In May 2024, youth workers from Southern Savonia region of Finland and Kalmar region of Sweden came together in Mikkeli to explore the possibilities of international youth work, such as Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programme. The joint meeting focused on creating our own ideas of international activity by reflecting our own interests and what we would like to do, why we would want to do international activities and for who we would like the activity to be.  This meeting was arranged as a part of Neighbours Discovering Internationality Together! -Erasmus+ project, which aims to address the need of support for skills, awareness and networks in international youth work by bringing together youth workers motivated by internationality from Finland and Sweden, to create networks to learn about international opportunities in youth work and to cooperate.

 

Finnish and Swedish youth workers meeting each other in Mikkeli.

This was the first time the group met, so the focus was on sharing our ideas and in this way getting inspired by each other and getting new ideas that we can start implementing together, which is exactly what we did as we gathered all our ideas into a Garden of International Activities. We encouraged youth workers to participate in other international trainings and showed them SALTO-Youth training calendar, where they can apply directly to EU covered trainings. Participants met Virpi Tuovinen, the head of youth work from local municipality of Puumala, who is actively working with local young people in Puumala, also taking advantage of international opportunities, and were able to ask her questions and get more specific with her help. The meeting also included cultural programme where we got to know about each other and our similarities and differences, which is a very important element in international interactions and activities. We enjoyed Swedish and Finnish delicacies to the tune of Sommartider, took a sauna together, played Mölkky, swam in the lake of Saimaa and had a competition about who knows most of our beautiful cultures.

 

We collected our ideas to the Garden of International Activities.

To many of the participants, this meeting was their first international experience. Anxiety and uncertainty about speaking in English and uncertainty about what activities to do internationally were something many of us faced when coming into this type of meeting. Getting through these tensions and doing the work ourselves together, changed the uncertainty into excitement and feelings of being proud and inspired. This is a process everyone faces when getting out of their comfort zone and it is something the young people who will be the participants to the activities we start implementing together as a result of this project, so it is important we experienced this process as well and can learn and guide others towards the excitement too.

 

The weather was great so youth workers from Finland and Sweden spent a lot of time outdoors, getting to know each other and sharing their ideas.

This sums up what we at Neighbours discover internationality together! -project want to create: more internationalism between neighbours, sharing our cultures and learning from each other. The group has now their ideas, the connections and the support to start concrete steps forward, which we will work on together again in our reunion in Kalmar in September. The main focuses are now defined, allowing for easier identification and more focused efforts in the upcoming period. We have a lot to learn from each other and the best way to learn is by doing together.

 

Text by:

Tanja Munnukka, RDI Specialist, Juvenia Youth Research and Development Centre
Rita Adamik, International Trainee, Juvenia Youth Research and Development Centre