From the 1st to the 5th of October 2013, RET organised a Regional Youth Get-together in Panama City. It united young people from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela. The aim was to bring forth their voice and share their perspectives on socio-cultural integration in fragile contexts.
With so many pressing needs, it is reasonable to ask if these types of initiatives are worthwhile. Why invest resources in bringing people together? Can meeting and talking really make a difference?
Yes it can, because it is an extremely efficient education instrument, allow-ing vulnerable young people to protect themselves.
In Latin America, so many young people live in fragile situations due to dis-placement. Either they are displaced themselves, because of violence, armed conflict or natural disasters, or are affected by the displacement of others. Integration, living together and avoiding violence requires a specific set of skills. Connecting young people and giving them the possibility to exchange is one of the most effective ways for them to learn and obtain these essential life skills.
Life skills do not only protect young people against immediate threats, such as drug abuse, gender based violence, criminal activities and discrimination, they also build a bridge to the future. If young people do not have the tools to face the everyday threats of their fragile environments, how can they continue to grow as leaders of their communities?
Participants from each country travelled to Panama with the responsibility of representing the 536 young people active in RET’s regional project and the 22 local networks created by them. They met for 5 days and shared experiences, created links and debated solutions. They also formed a panel of experts, which presented their conclusions to 38 adults representing governmental or international organisations such as the Ministry of Education, UNHCR, the Police, the National Boarder Service, the Organisation of American States and many more.
These real-life learning experiences, more than anything else, provide young people with the life skills they need. This Get-together was also an intermediary step to RET’s goal of creating strong, active and durable regional youth networks.
Education is not only obtained in the classroom or in books; getting together, sharing experiences, comparing solutions and taking on responsibilities, also play a major role.