Double interview with PRoMOTE Youth Workers

Feb 23, 2015Volunteering

promote-intervista-doppiaMerseyside Expanding Horizons (MEH) and Centro  Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci (CSC) are partners in a European project funded under the Youth in Action programme sub-action 4.3 that supports the mobility of Youth Workers in Europe. The 12 month project called ‘PRoMOTE: New Perspectives through Mobility and Exchange’ involves the exchange of 2 youth workers from the UK and Italy. Both youth workers have worked at local and European level in the delivery of projects. The placements in the UK and Italy provided them the opportunity to experience a new intercultural experience whilst gaining new professional skills and competences in their vocational field.

After the completion of both placements, we asked our youth workers, Rosina Ndukwe from the UK and Anna Bellan from Italy to interview each other about their experience of working at MEH and CSC respectively and the impact the project has made on their professional and personal growth.

1. What are the main features of the PRoMOTE project for you?

For me, the PRoMOTE project is about offering new opportunities for youth workers to develop their professional skills, to give youth workers the opportunity to experience a different working reality and cultural experience by carrying out a youth work mobility in a different country and to support Youth Worker professionals to gain a deeper understanding of youth work in Europe

The first feature comes to my mind is the opportunity to explore a different way to work as a Youth Worker in a different organisation with  target groups of which needs may differ according the culture and the national policies. Furthermore, I improved my intercultural and linguistic skills. Moreover, in a different European culture I was able to recognise that across Europe, different organisations share values and objectives, hence it strengthened my belonging to European culture.

2.   How have you grown from a professional point of view due to the PRoMOTE project?

Yes I have grown a lot from the experience of working in another country. I have received a lot of peer support from other youth workers and colleagues at CSC Danilo Dolci and this has helped me to explore common ways of working whilst learning new methods and tools to respond to particular challenges facing young people in Europe e.g. youth unemployment. The opportunity to collaborate and exchange good practices with other professionals in my field and work closely with young volunteers from Palermo and other European countries has enabled me to be more creative in my work and contribute to new ideas for new projects.

PRoMOTE made an enormous impact on my professional and personal growth. As I work in international projects, improving my English was a very important point for me; therefore I raised my employment opportunities and my project writing skills in English. I extended my practices and tools by working with other Youth workers and I expanded my network. In few words… I expanded my horizons!

3.   Have you changed due to this experience? If yes, how?

I have definitely become more confident in my youth work and awareness of my own skills and what is needed for my professional development. I have seen the value of active citizenship and impact on local communities. I have been really fortunate to have been involved in a wide range of different projects and activities during my placement at CSC Danilo Dolci including, ENPI project SlowMed and LLP Comenius project Carem and the development of new ideas for Youth in Action training courses. Working at local level with different social partners whilst meeting other youth workers, youth trainers and young learners from across Europe has strengthened the European dimension to my youth work. Communicating in Italian language was a big achievement for me. I was quite nervous at first because I thought I would not be to communicate effectively but everyone has been really supportive. Learning Italian has been very worthwhile and I have enjoyed learning Italian and I attended an Italian language course at the School of Foreigners in Palermo which was very useful!

Of course I changed! I changed from both a social and a professional point of view! Firstly, I will never see English people as I could do before! … I’m now more aware about stereotypes concerning English people. Through all the projects were I was involved in I explored new tools. At the beginning it was very difficult to communicate due to my English level, but now I can attend meetings, writing projects and also facilitate a group of young people even if they don’t speak my native language! I am more confident in my professional skills.

4.   How has this project changed the way you approach your work and your professional perspective?

Yes definitely. The experience has exposed me to new and innovative non-formal learning methods to foster active participation of young people and how to adopt different communication strategies with young people using social media. It has been interesting to learn about the difference in the national infrastructure support in Italy compared to the UK which impacts on youth work at local level. I worked a lot with young migrant young people in Palermo and it has also been very valuable to learn about the different support services and national agenda for immigration impacting on migrant youth and their employability. Working with volunteers at CSC Danilo Dolci from other countries has helped me to learn from other mobility experiences which have been very motivating and inspirational. From my experience I hope to inspire other youth workers and young people from ethnic minorities to participate in similar projects.

