They say a photo speaks more than a thousand words. What I learned this month is that a trip speaks more than a thousand photos. I discovered for myself a new world, the African world, through the University on Youth and Development (AUYD), organised by the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe.
Being at its 7th edition, the AUYD was held in Nairobi, Kenya and gathered around 100 people from both Europe and Africa in four different activities: the Africa-Europe Training Course for Youth Organizations, the Training for Trainers for Youth Leaders of the African Diaspora Youth living in Europe, the Meeting of the Africa-Europe Youth Platform and the Training for Trainers of the Network of International Youth Organizations in Africa. Although involved in different activities, the participants had plenty of time to get together, share and discover each other’s cultures and create new friendships and contacts.
I was part of the training course for youth organisations, representing CID. During a week we took upon the challenge to discover common issues that we are addressing in our communities and to find the space for possible cooperation. Our surprise was immense when we discovered that, despite media coverage and the accessibility of internet, we don’t know much about each other, and what we know is greatly influenced by political narratives. We blushed and smiled when we realized that drawing each other’s maps proved to be a real challenge! But we also laughed when we discovered that many problems that we considered to be local or regional are, in fact, global.
Our experience was enhanced by the discussion panels that were held with all the participants from the University. Guest speakers had their input on global education perspectives and activities, and we all spent some time playing with the notion of being an “actor for change” – what it means to us and what we are doing to uphold this “rank”.
One of the most impressing experiences was, undoubtedly, the visit to the slums. We visited a community of 600.000 people living on the brink of imaginable basic conditions, and we learned that there is a social centre inside the community that is struggling on a daily basis to provide people with services that are most needed: education, healthcare, support for dropouts, for unemployed, for socially marginalized people, recreational activities and vocational training. The most contagious thing we were subjected to was… the incredible enthusiasm and energy with which the workers of the centre were doing their daily activities.
I went there thinking about all the good practices we can share with the African organisations, and I came back inspired by all the good vibes I caught from there. It is a fact: we have a lot to learn from each other, now more than ever. I can only hope that the Africa-Europe partnership will receive the green light to continue growing.