"VAN" (Europe Bureau - Aleksey Vesyoliy) :: Young people do not live on an island. They are embedded in a social structure composed of different people (parents, teachers, trainers, employers, etc.) who all have different expectations and interactions. Young people suffer from a dual image.

Too often, people are put under labels: poor, disabled, drug addicted, ex offender, immigrant and so on. This phenomenon is spread on social media, as cyber bulling and Online hate speech.

Media and social environment often depict young people as passive or even potentially criminal, while on in commercials and movies they are portrayed as active, powerful, happy and strong. In reality, only very few young persons will be able to identify with either of these groups. Many of the young people with fewer opportunities are under pressure from different sides and different types of difficulties.

Different essential ingredients are needed to work efficiently with the target group in the context of youth work. To explore different tools to promote inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities 27 youth field activists from 8 countries: Italy, Greece, France, Lithuania, Spain, Latvia, Czech Republic and Portugal gathered together to take part in the international training course ‘’DEVELOPING SKILLS FOR THE INCLUSION’’ taking place from 14- 21 January 2019 in Montecatini, Italy.

Latvia was represented by three youth field activists (Levs Rusilo, Baiba Eversone and Lauma Dūmiņa).

If youth workers and youth organisations cannot reach out to and include young people with the fewest opportunities in their activities, where else will they benefit from the non-formal learning experiences these activities provide? It is very important to encourage professionals ( teachers, educators, youth field activists etc) to take young people seriously, to listen to them and to enter into proper dialogue with them about their lives and to accept that young people have a lot to contribute and to teach us.

The main aim of the international mobility was to raise awareness of negative impact of marginalization and exlusion and to tackle exclusion and marginalization. International training course had following main objectives:

- to improve the participants’ personal and professional development through an experiential path (made of teambuilding, workshops and roleplays) that will raise their awareness about exclusion and marginalisation;
- to explain social exclusion and marginalization from different perspectives, such as diversity, disability and cultural background;
- to provide participants with methods, techniques and tools that will allow them to work in their local realities;
- to share and explore European values in order to encourage integration and active participation at individual and collective levels;
- to create a toolkit of non-formal methods on social inclusion that can be used also by other youth workers in the future.

Excluded young people are hard to reach and the more excluded they are the harder it is. Making contact with young people is not enough; we need to engage and work with them. The problem is confounded by the fact that many marginalised young people express suspicion, even hostility, towards the involvement of professionals in their lives. This is why youth work is so important. Its often voluntary and community-based nature means that youth workers and youth organisations have a better chance than most to make contact and build trusting relationships with young people on the margins of society.

Over the years many terms have been challenged and many have been actively dropped, avoided or changed in response to criticism. For example, in the European Commission’s Youth programme there has been a conscious shift away from the expression “disadvantaged young people” to the phrase “young people with fewer opportunities”. Whatever terms we use, we should acknowledge that words are powerful and complex and are quite capable of giving offence. Words shape the way that we think and respond. If we spend too much time worrying about words we might not get anything useful done. We should always be aware of the dignity of people we are describing. A simple test - would we ourselves like to be referred to in this way? Would we be happy if this description was applied to someone close to us?

Youth work plays an essential role in reaching and bringing together young people who face exclusion on a daily basis. It is true that there are many other factors in society that can contribute to the social inclusion of young people, not least the abilities and strengths of young people themselves, but for young people with the fewest opportunities youth work and youth organisations can be a principal means of such inclusion.

For society to really benefit from the engagement of young people, young people must be given the means and the opportunities to take up their right to participate.

It is essential that young people with fewer opportunities, indeed with the fewest opportunities, can get involved and make their contribution felt, not least because it is their fundamental right as much as any other young person.

Especially when working with young people with fewer opportunities, it is important to create partnerships between organisations that reach the target group in different fields of their lives, because the impact of youth work might be continued in the class room or in other projects.

The importance of partnerships in tackling social exclusion and fostering social inclusion. Whether you create partnerships or not (as mentioned in the section above), there is a great diversity of roles and capacities youth workers can take on. People working with young people with fewer opportunities may also be operating within a range of different working contexts. Such contexts can range from long-term commitments to short-term involvement. At either end there are advantages and disadvantages but they can compliment one another.

We need to recognise the tremendous knowledge and insight that young people who face exclusion on a daily and long-term basis can bring to youth work, as pointed out in the previous chapter. Their contribution will enrich any youth initiative or project.

There are several reasons might prevent young people from joining activities

Young people facing persistent exclusion will benefit from new opportunities that could have been previously out of reach. Through being able to know and encounter other young people they will, together, all be challenged and their prejudices, stereotypes and assumptions questioned. Their horizons will become broader, their contacts more diverse. They will have the opportunity together to see patterns of injustice and explore their concerns and questions. Despite the differences in their backgrounds and experiences they will discover their similarities as young people with hopes and aspirations for the future.

Training Course "DEVELOPING SKILLS FOR THE INCLUSION" was implemented within  European Union program Erasmus+ KA1. International mobility partner from Latvia was Non - Governmental Organization "Donum Animus". Erasmus+ KA1 program provides opportunities for individuals to improve their skills, enhance their employability and gain cultural awareness. Beneficiaries are able to spend a period of time in another participating country gaining valuable experience of life, study and work with the aim of increasing the opportunities available to them in the future. Key Action 1 is the largest action in Erasmus+ with focus on increasing mobility and skills.

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