On February 1, 2019, WYA opened a new sub-regional office for Southeast Europe (SEE). With 6 operating Chapters in the region so far and several new ones announced to be open in 2019, the work of the office is already underway. The office will be led by Valentino Findrik, a long-time member of WYA Croatia, who started serving as a Director of the WYA SEE office.
We used this occasion to talk to Valentino about his personal WYA journey, the reasons which motivated him to take the position of WYA SEE Director and his plans for the future.
WYA: Tell us a few words about yourself and your WYA journey
Valentino: Ever since high school, and later as a student of Philosophy, Theology, and Anthropology, I was constantly occupied with the big questions, like the question of meaning of life, of man’s place in the entirety of being, and of the true value of knowledge. And it was only after I joined World Youth Alliance, six years ago, that I truly started to perceive the impact which sound and applied philosophy can have on people’s lives, on how we perceive ourselves and others, and what we eventually make of ourselves and of our society.
My first encounter, and also one of the most valuable things I received within WYA, was my experience of the Certified Training Program (CTP) – both as a participant and a trainer. Since I joined WYA Croatia in 2013, I was a member of our Bioethics and Education teams. Throughout these years, I’ve been enriched and endowed with so many inspiring young people and their life stories, the value of which is simply betrayed by any attempt of comprehension. More than any practical experience or skills attained, it was day-to-day sacrifices of people I have worked with and their growth I have witnessed that made my WYA journey so remarkable, and that always kept me motivated to stay engaged. And I believe that is something all active members of WYA throughout the world can attest to.
WYA: What was your main motive to apply for the position of WYA SEE Director?
Valentino: Besides always wanting to do more within WYA, the main reason has to do with my experience with the youth in the Southeast region. Because of all the unfavorable circumstances that make up their environment, a growing number of young people in the region are leaving their native countries in search for a better life. Some of them still look to politics as a place of generating solutions to their problems, which as a matter of course tends to result in more disappointment on the part of the youth.
Following my experience in WYA Croatia, I decided to join the amazing team of WYA SEE, all of whom are long-term members of WYA. We are looking forward to continue the good practice of our existing Chapters, and to transfer it onto the future ones.
WYA: What is your vision for the SEE region in the next 3 years?
Valentino: I believe WYA can offer what young people in the region might be missing in that regard – starting with change in the mentality. Before turning to politics for solutions, there is far more that can be done on the pre-political level of our engagement, primarily in education and culture. Unfortunately, it is something which our youth in general is still insufficiently aware of. I see WYA SEE as a crucial component in raising that kind of awareness in the youth, and in helping them organize, engage and connect, nationally and trans-nationally. It is certainly something that has been missing in the region. Our good experience with our National Chapters indicates that this is the case.
WYA Croatia, for example, has thus far proved itself capable of seriously contributing to that process unlike any other NGO in the country, and beyond. Our vast experience on the national level will be of crucial importance for implementing our present and future successful programs within our new Chapters in the region. Hopefully, in the next 3 years we will have Chapters in all 16 countries of the region and thus continue in advancing WYA’s mission of creating culture of solidarity and mutual respect.
WYA: What will be your main focus for the office in 2019?
Valentino: Since it is our first year, our main focus for 2019 will certainly be in opening new Chapters in the region. As a prerequisite to becoming an active member of WYA, the CTP stands at the very beginning of each Chapter’s story and is the backbone of Chapters with regards to membership. Once a Chapter is open and running, we want to make sure we make it self-sustainable as soon as possible. And that is done in the first instance by training new certified members to become trainers in CTP, as well as in our other programs, so as to be able to organize the program themselves and thus start gathering new members within their communities.
WYA: What is your message for WYA members in the SEE region and worldwide?
Valentino: As members of WYA, we know that our movement was from the very outset marked by the issue of how human rights relate to human dignity. Since then, there has been a substantial rise in the discourse of rights and freedoms. This discourse can only be appropriately confronted by a more inclusive one, the one that lays in the very foundation of WYA. As we witness the rise in the trend of people – especially young people – demanding more and more rights and freedoms, it is high time we show the full potential of the great alternative: that of human dignity and of personal responsibility.
It is important for youth today, and especially for youth in Southeast Europe, to realize that the tougher our circumstances are, the more we are called to stand up for ourselves – not simply by demanding more rights, but first and foremost by looking at our own responsibilities, by exploring and utilizing the possibilities of what already lies within our grasp. And what better way to do so than by joining the movement of World Youth Alliance through your national Chapter?