When I first researched the YMCA for my job interview I did not know enough about it. As soon as I started to research more, I was astounded at the amount of activities and diversity in the movement: scout activities, help for young homeless people, Ten Sing, camping, leadership programmes, festivals, migration....it was kind of intimidating.
This made me extremely nervous about the job: was I the right person for such responsibility? Did I have what it takes? I also expected that I would need some time for people to get used to me, to trust me. I was a newbie after all. Some answers come in the most unexpected way. The very first time I met a large group of people from our movements was at the Migration Conference in Den Dolder, the Netherlands. The impact was immense. Here I was, in a crucial moment for Europe, surrounded by people determined to do good in this world. While everyone on social media, political parties and in most countries in Europe seemed determined to be cynical and to lack on compassion, I found myself in Den Dolder, surrounded by people determined to help migrants, the category of people receiving the worst press in Europe. Everyone was so focused on compassion, true need to help fellow human coming straight from their heart, enthusiasm and proactivity. It was a revelation. From that moment on, YMCA became my own personal safe space. Conference and events, far from being a chore, became a place to "recharge my batteries": people had inspiration and wanted to do more, I just needed to provide tools and opportunities for them!
However, these 11 months were not without challenges: our movement is immense, and organising something as detailed as a project is often quite hard. We tried out for projects that did not pass, we were ambitious and sometimes it was a step too far. But every time something did not work out, people were so amazing about it: "we will try again", "we learned something new", "next time we will make it". This keeps giving me energy and resilience: this movement certainly has a vision.
The Brussels office also received an incredible response to its advocacy work: every time I explained why and how we should raise our voice in Europe, I only found agreement and enthusiasm. But most of all, I found real commitment. Movements committed themselves to help set up the YPG structure, they committed to send people and to use resources, they committed to make advocacy into an internal activity and focus. You must understand, this is electrifying for somebody working in Brussels. This is a new experience for YMCA, and we get to create our own structure, learning from our peers' practices, and well, also from our mistakes. For them it is hard to change structures to fix those mistakes, but we get to create something that can avoid them, something that can surpass what is done today. We tried to make it more democratic, more participative, as close to our young people as possible. And if all goes well, we will soon have our first four Policy Papers ready.
We now have new challenges ahead: to bring these policy papers to the institutions and to do advocacy based on them; to train our Policy Group and as many young leaders as possible to be our representatives in youth events and institutional meetings; and to try to get more involved in projects.
We have now some help in the office, and hopefully this will bring in even more results. But from my side, what I've got so far has been priceless. I have been given trust and I have received commitment and support; I have the privilege to work with incredibly compassionate and enthusiastic people who are the backbone of their communities, who create some real change and shape young people's future for the better.
Dina Seck - YMCA Europe intern Brussels Office, Ilenia Ventroni - Advocacy, Project and Fundraising Officer, Marius Pop - Projects and Communications Manager
I have had the immense privilege of supporting this amazing work, and I only hope I will be able to be a real asset for this amazing family that is YMCA Europe. The story so far has been a story of hard work and great inspiration, and I could not be more grateful for it.