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4YOUth Foundation for Supporting Youth Initiatives

Project Overview

An organization promoting intercultural dialogue and active participation of youth in addressing local issues.

Identifying the Problem

Katarzyna was very frustrated by the widespread use of hate speech and stereotypical expressions that she was overhearing in everyday conversations in Poland, especially among young people. She knew that the use of insulting epithets not only empowers further prejudice but provokes discriminatory and aggressive behavior. She was aware of many incidents of unrest between refugees, the local Polish population and other immigrants in her community, and was sure that most of these conflicts were the result of ignorance and harmful stereotypes. 

In Katarzyna’s experience, Polish schools rarely teach their students about different cultures or the process (and implications) of identity creation. Despite not being formally educated about Poland’s diverse population and the importance of understanding the different groups that make up a society, Katarzyna did take it upon herself to become more aware about these issues. Through her experiences participating in international youth exchange programs and volunteer work around Europe, she was inspired to address the problems she was seeing all around her. Katarzyna discovered that by simply having access to a free, safe and comfortable space and a friendly atmosphere, youth can create many valuable things together. She believed that by encouraging young people to become more interested in learning about one another, they would be motivated to become involved in local decision-making processes.

Creating A Solution

Katarzyna brought together a team of like-minded social entrepreneurs to create 4YOUth Foundation for Supporting Youth Initiatives, which seeks to mitigate prejudice and discrimination by conducting educational workshops and intercultural meetings for local youth. The first step was registering the foundation, which involved much paperwork and meeting many legal requirements. In order to finance the organization and its projects, Katarzyna and her team submitted grant applications to funding institutions across Europe. They also carefully searched for partner organizations, a professional staff and passionate volunteers.

4YOUth organizes many local projects and events that promote intercultural dialogue and increase youth participation in the creation of youth policies, such as public debates, presentations and youth leadership workshops. The events and projects are promoted through the organization’s multimedia website and Facebook page. The organization also regularly sends Polish youth on international exchanges, which provides participants with important knowledge and experience about the larger issue of multiculturalism in Europe. In order to disseminate the results of these projects, the organization organizes photo-exhibitions and shows video-interviews with the project participants.

One of 4YOUth’s most successful activities has been the “Human Library with Refugees and Immigrants,” which provides an opportunity for the local Polish and foreign populations to learn from one another through personal interactions. During this activity, participants are divided into Books and Readers. Katarzyna found that a very compelling way of organizing the “Human Library” activity for the local community was to have refugees from the local refugee center serve as Books; these individuals shared the stories of the danger they faced in their home countries, the heartache that comes with leaving behind everything you have ever known and the difficulty of adjusting to life in a foreign land. By listening to these stories and interacting with the storytellers, the Readers were presented with the opportunity to challenge their own notions of a population that is often reduced to harmful stereotypes.

Lessons Learned

From a practical standpoint, one of the most challenging aspects of creating and running a non-profit organization is complying with the rules and regulations that govern such entities. Katarzyna found it especially helpful to hire a motivated team that included a good accountant for this purpose. She also learned that events and projects should be developed with strong collaboration with public local institutions and non-profit organizations, and advertised thoughtfully and well in advance.

Katarzyna also emphasizes the important ethical responsibilities that come with working with refugee and immigrant populations. It is crucial that their complicated, and often traumatic, life experiences not be exploited, and that the participants remain in control of how much information they wish to share. “You must show discretion and respect to every person, her views and her claims. Don’t be pushy.” Katarzyna warns. She encourages taking a course in intercultural communication before spearheading these types of projects, as well as collaborating with organizations that are already focused on these vulnerable populations.

Get Involved!

4YOUth Foundation partners with local schools, libraries, refugee centers and municipalities to create the most effective learning opportunities for Polish youth. It has also developed collaborative relationships with organizations in Italy, Romania, Spain, Turkey and Germany, and its network is constantly expanding. Katarzyna and 4YOUth Foundation are always looking for other organizations to join its partnership network, co-develop projects, organize youth exchanges and conduct educational trainings. The organization also welcomes volunteers who are interested in supporting its activities, and encourages organizations and individuals to contact the organization to discuss partnership opportunities.

Funding

Katarzyna and her team successfully raised $5,000 to develop 4YOUth Foundation and its activities. She is especially grateful for the support and funding received from the European Commission’s Youth in Action Programme.

Awards & Recognition

 

 

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2013

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