by Angela Starovoitova
The annual Regional Meeting of Foundations for Freedom (F4F) took place 23-25 March 2012 hosted by the Club for Young Leaders (CYL) in Baia Mare, Romania. F4F is a programme of Initiatives of Change based in Ukraine working to build trust in society particularly through the leadership of youth. CYL is another initiative inspired by Initiatives of Change with Clubs operating in Romania and Ukraine. The meeting gave an opportunity to bring these various groups and teams together to get to know each other, to exchange best practice and to search and plan together for joint activities in the coming year.
In all, 34 people ranging in age from 21 to 87 took part. They represented the F4F and IofC Network from different parts of Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Germany, Poland, France, UK and Romania. There were also a few guests from partner organizations like InMOE (Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe, based in Germany), GFPS–Polska (Scientific and Cultural Society, based in Poland) and Rotaract (Romania). The presence of a few ‘elders’, Claude Bourdin from France, David Curtis and Miles Paine from UK, enriched the gathering through their wealth of experience and stories from the past.
With such a wide range of NGOs, initiatives and countries represented, the organizers provided the opportunity for the participants to meet with up to 50 local activists and NGOs in Baia Mare. A lively public meeting and discussion in the conference hall of the Public Library was preceded by an ‘NGO market place’ where the various organizations set out their stalls displaying what they are about. The room was filled with a vibrant spirit of exchange, reflection, discussions and personal sharing on the topics of social involvement and responsible citizenship.
‘Freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility,’ said Olga Dyatel from the Club for Young Leaders in Crimea, Ukraine. Her statement, made during a presentation on CYL and why it was needed, inspired quite a few people in the audience with its fresh perspectives on democracy and the role young people are playing in establishing it.
Representatives of InMOE, spoke about their work helping NGOs develop professional operational skills through educational projects and offering international partnerships for young NGOs. They were keen to establish new connections with activists in Romania.
There were group discussions on how to engage people to become socially responsible. Suggestions included having a positive attitude, showing the benefits of being responsible, and recognizing people’s contributions. To keep up this social engagement, it was suggested, one needs to see role-models and to make responsibility a general attitude, as well as keeping a life balance and taking breaks.
One of the participants of the Public event posted a ‘thank you’ statement on her Facebook page: ‘Today I was reminded why I started to work with people (especially youth and kids). I remembered that if I want something to change, I have to change myself first. Thank you for giving me opportunity to rediscover it.’
After the public meeting, the next few days were spent analyzing the current situation in the F4F network, its strengths and weaknesses. Some of the plans and ideas for 2012 that were exchanged included an educational journey to Lorraine (France), a Week of Trust in the Crimea (Ukraine), a leadership development course in Moldova, a volunteer programme in Baranivka (Ukraine), a Healing the Past Dialogue, and various opportunities during the annual IofC conferences in Caux, Switzerland.
The group also looked to improve cooperation through undertaking some joint actions during 2012. Various ideas were put forward, including some concrete proposals on use of internet resources for interregional flows of communication, developing usage of social networks and public relations activities. CYL Crimea and CYL Romania have started planning interregional exchange visits. InMOE and F4F are planning another intercultural course for five countries in September 2012. The F4F Management group will create an information sheet for newcomers to F4F, explaining its structure and main values/principles of operation. Mentoring opportunities and systems will be worked out for F4F members and volunteers. Other plans include Summer and Winter camps, Creative camps, teambuilding activities and, exchanges, and developing an intern programme within F4F.
Claude Bourdin and David Curtis also managed to visit a local Farmers co-operative to engage them in a cooperation with IofC’s Farmers Dialogue. The collaboration between the Farmers Dialogue team and the F4F team grows ever stronger as new synergy has been discovered between the training programmes of F4F and the needs of the Farmers Dialogue initiatives. Plans are being made for collaboration on an event in East Africa in November.
However, the most remarkable point of the meeting, according to the participant evaluations was the atmosphere of ‘oneness’, embracing friendships, guitar singing, inspiring one another and blossoming ideas for improving the network structure and future cooperation between the regions. It was one of those rare occasions when participants felt they had enough time to discuss big and small things, and were ready to leave knowing what they are going to do in 2012 in relation to F4F.
The next F4F events will be an Ethical Leadership Workshop in Baia Mare, Romania and an educational visit to Lorraine, France, on the theme ‘Intergenerational approach to Europe: past, present and future’.
Public event was supported by Initiatives of Central and Eastern Europe and Robert Bosch Foundation.