Since its inception in 2003, the Youth Peace Camp has gathered in Europa Park or the European Youth Centres of Strasbourg and Budapest more than 450 young people from conflict stricken regions. The project achievements lay in the impact that the Youth Peace Camp has on the participants, young leaders and facilitators in their personal and professional development as well as on their communities.
 

Participants

At personal level, the Youth Peace Camp has a strong impact on its participants who declare to have gained self-esteem, self-confidence and assertiveness. Self-awareness and critical thinking are also key elements put forward by former participants; it goes along with stronger communication skills. Youth Peace Camp alumni generally consider themselves more tolerant and open to the others than they were, especially to those holding different opinions. They also feel more able to confront their own emotions and address sensitive issues. The Youth Peace Camp is finally a source of inspiration and motivation for participants to act in their respective communities. It is a first step in conflict transformation leading to further commitment in the field of peacebuilding.

These transformative changes are not limited to the personal sphere and also impact the professional development of the Youth Peace Campers. Former participants have used the competencies (knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors) they developed through their Youth Peace Camp experience at university, at their workplace or in their local organisations, making a strong difference in the communications and relations with the people surrounding them. Participating in the YPC also gave Youth Peace Camp alumni food for thoughts regarding their studies and the orientation of their career, sometimes bringing about radical changes of direction.

Participants’ perception of conflict and the “other side” is challenged throughout the project. The encounter and dialogue with youth from the “other side” as well as with young people from other conflict regions helped participants to take distance from their own realities. Their conflict – seen as the conflict – becomes a conflict amongst other conflicts. Youth Peace Campers shared their stories and listen to stories from the “other side”, stories that they are not used to hearing. They realized that the challenges they were facing in their daily lives were shared by other young people, as well as their aspirations. This realization “when humanity meets humanity”, does not only apply to the “other side” but also to other groups represented amongst the participants. Indeed for some participants it was the first opportunity to meet and discuss with representatives of religious or sexual minorities. Exchanging with human dignity and human rights as a ground for dialogue proved to make a significant difference and deeply challenged participants’ stereotypes and prejudices.
 

Young leaders and facilitators

The Youth Peace Camp does not only aim at empowering its participants but also the team of young leaders (2003 – 2010) and facilitators (2011 – 2014). Shouldered by a senior trainer and an educational adviser, they are the ones at the forefront to support participants in their learning throughout the project.

Many aspects of the impact of the Youth Peace Camp on participants are also shared by leaders and facilitators. At the personal level, they gain self-confidence, self-awareness and critical thinking. The Camp helped leaders and facilitators become more knowledgeable on conflict mechanisms and better understand the role of narratives in conflict, including a stronger awareness about the narratives of their own communities. They go back to their communities with more motivation and inspiration to further engage in the development of local projects.

At the professional level, the Youth Peace Camp had for some leaders and facilitators a strong influence on the decision to further study topics related to the project or on their career orientation. The skills developed such as time management, presentation, facilitation and organizational skills have proved to be very useful for at the workplace and so has a better understanding of the concept of non-formal education and the whole process of developing educational activities - including reporting. The methodologies and approaches experienced during the sessions were often transferred in the young leaders and facilitators’ organisations with an increased level of confidence to work with young people, including dealing with emotions and sensitive topics. The Youth Peace Camp was also for some of them an opening towards other training and peacebuilding activities within the Council of Europe framework and outside of it.
 

Acting within one’s community

At community level, the impact of the Youth Peace Camp mainly results of the interactions that former participants, leaders and facilitators have with the people surrounding them: family, friends, volunteers, colleagues or fellow students. These interactions include for instance sharing parts of the Youth Peace Camp experience or question their interlocutors’ views on hate speech and intolerance whether conflict-related or not. This proactive and tolerant behavior challenging the stereotypes and prejudices within the communities can be an inspiration for the peers of the Youth Peace Camp alumni and other community members.

Another impact of the Youth Peace Camp within participants’ community is the investment of the competencies, methodologies and tools acquired during the project by participants in local organisations and projects, sometimes by creating their own organisations. The target groups of these actions are mainly local youth yet some of them are addressed to the whole community. In the wake of the Youth Peace Camps, some initiatives at regional and international levels were also developed by Youth Peace Campers.
 

The Youth Peace Camp project and the Youth Peace Ambassadors project both promote and support the role of young people in peace-building activities that contribute to living together in dignity and dialogue and brings in the perspective that youth work and youth policy can bring to peace-building processes in Europe, especially through its preventive and educational nature.

 

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