human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

How to set up or step up Young Caritas

Young Caritas Workshop 12 - 15 October

The Caritas Europa workshop “How to set up or step-up Young Caritas” gathered 18 Caritas employees from 11 countries to increase their capacities in the field of youth engagement. It was the first workshop (after the Young Caritas conference in 2018) organised in the network during which youth staff could work on their skills in the field of youth engagement and see how Caritas organisations could be a place of growth for young people.

The online workshop lasted 4 days (12-15 of October 2020) during which participants had an opportunity to reflect on why they want to be part of Young Caritas, and how to go about it in the best way. We started by reviewing the values that inspire us to engage young people in Caritas. For some it was solidarity, love, and compassion, for others it was about purposefulness and excellency, for some commitment and humbleness. After understanding the source of our will to engage more young people, we moved to the Vienna Declaration that was created during the Vienna Conference. We analysed it and discussed how it could work in different Caritas organisations on the national and diocesan level. Our main focus was on a vision and mission – how do we see youth engagement in Caritas and what do we want to achieve. The next step was to reflect on leadership – how can we, as youth staff, inspire young people to engage in Caritas, what competencies should we develop to be able to lead them effectively. Then we discussed how we can best reach out to young people, how to communicate with them, how to attract them to Caritas and how to build our relationships with them.

The last – but very crucial – step, was to work on a clear Action Plan that each participant could implement in the coming months. To create it, first, participants exchanged the practices that already are going on in their organisations. They shared the projects, campaigns and other actions that young people in European Caritas’s engage in. After this round of inspirations, we thought of each step that we should take into consideration when planning youth activities and then participants were ready for a specific Action Plan for each country or diocese. They were happy to share their plans and support each other in implementing it.

Between sessions directly focused on Young Caritas, we also had the opportunity to listen to the lecture provided by Christophe Busch, director of Hannah Arendt Institute in Mechelen, Belgium. He presented to us processes that lead towards polarization in society that causes social divisions, prejudices, hate and can even lead to direct violence. Social activism, creating opportunities for young people to meet “the other” is a way to counteract this issue. And in that sense, Caritas has an important mission for young people – to give them the opportunities to transcend their social bubble, to build a sense of solidarity in themselves and to be ready to cooperate with other people despite their background or the differences between them.  This is what many of us wants to do through Young Caritas. This is also something that Pope Francis in his new encyclical calls us to do – to create a united society where differences between us enrich us, not divide: “Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travellers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth, which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all. (8)”

This workshop was the next important step in Caritas Europa’s journey towards increased youth engagement. There are many important steps ahead of us, we will work on a Young Caritas toolkit for all Member Organisations, we will invite more young people and youth staff into Caritas Europa working structures, we will create new international projects and we will keep meeting remotely. And if the pandemic situation will allow – one day we will meet face-to-face to celebrate our work with young people.

We want to express gratitude to the workshop participants from Armenian Caritas, Suomen Caritas, Caritas Hellas, Caritas Polska, Caritas Sofia, Caritas Bulgaria, Cáritas Española, Young Caritas Moldova, Caritas Bosne i Hercegovine, Caritas Srbije, Charita Česká Republika, Caritas Lodigiana, Caritas diocesana Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro, Caritas Verona and Caritas Firenze for their participation and commitment to young people. A big thanks also to our facilitator, Cristina Rigman, who guided us during those days. And finally, good luck to all participants in implementing their Action Plans!