On the last weekend of February in the rural community of Nueva Vraja Mandala ISKCON, commonly known as the Santa Clara Farm in Brihuega, Spain this year’s first European Youth Workers’ meeting was organized, where the representatives of Eco Valley Foundation were also invited. 35 participants from 25 European countries gathered for three days for an Erasmus+ project meeting entitled “Learning to Participate” to overview the existing and future possibilities to help young people to develop their full potential, and examine opportunities within the existing Erasmus+ framework. 

During the project the main speakers presented their reports and visions about youth integration in ISKCON, skills and qualities of youth workers and leaders, history of European Commission’s funding programs, the existing structure of networking and cooperation between organizations, projects of the nearest future, as well as the goals of ISKCON Youth Ministry. 

The leader of the hosting community, Javier Pera López gave the first inspirational speech for the participants about the need for care of youth within our communities and society at large.  

Katja Sardella (Sweden) spoke about existing youth programs, the particular qualities of new generation of youth, and the need for new non-formal education. She emphasized the importance of facilitating educational materials, and laying the foundation of values and life skills for youth, and also the need for structural and organizational help envisioning National Youth Forums in Europe. “We have to understand, that our children, our youth, they are also part of the general society, and they can contribute to society at large. It will be good for them, good for the people, and good for our communities,” stated Mrs. Sardella.

Timo Kuivanen (Finland) touched questions about the main duties and 14 qualities of a leader as given by Srila Prabhupada founder of ISKCON, the original concept of strategic planning in three levels, and what Vedic scriptures say about social media. “The two main duties of a leader are (1) to be inspired and to inspire others, and (2) to protect others on five levels (physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual). Scriptures also instruct us about social dealings: (1) using knowledge – when and how something should be done, considering risks and results, and (2) not going alone to the masses of materialistic people, but in groups or couples and with awareness what things are meant for. Do not mix strategy with tactics & technics. Vedic wisdom guarantees that leadership models will work forever”,  Mr. Kuivanen inspired the participants.

The leaders of EuProNet (European Project Network) José Vallines Mira (Spain), Pablo Arcidiágano (Spain), Borut Vidmar (Slovenia) and György Kirs (Hungary) presented the benefits of cooperation with European Commission’s grant opportunities, different service and job opportunities within these projects, and concordance of aims of ISKCON Youth Ministry with European youth programs. For example, the European Solidarity Corps projects could support the programs of a Gap Year Experience for youngsters after leaving secondary school or getting a university degree, or even during university years if someone wants to take a gap year.

A group photo of the European Youth Workers’ meeting in Spain

The participants had a fruitful, cooperative and efficient meeting and are looking forward to networking among each other and collaborating in various project opportunities until their next on-site meeting in the near future.

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