The Academy of Change

by Ronan Coffey

In 2022 Serve the City Lisbon, Serve the City Paris and Serve the City Dublin all agreed to participate in an EU Funded Erasmus project with the intention to increase the level of civic participation of youth in their communities. This Tri City project was called ‘The Academy of Change’ and the aim was to enable and involve the youth from three European countries in volunteer work as a way to increase their civic participation and to empower them by developing essential skills for their personal, social, educational, and professional development through training by the Change Academy.

Last April, 21 volunteers, 7 from each city including volunteers from Porto and Limerick came to Dublin Ireland to take part in Blended Mobility workshops. The weeklong training consisted of the young volunteers learning about ‘What is Serve the City’ engaging in practical workshops in creating beautiful art from waste materials, considering life choices in overcoming practical problems that a refugee, asylum seeker may encounter in a strange country. Irish MEP Francis Fitzgerald gave a very insightful talk on the inner workings of the European Parliament and the participants actively engaged in a Q and A session with her.

Paris presented their SAVE programme for volunteers, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, Ireland presented their ‘Cairdeas’ programme which is a soft skills training and integration course for refugees and asylum seekers. Included also was a day trip to the ancient Irish settlement of Glendalough in beautiful countryside setting away from Dublin. There the participants mixed with refugees and asylum seekers, many for whom it was their first time out of Dublin since they arrived in Ireland.

Portugal, too, gave us some wonderful workshops on topics such as Icebreaker sessions, personal development skills etc. General feedback from all the participants was very positive, many felt that they had learned new skills which would enable them to engage with other youth leaders in their home cities.

This was the first ever collaborative project on this scale amongst STC’s and it is hoped and planned that the skills learned can be used to expand to more cities for future Erasmus funded projects.

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