What is Volunteer Based Youth Work for Active Citizens?

“If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life.” – Author Unknown

Did you ever have to answer, why do you do volunteer work? The answers can be very different, coming from a more self-centered perspective of trying to improve one’s curriculum to a more altruistic view of feeling the need to improve the lives of others. The truth is, that the work we do matters, leaving a positive mark in our lives and on others and leaving a lasting legacy in our societies.

The aim of the Volunteer Summer Summit 2024 is to strengthen AFS organisational and volunteer capacity, empowering them to become important change agents at the forefront of civic engagement and as part of a democratic society, to prevent and combat discrimination, exclusion, and violent extremism while raising their confidence in the future.

What is Volunteer Work?

The Council of Europe defines volunteer work as:

any activity which involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than, or in addition to, close relatives. Central to this definition is the fact that volunteering must be a choice freely made by each individual.

As AFSers, our history shows that doing something for others is at the core of our mission and who we are. From the ambulance workers until today a lot has changed, the world evolved and society is moving at a fast pace. Amidst the chaos of our daily lives, it’s easy to forget why we do this, the impact that we have, and our importance.

What is Active Citizenship?

Active Citizenship as we understand it emphasizes the importance of individuals’ participation and contribution to the democratic life and the base of our communities and societies. Together we share the idea that citizenship entails not only rights but also responsibilities, which often mean fighting for those rights, and an active engagement in building a better and more inclusive society.

Active citizenship and intercultural learning are fundamental for democracy to thrive in culturally diverse societies, therefore as AFSers, we have an important role to play in educating ourselves and others and understanding better our role and potential in society.

The essence of this concept lies in empowering our youth to become actively involved in addressing social issues, promoting social justice, and making a difference in our own communities through the time we can give to others. We aim to encourage you to take on leadership roles, develop critical thinking skills, and cultivate together a sense of responsibility towards a world that we are building everyday.

Why is it important now?

It is no surprise that if we see the news, the world seems to be in constant conflict and our Youngsters are not blind to that. This post-pandemic society that we live in is a fast pacing ever-changing world and because of that, it’s up to us to rise up to the occasion and understand how this community of young people that AFS represents can contribute to a better tomorrow.

Climate change demands urgent action, persistent inequality, social injustice, and political polarization threatens our democracy. Armed conflicts are rising and the violation of human rights across the world scares us all. In the middle of all that, there is us, people who care enough not to stand still while we see injustice.

It is therefore more important than ever to fight people’s feelings of helplessness, disillusion, isolation and apathy. Not only is it important that people and youth’s voices and perspectives are heard by decision-makers but each individual can and should play a part in supporting the recovery process: everyone needs to feel responsible and empowered to be an active citizen.

“If I am not in the world simply to adapt to it, but rather transform it, and if it is not possible to change the world without a certain dream or vision for it, I must make use of every possibility there is not only to speak about my utopia, but also to engage in practices consistent with it.”
― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Indignation

What topics will we cover? 

To help us tackle this broad subject, we have selected specific thematic tracks to help us narrow it down and connect it to the work and mission of AFS. We have divided the programme into:

  • Fundamentals of Youth Work
  • Volunteer Youth workers for Global Citizenship Education → ICL, social impact, solidarity activities, change-making, etc.
  • Volunteer Youth workers promoting Democracy and Active Citizenship in schools
  • Volunteer Youth worker as Youth Leaders → advocacy, policy change, governance
  • Toolbox for Effective Volunteer-based Youth Work→ project management, digitalisation, gamification etc.

Each of the five tracks addresses the topic in its own way and each of this year’s workshops is linked to at least one track. Our trainers have created workshops covering many different topics – there will be a variety of options for new and unexpected, but also in-demand and established content.

More information about the different tracks and the Workshops will come soon here!