Pandemic challenges. SMART4YOUTH - The key to an offline activity

Pandemic challanges. SMART4YOUTH - The key to an offline activity

When life gives you lemons...

...make lemonade! says a proverbial expression when it comes to optimism and positive attitude in the face of adversity. And when attitudes materialize in concrete results, and in the middle of the logistical storm caused by the pandemic you manage to make possible formative meetings, provide access to digital education and create up-to-date skills for 100 young people in the border area, this is the definition of SUCCESS!

The first step towards success is the projection of the desired results. The team behind the project "SMART 4 YOUTH - Support, Mobility and Arts for youth across the border Romania-Ukraine" works to reduce school dropout and used cross-border collaboration as a tool to fulfill the goal of the two vocational high schools and two non-governmental organizations implementing the project that emphasizes access to education and social impact on young people in the border area Suceava and Chernivtsi.

One year after the start of the project, the implementation team made a major decision, that of keeping the goal of “SMART 4 YOUTH” unchanged, namely gathering and facilitate exchanges of experience between young high school students from Romania and Ukraine.

Without being discouraged, constantly pursuing the safety of participants and avoiding syncopes on the journey across the border, these exchanges took place in April 2021. The meetings could not have been carried out efficiently other than face to face, stressed the organizing team, even if digital tools are accessible in both sides of the Romania-Ukraine border.

In addition to the fact that high school students were to acquire skills in disciplines that are currently not available in schools - Photo-Video, Entrepreneurial Education, Traditional Arts and Crafts, the experience of the project is invaluable. The stake is also a formative one, and online you cannot ensure this dimension, based on direct relationship, beyond formal agendas and online platforms online which cancels out much of the para and nonverbal component of language.

The face-to-face interaction was doubled by meetings with many specialists, people of culture or public authorities whose experience is very useful for the development of young participants, not to mention the opportunity to network for future specialists in videography, craft or IT.

The logistical aspects...

... which made it possible for a group of 50 young people to cross the Ukraine-Romania border were detailed by Vasile Gafiuc, project coordinator from the Association of Community Development Consultants - ACDC.

The arrangements for the workshops required a course of action that started at least 8, 9 weeks in advance, we communicated with the partners in order to 1wobtain travel consent formss from the legal guardians or parents of the young people (most under 18), the activities were scheduled so that they won’t interfere with the children’s formal education (the workshops took place during the Easter holidays) and, last but not least, we informed the authorities and asked for their support through written addresses clearly explaining our organizations’ intention of organizing the workshops "face to face" and obtaining their agreement.

We analyzed the epidemiological situation in Suceava County and consulted with the regional authorities. We approached the Public Health District Authority of Suceava County, the Siret Border Police, the Suceava County Inspectorate of Emergency Situations and we informed each institution about the four cross-border cooperation workshops for young people we were organising.

We wanted the children to participate in two distinct series, so as to divide into two the 50 students from Technological High School "Oltea Doamna from Dolhasca" and 50 students of High School no. 5 from Chernivtsi. We also consulted the legal provisions that would allow the participation of young people from Ukraine, namely CNSU Decision no. 9 of 11.02.2021, art. 4 which allows entering the territory of Romania for pupils / students in order to carry out educational / cultural activities without the establishment of the quarantine measure.

The creative workshops and interactive activities for the young high school students were carried out using a socially responsible behavior and in strict compliance with the prevention measures regarding the spread of Coronavirus (COVID 19), including: use of protective masks throughout the activities, keeping social distance and separate accommodation of participants, organizing groups of workshops with less than 25 participants and carefully monitoring the health of participants.

Thus, between 5-9 April 2021, in Vama (Suceava), the workshops of Traditional Arts and Crafts and Entrepreneurial Education took place, and between 16-20 April, in the same location took place the Photo - Video and Digital Skills (ICT) art workshops. In addition to the trainers employed by the project, representatives of public institutions in the county were invited to the workshops, who spoke to young people about the importance of cooperation between citizens of neighboring countries.

All activities were carried out as planned, and the purpose of the project was fully achieved. Currently, we are collecting testimonials with the young participants in the workshops and we are preparing the workshops in Chernivtsi-Ukraine, planned for May 2021 for another 100 high school students (Constantin Tanasă, project manager).

The SMART4YOUTH project is funded by the Joint Operational Programme Romania-Ukraine 2014-2020 and aims to facilitate the cooperation of educational institutions in order to increase access to quality education for 200 young people aged between 14 and 20, living in the cross-border area by initiating innovative creative workshops through art, photography and film and involving 2 partners from Romania (“Oltea Doamna” Technological High School, Dolhasca and the Association of Community Development Consultants - ACDC) and 2 partners from Ukraine (Vocational High School of Art no. 5 from Chernivtsi, Bucovina Art Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Romanian Culture Chernivtsi). More information about SMART4YOUTH can be found by accessing the project’s website https://smart4youth.com/ and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Smart4Youth/.

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