Portalegre does not offer a lot to local youngsters. The proactive move to the capital, while those who stay are overcome by melancholy and laxness: “typical of Portuguese,” says youth worker Altino Barradas. But the youth want to get inspired by success stories and change that.
Portalegre is a small Portuguese city (around 25000 inhabitants) located in the Alentejo region: a rural area, reachable within two hours by car from Lisbon.
We arrived there in the afternoon of the day before the Study Group. Altino Barradas – youth worker for many decades and president of the NGO “Proposito Inadiavel” – is there with his big arms open, ready to welcome us.
We sit together in a bar situated in the central square of the town: not many people getting around, mainly elderly citizens.
In the bar, well in evidence, there is a big picture of Altino himself at the center of a big group of youngsters.
“That is a picture of a project we did a couple of years ago” explains Altino “here everybody remembers it, there are not many opportunities to meet young people from abroad here in Portalegre”.
Altino explains that the city does not offer many opportunities to local youngsters: the most proactive ones prefer to move to the capital, or abroad. The others stay, many of them are taken by a mixed attitude of melancholy and laxness: “typical of Portuguese” says Altino.
For all these reasons youth work is particularly important here in Portalegre: to inspire local youngsters and show them that even here it is possible to organize exciting activities involving organizations and youngsters from all around Europe.
The day after we go to the location of the Study Group. Almost nobody is there at the foreseen starting time. Altino is furious: “They are always complaining but when you give them a chance to participate, they do not show up!”
But then one by one, rather slowly, the participants appear. Very young on average, with clean smiles and shy attitudes. They carefully listen to our presentation, even taking notes, but seem rather unwilling to provide structured feedback. Maybe they feel insecure, both of their English and their opinions.
After an ice breaking activity and some informal exchanges, the participants relax and start sharing their thoughts and ideas with us.
They see the YouthMetre as a good idea that can foster their networking with peers from other countries: “We need to get inspired by success stories of young people reaching results, fostering positive changes in their local contexts” says one participant. “Otherwise local youngsters will keep on thinking that no change Is possible, and will never see a reason to actively participate in local life.”
“There is a lot of work to be done for local youngsters here in Portalegre,” says Altino at the end of the meeting. “I have been working for years and still doing it with excitement and energy. But now I need to be sided by the youngsters themselves. They need to get activated and act for a change if this is what they want”.
We greet Altino with a sincere wish to meet again. “You should run for elections here,” we joke. “You must be perceived as an absolute leader by the local population.”
“Leadership does not interest me” he answers, “I live and work here since I love this place and its inhabitants. My best recognition is to build sincere relationships, here and abroad, that can help me to bring good examples and hope to the youngsters living here.”
Date of event: 17 June 2016
Location: Portalegre (Portugal)
Hosting Organisation: Proposito Inadiavel
Coordinator: Mr. Altino Barradas
Author: Alessio Lupi