPeers can share from when they began their European Solidarity Corps or Erasmus+ projects.

But in the EuroPeers international world, digital activities and developments soldier on. Here are just a few…the EuroPeers Steering Group has been selected! We had such a high quality of applications from extremely dedicated and passionate young people around Europe. There was even interest from Serbia and Albania which demonstrated the vast interest in the Network and space for growth. There will be EuroPeers Youth representatives from the UK, Finland, Italy, Austria, and Serbia! We’re sending out the message “participation before borders” and motivation really matters. Keep your eyes peeled for an introduction to this team on the EuroPeers International Facebook Page and Instagram!

We’re also looking for EuroPeers with a passion for photography who would want to help with our Instagram launch! It is an opportunity to have a one-to-one workshop and photoshoot with Facetime extraordinaire Tim Dunk. Check out his work here. The project will promote the strong unity and togetherness of EuroPeers in the face of Covid-19 and serve to engage newcomers to our community who might never have even heard of EU Youth projects! You’ll learn some great new photography skills that you can harness for future projects, especially in the Corona digital era. The only requirement (unfortunately) is that you have an iPhone or can borrow one from a family member/close friend for the shoots you will learn to do!

Please email the European Network Coordinator ASAP at Emily.Keal@archimedes.ee if you would like to be involved!

We hope to hold the workshops in September.

By Emily, European EuroPeers Network Coordinator

What’s next?

It is fair to say 2020 took many of us by surprise. Much has happened in a matter of months, which has toyed with our emotions like ping pong, and shaped our behaviour (through fear-mongering, hope, education, or a new law passing). If you are reading this then you have lived through some major incidents, which will be studied in years to come.

In particular, the pandemic and the consequences of a lockdown (on economics, social, political, environmental, health, etc) has affected everyone (in different degrees of severity). We have been challenged with adapting to new ways of coping in our individualised situations, including but not limited to social distancing, good hand hygiene, face masks, and working/studying from home, and for numerous households living with little means.During all of the constant changes and uncertainty of the future, it is important to take care of one’s well being. A change of scenario usually helps me. As a result, I recently agreed to drive to St Andrew’s from London to help a fellow Londoner move out of her flat. During my stay, I made a last-minute decision to meet with a fellow EuroPeer in Glasgow, whom Olga put me in touch with. Edyta and I met for the first time and we clicked straight away. The hours flew by and our conversations gained depth almost immediately. It was exactly what I needed-a talk with a fellow EuroPeer to get me excited with all the possibilities. I wonder what’s next?

2020 is far from over, and although the restrictions of lockdown have eased in many places, CoronaVirus is still taking lives. I wish you good health and many positive experiences in the coming months. We have been through an awful lot, so wrap your limbs around your body and give yourself a warm hug for all the things you’ve encountered. A really big well done to you for your resilience (and attempting the hug)! 

By Ruma

EuroPeers Youth Steering Group

Are you passionate about your EVS/ESC or youth mobility schemes? Do you have visions for what the EuroPeers network should look like? Do you have experience in project planning or would like to give it a shot within an international team? If you answered yes to any of these, then we are looking for you! EuroPeers are selecting SIX enthusiastic people aged 16-30 (just like Austrian EuroPeer Lina, pictured!) to join their EuroPeers Ideas Steering Group!

This is an opportunity to work directly with National Agencies for Erasmus+, and to help shape training opportunities and future projects. We want the team to be super representative with differing levels of ability, so we encourage EuroPeers from all over Europe to apply! EuroPeers’ future is in your hands, so seize the opportunity! 

Please send us a message on Facebook if you are interested in joining, along with a short bio, what skills you have, what ideas you have to take EuroPeers forward, and why EuroPeers is important to you. Alternatively, you can email the Network Coordinator at emily.keal@archimedes.ee for more info. We can’t wait to hear from you!

By EuroPeers International Team

Nathan’s Youth for Europe

Hi everyone!

I hope you are all keeping well and enjoying the lovely weather (while making sure to stay safe)!! As you will have seen from previous editions, some of the EuroPeers have been involved in a project called Youth4Europe.

I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in 3 of the online talks: 

The first was with Niklas Nienass, a German MEP, where we discussed the proposal I helped to create during a youth exchange in Spain last year. Then I joined as a guest for Norry Ascroft’s talk on the Truth Against Bullying, a book he has created for education providers in the UK to reduce bullying and mental health issues that young people face.

Lastly with Leigh Middleton, the CEO of the National Youth Agency, who spoke about youth work in England. 

All of the talks were extremely inspiring and gave me reassurance when thinking about my future in these uncertain times. I would highly recommend going on the Youth4Europe Facebook page and having a look at the plethora of interviews on there. At least one will inspire you!!!

Now the talks have come to a close. So the organisers of the project hosted an awards ceremony, on Zoom of course! It was a great close to this chapter of Youth4Europe; full of laughs and heartwarming comments and it made me realise how lucky I am to have been a part of it.

Now all that is left is to look forward to the final meeting in Brussels this October!!!

Best wishes,

Nathan 

 

 

Harry’s project in Finland

Hi! I’m Harry, from the UK and I’ve been volunteering in Finland since January. My project is based at a Youth Centre in Kokkola and my voluntary work here has been incredibly varied.

