Helping is not a simple thing. Each person will surely have different needs and others. Helping cannot be taught, it’s something that must be felt.
The easiest way, the most popular indeed, is simple charity. From our almost distorted view of the world, money can fix everything: money can buy food for those in need, provide them new blankets, give them drinkable water, build a house, and so on. But giving money to charity, in most cases, is just a tool to clean our conscience. Once we have given money to someone in need, we can turn out head and go on with our lives.
But will it ever be enough? Surely, it will not. If we want to help those in need, we have to stand up and pay our society back through helping by doing.
As organizations, it’s our task to teach this fact by encouraging volunteering by creating projects that allow people to participate. This is especially important for young people. If we want the youngest generations to lead this world in the future, we have to make them aware of the importance of living in a community and leaving no one behind. We have to make them aware that their commitment could be life-changing for other people. The world is huge and its problems are often systemic, but they are not powerless. They can change the world for the better just by becoming an active part of their community.
By empowering young people to be active, we create a better, more responsible society.
Why work on youth violence with young volunteers?
Violence is knocking at our door every day, demanding attention we should not give to it. But the call is persistent, and people often fall for its temptation. Unfortunately, we live in times in which violence is still quite accepted. How can we change this? Teaching the youngest generations that any sort of violence (physical as well as psychological) should not be accepted.
Stated this way, it surely looks too easy. Obviously, it’s not so simple to make people understand they should not accept violence. It is a process that takes years, and sometimes even years won’t be enough. Youth educators have only limited powers, as schools and non-formal education programs compete with family, media and peer pressure. The age gap is specifically a problem we encounter repeatedly. “Never listen to anybody over 20” might be an old quote, but it is still alive in the subconscious of today’s youth. What could help us reach youngsters more effectively? An opportunity suggests itself: if youngsters won’t listen to adults, they might be more open to someone closer to their age. This is the main reason why young people can put themselves on the line and mentor their (younger) peers.
As we speak about violence, we consider different levels of it. We could say that violence is a behavior, which is causing a damage or negative impact to other humans. There are many words we use for it. Discrimination, bullying, teasing, mainly based on origin, gender, appearance/look or even on different behavior and thinking. To experience violence in this meaning is very subjective. So we need to try to help (young) people to understand that they should not only follow their own values, but also to respect emotions of others.
Youngsters do not need more adults to tell them what to do and to think, they need other young people to mentor them and learn with them, instead of teaching them. Someone that could explain to them why violence should be avoided in every situation. If these mentors are young, they will easily be able to speak the same language, because they have experienced the same issues, joys, worries, hopes and expectations. They will be able to empathize more with the target group. Young people are also creative and innovative, and often able to contribute additional skills when facilitating activities – music, art, dance, sports and many more. This will help them apply the activities in the toolbox in new and interesting ways.