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Changing the Neighbourhood wins the European Youth Award for best mobility project!
Submitted by Anne Valkering on 7 May 2015
‘Dialogue and debate creates change. I will support all local youth workers, volunteers, trainers and role models who, as young heroes, help youth to take the next step’ said Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
On May 6, 2015 Yvonne Heselmans, executive director at IDEA NL, received the award for the best youth mobility project of 2014 from Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. IDEA NL won this prize together with youth organisations D’Broej in Brussels, KRAS in Antwerp and Combiwel in Amsterdam. Sixty youth and youth workers from neighbourhoods in Brussels, Antwerp and Amsterdam addressed the discrimination they face in their own neighbourhood. The methodology of Changing the Neighbourhood shows that youth which are ‘difficult to reach’ are very active and can be reached as long as you know who they are, listen to them and give them opportunities.
Changing the Neighbourhood is a project for youth who grow up in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. In each neighbourhood youth themselves decided what they wanted to change to address the discrimination in their neighbourhood. Based on this, they made action plans. Small steps, a lot of patience, and good cooperation were needed to successfully complete their plans. Debates with each other, community members, local government, and police proved to be key to make the change happen. Support and training by IDEA NL ensured that ‘persistence pays off’ also applied to the 60 participants of Changing the Neighbourhood. Exchanges between the cities made sure the youth learned from each other and stayed up-to-date with what was happening elsewhere.
The projects to change their neighbourhood for the better lasted for a year and their ideas and experiences were shared with other youth and policy makers during exchanges. For this they made documentaries and presentations. ‘I want to show that we are positive youth in our neighbourhood’ and ‘I do not want my brother to have the same negative feelings about the neighbourhood as I got’ were reasons why the youth decided to participate.
The youth from D’Broej from Brussels used Changing the Neighbourhood to make discrimination in schools something that can be discussed. Combiwel’s youth (Diamantbuurt and Nieuw-West) targeted their ‘squares’. In the Diamantbuurt (Diamond area) they managed to get the fences of their football field fixed while making their square look more appealing. In Nieuw-West (New-West) they arranged a football corner. The youth from KRAS in Antwerp committed themselves to improve the relationship between youth and the police. There have been many debates, on all levels, and these have definitely paid off.
In addition to the concrete changes in the neighbourhood, the youth have also learned a lot. They have independently created an action plan for their neighbourhood, presented their ideas to local politicians, civil servants, police, teachers and others. For many, this was the first time that policy makers actively listened to them and asked for their opinion. ‘It is so stimulating when policy makers or politicians and journalists really listen to the youth. This has greatly enhanced their self-consciousness and they now understand that change is possible, especially if you take an active role in it’ says one of the youth workers.
The youth in the Changing the Neighbourhood project all live in neighbourhoods that have been in the news negatively due to tensions in the neighbourhood, problems between youth and police or because they have been labelled as disadvantaged neighbourhoods. They are often faced with discrimination in the neighbourhood and a general negative atmosphere. They often see no possibilities to improve their environment and feel excluded from the rest of society. To counter these feelings of (social) exclusion IDEA NL and youth workers from these four neighbourhoods successfully worked together with the youth to improve their neighbourhoods.
This project was made possible by: