The first time I met Kypros was in Palermo (Italy) during a seminar funded by the Erasmus+ Programme and aimed at fostering the networking of youth workers around Europe.
Kypros was a “newcomer” in the sector: he was living in Limassol and was part of an informal group called “See why” whose members were youngsters from Cyprus wishing to take part in international youth exchanges and training courses.
He had recently met some youngsters running an EcoVillage in Greece and got really fascinated by their experience:
“I had an amazing time there and I am convinced we could do something very similar in Cyprus. We have a lot of opportunities in the island, there’s a lot of land to be worked and numerous young people that are getting interested in eco-related activities. We just need to get better focused!”
Kypros left me with a really nice impression of himself, he recalled me myself at his age: always looking to meet new people to exchange innovative ideas. I greeted him with the true hope to meet him back soon.
One year later the YouthMetre project started and I was in charge of organising the project Study Groups: so I contacted Kypros and checked whether his informal group would have been interested to host a meeting. Kypros got really excited with the idea and answered positively even without checking what our project was about.
The Erasmus+ Programme allows informal groups of youngsters to formally take part in youth mobility projects (KA1) but not in other actions of the programme (KA2 or KA3). This is due to the fact that informal groups are often instable, their young members being – in most cases – volunteers investing part of their free-time in the group. Also, when a youth worker decides to meet a group of youngsters, he will always prefer to set the meeting in schools, Universities or youth centers: in those cases he will indeed probably face a “safe” group of people (“la crème” as they say in France). In the sense that the hosting organization would have already “filtered” the participants, selecting the ones acknowledged as being more adapt to such an activity.
On the contrary meetings with informal groups are, often, “unpredictable” the freedom of expression of its participants being not limited by an institution or a tutor. The youth worker leading an informal group should be prepared to face whatever reaction or feedback comes from the participants, even the “politically incorrect” ones. I was having this thought while, standing outside the airport of Larnaca, in Cyprus, I was waiting for Kypros to pick me up. When he arrived: large smiled and comfortably set in his old weird car, I knew the meeting was going to be as exciting as I pictured it.
The SG took place in Kypros house, in Moniatis: a small village set in the hills surrounding Limassol. The air was fresh and clean there, no car passing by, just the sounds of the nature surrounding us.
The participants started gathering shortly after our arrival: 15 in total we stayed in the house for two full days. The SG participants were all nice and smiling young people living in the surrounding of Limassol, their common interest: the island’s natural resources and how to advocate for a more sustainable use of them.
Patrick – 25 years old – is trying to promote organic cultivation in the farm he is managing together with his family (wife and two children). Kat is a beekeeper and often educate pupils on social dynamics through the examples offered by the bee’s communities. Gavriel is working in London but believes that his future will be in the island, working as a farmer. Dorita is an aspirant veterinary. Alex, like all the others still does not know what his future life will be like. But he is surely struggling to find a path he will feel comfortable in.
Kypros also got very passionate with bees, so much that he started his activity and now he’s thinking to launch his own line of products:
“My girlfriend works as an aesthetician, together with her we’re making body creams out of wax and honey. It is difficult but step by step I feel we’re making huge progress”.
“The YouthMetre can be a really important tool for us” told me Patrick “The dashboard with the statistics on youth population, really give the evidence that we need to foster youth participation and entrepreneurship here, if we want to fight youth unemployment. I tried to advocate for that but I missed support and information: now I have the tool I was looking for”.
“Also” he added “it provides best practices and examples coming from organizations from all around Europe, with whom we might network: to learn from them and exchange our know-how”.
Everybody was excited about our e-tool and we got deeply engaged in discussions on how we could improve it: to make it even more useful and effective in its mission of fostering youth active citizenship.
Time lapsed quickly: I found myself in the evening with a booklet full of proposals, feedback and nice ideas. Nobody even asked to take a pause and people were still energetically discussing!
I smiled with myself and enjoyed the ongoing conversations. Certainly true: meetings with informal group are so excitedly unpredictable!
Date of event: 7 July, 2016
Location: Moniatis (Cyprus)
Hosting Organisation: See Why
Coordinator: Mr. Kypros Christoforou
Author: Alessio Lupi