Tuesday, 1 December 2015

How was the idea of EuroPeers UK created?

As it always happens it was due to a mixture of chance, human will and fruitful encounters.

Andrew Hadley has been CEO of Momentum World for the last 6 years. Before that, he spent 20 years working for the British Council in different parts of the world including Ethiopia, China, Greece and Macedonia as well as some policy jobs in London. His interest in working with young people started in 2001 in Macedonia, where he set up several national and international youth projects and networks. It was the success of those projects and the impact on so many young people that made him decide to specialise in this field for the next part of his career.

Working in the UK with European programmes, Andrew noticed how young people are not getting enough opportunities to participate in international projects, courses or exchanges. He heard so many people around Europe ask “Why do we never meet any UK participants? Why don’t we see EVS volunteers from the UK? How can we find more opportunities to do EVS in the UK?”. Of course there are all kinds of reasons why British organisations don’t do more international work, such as policy priorities, financial capacity and staff expertise; but the hardest difficulty is simply getting the information out to young people, schools, and youth groups. Also his observation was that, just as in other countries, when young people come back from EVS or other projects, they feel greatly motivated and excited but there are very few opportunities for follow-up activities or networking.

For all these reasons, when he got to know the EuroPeers network and their activities he became immediately very interested. 

The first encounter took place when he attended the conference “Building Tomorrow’s Europe” in Bonn in May 2013. The event was organised by Jugend für Europa, and it included some workshops led by young people from the EuroPeers network. Andrew was truly impressed by the high motivation of the young people there, and the way the National Agency supported them to organise their activities.

What he particularly liked was that the EuroPeers network seemed to have solved some of the problems he had found in the past with youth networks, about keeping their members active and constantly developing the network. In his opinion 4 are the features that allowed the success of this initiative: (a) the network is genuinely youth-led; (b) there is continuous support and encouragement from the National Agency; (c) the network has a very clear purpose; (d) there are constantly new opportunities being offered to young people in this network at the national and international level.

Becoming a EuroPeer looked as a truly great way for young people who are back from international experiences to continue their journey, get some real responsibility, and start build up their CV. Andrew strongly believed that there are hundreds of young people around the UK who would jump at the chance to get involved in this. In his opinion, the UK really needs this kind of groups and decided it was time to look deeper into it and build it.
Setting up the EuroPeers network was a step-by-step process. After some preliminary discussions with the UK National Agency, and the assurance of their interest, the first concrete step was their support to allow Andrew and Thea Hanson-Orr (one of the most active young people Momentum World works with), to attend the EuroPeers meeting in Berlin in 2015. At this inspiring and insightful event, he met with people from all the countries EuroPeers is already a reality, and received support to make it happen in the UK as well.