Achievements of the Youth Peace Camp
Since its inception in 2003, the Youth Peace Camp has gathered in Europa Park or the European Youth Centres of Strasbourg and Budapest over 1000 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.
An experience for life
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. 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.
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 developed through their 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.
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. Youth Peace “campers”shared their stories and listen to stories from the “other side”, stories that they are not used to hearing. They realised 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. 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.
Facilitators for peace work
The impact of the Youth Peace Camp on participants often applies to the leaders and facilitators, too. The activity 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.
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 organisational 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 and facilitating educational activities. The Youth Peace Camp was also for some of them an opening towards other training and peacebuilding activities.
Making a difference locally
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 experience or question their interlocutors’ views on hate speech and intolerance whether conflict-related or not.
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.