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Cordaid NL

Blog: The Power of Young Voices 

What are three topics you shouldn’t bring up at a dinner party? Religion, Money, and Politics. This is an example of a societal norm set in place to help us maintain amicable relationships and conversation. As we get older these norms can become more restrictive, we become fearful of confrontation and unwelcome to new ideas. However, the things that remain unsaid between us and our differences are often what brings us closer together.

This blog is written by Valerie Brown, expert in resilience and knowledge management and learning at Cordaid.

In November of 2018, I attended the European Conference on Caritas Youth Engagement. The goal of this three-day conference was to facilitate an exchange of experiences and knowledge, specific to youth engagement and volunteerism.

Inspired by Young Caritas volunteers

At the time Cordaid had few programs in the Netherlands, none elsewhere within Europe, and we do not have volunteers in Europe. This made contributing to certain discussions difficult, but at the same time, I was inspired by how other Caritas’ use volunteers to raise awareness and spread the impact of their programs.

The voices of the youth and the energy they bring to new discussions are necessary to challenge our set systems and norms.

The most interesting part of the three days was meeting members of Caritas organizations from all over Europe and discovering their similarities and differences, especially in regards to the challenges faced. This conference was the largest meeting of Caritas youth organizations at European level to date, with no less than 70 delegates from 31 European countries.

It’s easy to assume that topics such as government opposition, the role of faith, levels of activism, and funding sources could spark disagreement and create dividing lines between people and countries. However, participants remained open to explaining their context, beliefs, and differences through good discussion.

A common goal of empowering youth

It seems there was a common understanding that although the way we implement our programs and the methods we use are different, we are all moving towards a common goal of empowering youth to create a better tomorrow.

The conference concluded with the signing of The Vienna Declaration on Young Caritas by each member country. Also, a European Task Force was set up to help implement this declaration and ensure that this organized youth moment persists. It was the willingness of the youth participants to speak about our differences that allowed us to come to such a powerful conclusion.

Inviting new and opposing minds into the room

In our work, the importance of young open minds should not be overlooked. The voices of the youth and the energy they bring to new discussions are necessary to challenge our set systems and norms. By inviting new and potentially opposing minds into the room, through dialogue and discussion our differences can bring about much-needed change.

Read The Vienna Declaration on Young Caritas