Impressions from the 4th WYA Week in Croatia

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WYA Week is the main event of the year for the WYA community in Croatia. It’s a project in which almost all the members participate in some way or the other. Some members are assigned to organize a specific day, some work with the media, others host in radio and TV shows or make preparations for the venues among others. It requires all our free time and energy but is the strongest tool we have for making a difference.

On November 7-11, 2016, we organized the 4th WYA Week in Zagreb under the theme ”Staying in Croatia: How and Why?”. The four main topics were demographics, culture, mental health, and education. The theme of this year’s WYA Week was decided after we organized a pre-election debate on the subject of the family policy in Croatia and we wanted to send a message to the media that most of the Croatian young people don’t want to live and work abroad, but want to stay in Croatia and raise their families here.

Education requires an immediate reevaluation and job opportunities in Croatia are limited. Most of the young people can’t become independent and start raising their families. In other words, the situation was far from satisfying. Due to these living conditions, more and more Croatian youth are emigrating. We saw that the time has come for us to act and investigate the problem. We also needed to give the opportunity to people to ask questions and to hopefully get some answers. We wanted to give them hope and present a different perspective, to make them see that there are still people who care about their problems and gather the courage to stay.

However, to do that we had to spread the word of the conference to as many people as possible. The thing that really helped us in doing that was the patronage of President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. It showed to others that WYA Week is something that is needed and worthy. We also went to the Presidential Palace after the WYA week on November 4 where we met with her and talked about the problems concerning young people in Croatia. The media also recognized our message. Every WYA Week, more and more media are interested in what we have to say. They published information about us and the WYA Week and invited us to guest in TV and radio shows. The media’s support gave our projects more importance which makes us a stronger voice of the youth in society.

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Then the conference finally came. The speakers were well-prepared and gave many useful pieces of information. The discussions which developed each day were very helpful and many questions were answered. The venues were full every day, mostly with younger people, which meant that our message was recognized among others and the problems that we presented were concrete and important.

Furthermore, every day someone from the Ministry whose work is related to the subject came and was one of the speakers. That gave us opportunity to directly ask them about the problems and their solving. The exception was on Tuesday, which focused on culture, when no one from the Ministry of Culture showed up, even though representatives promised to come. That saddened us, but also motivated us to keep working even harder. The conference was a success and it gave the public more focus on the problems of the youth.

On Friday, we had a fundraising dinner. During the dinner, we had several presentations in which we tried to show our work so far. As I watched the presentations (and I noticed the same thing among the others), I was amazed at how much work we’ve done and how many things we’ve been able to do with no office or premises to work in, and little or no funds. It showed to the guests, but I think mostly to us, that we are doing something of value, something which makes the world a better place, even just a little bit. We knew that we were just a drop in the bucket, but it showed us that we were a drop which has courage, strength, and dedication to giving its all, to always do the best it can, never to go awry, but to always gather a bit more strength and push one more time.

croatian-partyIt got me thinking. Why do we do all that? Why do we sacrifice our free time and resources? It is because we care. We really deeply care about the world around us. It is because we cannot stand aside idly watching human dignity being attacked every day. Then another question arises. How are we able to do it? The answer is simple. Because we are friends. Sometimes I think of us as a ‘’band of brothers’’, like Henry V calls his men during the St. Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare’s ‘’Henry V’’. Throughout the projects that we’ve done we became good friends who always try to bring out the best in others. That is the quality which separates us from all the other organizations. The person is always above the project, and there is always time to hang out and do something fun and learn together; before, during and after every project. So if you ask me what is the most important feature of WYA Croatia, you’ll get a simple answer, because every other comes from that one. We are friends.

Written by Šimun Lončarević, Member of the Educational Team of WYA Croatia