by Stas Ghiletchi, Local Correspondent from Moldova
Alina Butnaru: “We invest a lot in increasing the participation of young people in the decision-making process at the community level”
The European Union’s financial support towards Moldova has been shifting since 2018. More and more programs are being structured to target directly the citizens of the country, thus increasing the tangible results and benefits for the local population. Some of the funds initially planned to be managed by the central Government have been redirected towards local authorities, small and medium-sized businesses, local civil society and media. As a result, new local actors of change have been created. These active groups of citizens from all sectors of society are passionate about their local communities and are willing to work hard in order to transform the country.
On 24 January 2020 its EU4Ungheni initiative within the “EU4Moldova: Focal Regions” programme (the first was launched in Cahul on 17 January). The EU will be investing 22.8 million euros to spur smart, inclusive and sustainable economic development in the areas of Cahul and Ungheni. The initiative EU4Ungheni will involve Ungheni and its neighboring communities within the Ungheni district.
One such local actor of change is the network of Youth Centers. One of the main goals of the Youth Centers is to develop the civic spirit among young people and improve the life of the local community. In order to better understand the needs of Moldova’s Youth from the region, the local correspondent talked with the coordinator of the Ungheni Youth Center.
EaP Local Correspondent: What are the priorities of the Youth Center for the near future and how can international donors help you successfully reach these goals?
Alina Butnaru: Ungheni Youth Center is an ambitious project. At the moment, the priority of the Youth Center is to develop the Outreach Services. We want to be as close as possible to young people in order to be able to organize weekly activities for them in villages within the Ungheni district. We do realize that it is more difficult to reach young people from rural areas. The center does not have its own vehicle that would allow us to travel to villages within the district. We could use the public transportation, but usually it is difficult to travel after 5 PM (most of the activities are planned in the evening). At the same time, young people from villages also find it hard to reach the Youth Center in Ungheni because of lack of resources to cover the cost of public transportation (which recently have been increased).
Another priority is to increase Center’s accessibility and comfort. The Ungheni Youth Center does not have its own sanitary group, nor does it have an access ramp for young people with limited mobility. We want European working standards which would allow us to develop programs and services for young people, including young people from disadvantaged groups.
Moreover, we plan to increase the number of beneficiaries of the Ungheni Youth Center, through various programs and activities, such as personal development trainings. Although we are a small team and have a lot of actions already in the pipe line, we hope to raise even more funds which would allow us to implement more local initiatives and projects. The downside is that at the moment, the Youth Center is limited in obtaining grants from other sources other than the Joint Fund on the development of Youth Centers.
EaP Local Correspondent: What kind of services does your youth center offer? In your opinion, which is the most efficient service offered by the youth center in your region?
Alina Butnaru: The Ungheni Youth Center was established almost 2 years ago and at the moment it provides 5 different services for young people. All services are based on the needs and challenges faced by the young people from our region. These include: information about opportunities for youth involvement, development of life skills and competency trainings.
But the most efficient service is the active engagement of young people throughout their own communities. We invest a lot in increasing the participation of young people in the decision-making process at the community level. The Ungheni Regional Youth Council, a youth structure coordinated by the Ungheni Youth Center, consists of 35 young people which come from the 18 local youth councils created in Ungheni District.
In 2019, the Ungheni Youth Center was named “The friendliest Youth Center”, at the Youth Council Gala organized by the National Network of Local Youth Councils of Moldova.
EaP Local Correspondent: To what extent are young people in the region aware of the funding opportunities offered by the EU?
Alina Butnaru: To a certain degree, young people are informed about EU funding possibilities. The center tries to share all relevant information via social media and as part of weekly activities organized within the center.
What can be done to increase the level of information? More online infographics regarding the funding opportunities offered by the EU are needed. These can also be disseminated within local school/colleges and universities. Another good idea would be to organize several informational workshops within the Youth Centers with specific topics such as: How to access European funds? What are the relevant websites?
A brochure that would synthesize various EU projects, could also be useful.
EaP Local Correspondent: To what extent does volunteering represent an interest for young people?
Alina Butnaru: To the extent that local volunteers created a dedicated hashtag for volunteering activities #HaiUngheni. We are proud to have a team of 17 volunteers, 11 of whom are from rural localities.
Young people are aware of the importance of volunteering, that is why they create local initiative groups and act for the benefit of the community they belong to. For example, during the Regional Week of Volunteering in the district of Ungheni, held in October 2019, a total of 85 volunteer activities were carried out, in which 1852 young people participated.
EaP Local Correspondent: What do the young people want most for the locality in which they live?
Alina Butnaru: Will you be surprised to find out that what we think young people want doesn’t always coincide with their views? During the group consultations and the annual youth forums, we found out that young people long for a developed community. Our young people want to have modern and clean spaces for fun activities. For example, they would really love to have a skate park in Ungheni.
EaP Local Correspondent: Thank you very much for your answers.
This article was produced by Stas Ghiletchi, the Project’s local correspondent and EaP Civil Society Fellow from Moldova in the framework of the EU-funded ‘Eastern Partnership Civil Society Facility – Regional Actions’ Project. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Stas Ghiletchi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the Project
Read more about our local correspondents here.