I have been worked with young people with a migrant background for all the period of my mobility and it was a great opportunity for me exchanging with other Youth workers about the methodologies, especially because the laws framework is so different from the Italian one. In INSART project (LLP project) for example we had to reach a very vulnerable target group, some of our participants were not able to attend regularly to our workshops due the Home Office restrictions. Exploring the English Youth workers’ solutions developed during their experience was very interesting for me.

5. What would you bring back to your home from your host city?

I would bring back new methods to support the development of young people’s skills. I have really enjoyed learning about the history of the organisation and the work of Danilo Dolci in particular the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) method. I am definitely looking forward to applying it in my youth work in the future. Of course I would also bring back all the amazing Sicilian food to Liverpool and the wonderful beaches!

I would bring back the scouse (from Liverpool) smile and mood, culture accessibility (several free museums and festivals!). An English approach in the work relationships, especially concerning the lack of formalities between people covering different hierarchical places who can communicate easily even when they meet for the first time. Also, I would bring back a serious supportive National system, with their funds and their practices.

6. Were your expectations at the start of the project fully met by your experience?

Yes. Actually it has exceeded my expectations! I have been able to benefit greatly from the project. The experience has helped me to learn about new learning opportunities and career opportunities to continue to support my professional growth in the youth field. It has increased my professional contacts in the youth field in Europe which I feel I would not have had the chance to do so before the PRoMOTE project.

Of Course! More than that! Due this experience I know different approaches, I now know I can work in different contexts and share my knowledge. Thanks to the Youth in Action programme,  Merseyside Expanding Horizons, and  CSC Danilo Dolci,  I feel I gained more experience in my sector and developed other useful soft skills.

7. What would you suggest to a new Youth worker from your home city who is starting an internship in your host city tomorrow?

Don’t be afraid! Palermo is a great place with so much to offer. It is a very friendly city and there is a lot to see and do. There is a great youth sector in which you can make lots of new professional contacts and learn new methods and approaches to youth work particularly to support vulnerable groups. Make the most of the opportunity and enjoy the experience!

I would suggest to start from the beginning of the mobility English classes in order to strength their language skills and to facilitate their social and professional inclusion. Also, I would suggest to observe the key cultural customs and to experience them, for example, in the UK a cup of tea it’s not only a cup of hot water with a tea bag, but it’s a way to share time with people. Sharing time with people it’s for me the first way to integrate a new culture.

8. What are the top tips for settling into your host city?

I would say my top tips are to really embrace the new culture. By this I mean try to learn the language, visit the local places, try the local food, make friends from the city who can show you different places that are often unknown by tourists. Importantly, you have to be open-minded and enjoy the experience.

Firstly: enjoy the very rich cultural life in Liverpool! Visit all museums freely, explore several free festivals carried out in the city and in the region. Visit all nice parks and don’t be afraid or shy face the warm approach of the inhabitants of Liverpool, but try to know a lot of people who can let you introduce to your new city! And… don’t trust the British “on time” stereotypes: the buses for example are always late! The last but not the least: buy a very nice umbrella, it will be your best friend during your mobility in UK! Be open-minded

9.   What have you missed the most about your home city? Food, places?

I have missed the architecture of my home city, for e.g. the Albert Dock which is the famous Liverpool waterfront of my home city Liverpool, the scouse (Liverpool dialect) accent and humour and roast dinners – a typical Sunday lunch in England! But my wonderful experience has not made me miss these things too much!

I have missed the Sicilian sun, sea and the variety of vegetarian and tasty food you can find in Sicily. But I have also found out that I can survive without all this!

10. Are you generally satisfied about this exchange? If yes, why?

I am extremely satisfied! It has been a wonderful experience and I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity by the Youth in Action programme and MEH and CSC Danilo Dolci. The experience has been invaluable and it has made a big impact on my professional and personal growth. I am continuing to learn, develop exploit my gained knowledge from the results of the project.

I am very enthusiastic about this experience! I would suggest it to all colleagues! It is a great way to learn more about the Youth field across Europe and to explore new tools and methodologies.