YO!FEST 2017: 3000 young people to build up Europe

The YO!FEST! is an event held every two years and organized by the European Youth Forum, with the aim to gather young people and reflect on the challanges that European Union is facing.

Discussion during the workshop ""Where do you stand?" at YO!FEST in Maastricht, 7 February 2017/ Photo: Martina Pieri

This year the 2017 YO!FEST  was part of the celebrations  to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Maastricht treaty. It means that on that day, 25 years ago, 12 countries at that time members of European Community (today the European Union) met and together decided on the rules and parameters for other countries to join .

The idea of European Youth Forum was to gather associations, ngo and especially young people around Europe and thanks to several workshops make them reflect on the European Union, past, present and future.

As you can imagine there were many workshop about refugees. Service Civil International was there thanks to its two EVS volunteers, Martina and Suvi, and an SCI activist  from Spain – but based in Netherlands – Judith. They ran  two different workshops based on Building Bridges toolkit: "Where do you stand?" and "Take a step forward!"  
Both these activities encouraged the participants to reflect on some of big issues that Europe and its citizens are facing in the last years, especially since fall 2015.

“Where do you stand?” was a workshop where participants had to take a stand – from 1 to 10, 1 if you totally disagree, 10 if you totally agree - according to a statement about refugees. It was interesting to see how strong the opinions were when people didn’t work with refugees, while  the opinion became much more balanced when people already knew some refugees, or already worked with them. This general output from the workshop highlights just how important it really is nowadays to build bridges among people, and not to keep on building walls. (By the way, do you know how many walls are around Europe?).

Nothing could be better to build a real connection between Europeans and refugees than the Human Library. This is an activity really used in the last years by associations and NGOs all around Europe, and it’s very simple to organize. Refugees and migrant are the books, and visitors can choose to ‘read’ one of them. The story that the visitors are going to read/hear is the life story of the refugees. During the YO!FEST different organization from the Netherlands organised a Human library, an on-going activity from 9.00 to 17.00, where participants could reserve their books, and go to talk with him/her.

The second workshop was useful to put participants in refugees shoes. We are all equal, but some are more equal than others. The activity aims  to promote empathy with others who are different, to raise awareness about the inequality of opportunities in society and to foster an understanding of possible personal consequences of belonging to certain social minorities or cultural groups. In this activity the participants had different role cards and were asked to get into these role. Then we presented several question and situations, and asked to the participants to react to these questions through their role. After the workshop, the participants reflected on how they feel discriminated towards according to their gender, origin and nationality.

Reflection durinig the workshop "Take a step forward!" at YO!FEST in Maastricht, 7 February 2017. Photo: Martina Pieri

In itself, the the YO!FEST is a great idea, to bring young people together, to try and exchange different points of view and share ideas. The festival this year was very ambitious offering 150 workshops in one day. This created a very rich and diverse programme, but it also lead to activities not being clearly signposted and a confusion in the schedule. As a partner of the festival we would recommend to focus on the quality of the activities on offer rather than the quantity, to make the YO!Fest an even stronger event for the years to come!


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