The role of youth volunteers during COVID-19
The first UfM webinar gathered different youth representatives to highlight the Euro-Mediterranean Youth voluntary response during the Coronavirus crisis
14 May 2020. How are youth volunteers responding to COVID-19? How are local or regional organisations in the Euro-Mediterranean region mobilizing youth to respond to the pandemic? To answer these questions and many more, the UfM gathered different youth voluntary organisers including international, regional and local organisations and NGOs from the ufM Member States.
The webinar called “the Euro-Mediterranean Youth voluntary response to the COVID-19 crisis” saw the opening of the UfM Secretary General, Nasser Kamel who stressed the fact that youth are “the most affected, as they are the most active in the society in terms of productivity, mobility and interaction so this crisis was disruptive in terms of their lifestyle and prospects for their future”. On the other hand, the Secretary General expressed how he was “extremely impressed” by the way the youth in our region “have responded to this pandemic, in terms of digital activity and coming up with new solutions to make the economic life possible during the confinement.”
Deputy Secretary General of the UfM, Marisa Farrugia, said that young people “play a vital role in the global volunteer work in their communities”, and that this pandemic created “another window of opportunity for youth to find alternative means in response to the COVID-19”. She highlighted that UfM places youth at the core of its actions, focusing on building a positive agenda for youth in the Mediterranean and engaging young people as full partners in its activities.
During the first panel, which focused on how youth volunteers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis, two experiences were presented by Neringa Tumenaite (Lithuania), Head of Partnerships of Erasmus Global Partnerships MENA Forum and Amany Ben Lakhdar (Tunisia), representing the Soliya Student Network. They elaborated how their organizations have already been using new technologies to enhance exchanges between young students at international levels and expressed that their organizations were fully prepared to offer students many opportunities despite certain difficulties caused by the pandemic.
The second panel discussed how local or regional organisations are mobilizing youth in response to the pandemic. This panel was enriched by the presentations of Dr. Samir Anouti (Lebanon), Regional Adviser, Youth & HIV\AIDS, from UNFPA-Arab States Regional Office, Rocio Cervera (Spain), Deputy Executive Director of the North South Center of the Council of Europe, Andrés M-Rojo (Spain), Programmes Coordinator at the Assembly of European regions and Dr. Mahmoud Bassiouny, responsible for the Presidential Leadership Program of Egypt. They were all of the opinion that the COVID-19 crisis imposed new rules and allowed the development of new volunteering actions by and for young people at the service of their countries and regions.
The supporting role of the Civil Protection to strengthen the voluntary sector was dealt with in the third panel by Captain Laurent Alfonso (France), Coordinator – Preparation & Operational Assistance of PPRD South III. He said that the young people in our Region were able to “take hold” of all sectors of our society and health services were able to appreciate and benefit from their incredible commitment. The voice of the youth participants was exclusively reserved for the young representatives from Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt Tunisia, Italy and Liechtenstein to share their real-life experiences, stories, their strives to overcome the pandemic challenges in their communities and their visions for the Euro-Mediterranean Region. From various angles they all spoke about their work as NGOs, their actions, their created programmes and how they are making a difference through their voluntary work in their communities with a view to helping the unprivileged adolescents, migrants, women or other vulnerable members of their communities hard hit by the pandemic crisis.
The concluding remarks were delivered by Dr. Miriam Teuma, Youth Expert and CEO for Aġenzija Żgħażagħ, (the National Youth Agency of Malta). She drew upon the positive aspects of the pandemic as this led to more awareness, empathy and solidarity instilling positive initiatives among youth. She concluded that despite the disruption caused, she values the priceless voluntary work that the Euro-Mediterranean youth were actively involved in and how through the challenges and their positiveness, youth were succeeding to help rebuild their communities.