My day to day tasks generally include helping out with the maintenance of the grounds and buildings and also organising events. As well as this, I have had the opportunity to visit some Finnish schools and talk with the students about my country and it’s culture, which was really enjoyable as it led to some interesting discussions about the differences between our countries and hopefully encouraged them to consider travelling and volunteering abroad themselves in the future. Another part of my project has involved running a café, alongside another long term EVS volunteer, which has been hugely successful and allows us to meet many of the locals to practice our Finnish language skills whilst serving an array of food and drinks.

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic certainly interfered with my plans, but recently I’ve had more time to reflect on some of the amazing experiences I’ve had here. I went to my first ever Ice Hockey and Floorball matches, I went ice swimming, I’ve gone on some spectacular walks in nature, spent many hours in the sauna and most importantly have met some wonderful people. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer now that things are close to being back to normal and I’m able to travel further around the country and experience more of what this incredible country has to offer!

By Harry

Returning from EVS

What would you find most interesting about my return to the UK during the lockdown, I wonder? The empty train stations? The rolling countryside? The police waypoints and deserted airport? How about the massage I got from the eighty year old homeless man who just lived right there in the terminal? It was a rough night, sleeping there on the cold tiles, but for him it was normal (old normal).

There was also the army there at the airport, patrolling around in groups. They had automatic rifles, but thankfully spent most of their time smiling at the pretty hostesses. They did a thermal scan on me before I got on the plane.

“Parli italiano?” The man asked me.

“Er… Inglese è meglio per me,” I replied, a little begrudgingly. 

I’d hoped my Italian would be better by the time it came to leaving. I’d had ten out of the twelve months of my volunteering project in Italy, and when it came time to leave I’m lucky to say that it was by my own will, not forced by the current circumstances. 

I’d been living quite comfortably through lockdown conditions in rural Umbria in fact; getting lots of sunshine and eating great food in what is already a rather isolated part of the world. But the truth is, I’d found my volunteering placement extremely challenging at times, and the lockdown had taken away all the little social events that were going to be the stepping stones to get me through until the end of my year. It didn’t affect me much to begin with, in fact I’d even discussed with my host the possibility of staying on longer if circumstances made it difficult for me to leave. Then suddenly, one day at the beginning of April, I started looking for a flight and had the strongest urge to pack my bags, which I did, and was fully ready to leave on a moment’s notice despite the fact that I hadn’t decided I truly wanted to. By the end of the month, I was gone.

I’ve come to appreciate what a valuable thing that is nowadays, with the travel restrictions. Of course I wouldn’t encourage anyone to travel unless it’s really necessary, but I think it’s also important to know that it’s possible. If you need to go, you can go – it just takes a little extra planning and preparation.

When I arrived in the UK I came straight to Scotland, where I knew I could maintain social isolation, and where I had a new project to step right into – helping develop a meditation retreat in a remote western glen. Right away I’ve begun applying the skills I learned and developed as a volunteer. We’ve set up a tunnel so we can start growing our own produce, and this week we’ll be planting six or eight fruit trees, which will make a nice shady grove someday. It rains a lot here and when it’s cold we light a fire and put the kettle on for tea. I tried haggis for the first time the other day, and it was very tasty.

Change is the very nature of Nature. I’ve heard lots of great stories from people making positive changes in their lives, as a result of these big changes, and that’s so reassuring for me. Of course, we have to remain pro-active not only re-active but in the meantime let’s continue to adapt to what comes, shall we? 

(…and enjoy the haggis along the way.)

By Joseph

Mental Health Motorbike

Momentum World’s Creative Director Paul Oxborough has started a new not for profit organisation called the Mental Health Motorbike (www.mentalhealthmotorbike.org.uk). This aims to support bikers of all ages who deal with depression and mental health issues.

As a society, we are going through an extraordinary time where the need for support services is definitely on the increase. There is more demand in people wanting to talk since the onset of the virus. The Mental Health Motorbike is a small team of 3 staff and 15 volunteers (who support our work at events and via fundraising activities) but have high ambitions of how they want the biking community to engage with their own mental health recovery. 

Aim 1 – to get qualified mental health first aiders in a bike shop or club in every town and city across the UK. This will create a strong backbone for the network. The mental health first aid course is a Government approved scheme (https://mhfaengland.org) MHM has a team member who is an accredited trainer able to deliver these courses. 

Aim 2 – To create the Mental Health Motorbike Foundation. This will provide opportunities for people to apply for support in a project/training course/ activity that will help with their mental health recovery. 

Aim 3 – To attend a minimum of 12 events per year reaching out to the biker community directly. The branded motorbike will attend these events and be very visible and encourage people to come and talk and join the network. Many of the volunteers are people recovering from mental health issues and they will represent the Mental Health Motorbike brand at events. 

The team are also exploring how to setup MHM ride out’s and meetups which allow people from all over the country to meet up and explore how they feeling as part of an organised activity.

The MHM have realised there is nobody else providing a service like this so they are a unique organisation that is generating a great deal of interest. Since the start of this month, they have already supported 8 people in crisis and 45 people through our online support. They also have a Chesterfield bike shop/garage (www.sdmotorcycles.co.uk) sponsoring the bike, they provide all the running costs, servicing, tires and MOT to keep the motorbike on the road. 

Over the next few weeks, the MH motorbike will be branded in the 2020 designs and anybody that comes on board can have their sponsorship or company reflected on the bike, their logo ion all materials going out as well as information website/social media. 

Join them on social media to see this extended part of the Momentum World’s journey to support people with mental health issues.

By MHM Team