On Friday 6th July 2018 the European Union Programmes Agency (EUPA) held its annual Volunteering Event, entitled Enhancing Volunteering through Solidarity Projects, at Antoine de Paule Hall at San Anton Palace. The event, under the patronage of H. E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta, convened together young people from Malta and across Europe who had participated or are currently participating on a voluntary basis in placement projects funded by the European Commission (EC) under the Erasmus+ Programme and dealing with various topics such as the environment, culture, social services, refugees, migrants, children and the elderly.
Representatives of 20 voluntary organisations attended for the event. In the first part, the event was addressed by H. E. Coleiro Preca, President of Malta; Hon. Aaron Farrugia MP, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue; and Mr Joseph Schembri, EUPA’s Chief Executive Officer. Introducing the event, Mr Schembri highlighted the role of the Agency to serve as a facilitator enabling youths to better engage themselves in voluntary work and projects that can benefit from the Erasmus+ volunteering programme that is currently fully transitioning to the European Solidarity Corps, launched in December 2016. In this regard, Mr Schembri explained how the Solidarity Corps not just provides a framework for volunteering opportunities for youths across Europe, but it also creates opportunities for young people to develop their skills and improve their future labour market prospects by means of a job or a traineeship. To this effect, by Autumn 2018 it is envisaged that the first calls for an even wider range of volunteering, traineeships, jobs and solidarity projects will be made possible by the Solidarity Corps’ own allocated budget, namely 341.5 million Euros, that shall be made available between 2018 and 2020. Such a budget allocation is also highly indicative of the EC’s drive to strive for an increase in the utilisation of funds allocated to the voluntary strand of the Solidarity Corps, especially in countries such as Malta that are performing very well where employment figures are concerned.
In their address, both H. E. Coleiro Preca and Hon. Farrugia MP highlighted their personal involvement, since their youth days, in the voluntary sector and the manner in which such involvement served as an enabler for them to better appreciate not just the social realities that they got in touch with thanks to their participation in various voluntary experiences, but also the crucial role which the EC played in mobilising youths to participate in the voluntary sector. Such a centralised role adopted by the EC enabled hosting organisations to consolidate their success that would be ensured taking into account the guidance that such organisations receive from respective national agencies to achieve accreditation and quality certification as part of the vetting process in advance of implementing the voluntary projects concerned.
In this respect, President Coleiro Preca highlighted that “[i]t is important for all the young people of Europe to work together, to make real difference in their own lives, in the lives of their peers and communities, and across Europe” and that within this context, the Solidarity Corps provided the ideal framework for such youths to “working in synergy across Europe to bring the necessary respect and appreciation for each other and for our diversity”.
In the second, more informal part, of the event a discussion panel comprised of a sample of representatives from among the participating volunteering organisations shared with the audience the experiences they accumulated on a personal and organisational level during the execution of their voluntary projects. The panel participants were Sergey Begun (Ċentru Tbexbix), Emer Earley (Inspire Foundation), Svitlana Falenda (Emergency Response & Rescue Corps), Beatriz Costa (Migrant Offshore Aid Station), Abraham Azzopardi (PRISMS) and Keith Cachia (MOVE). The discussion was moderated by Ms Marvic Ann Debono, Programme Manager and Head of Youth Sector at the EUPA.
The event was concluded by an informal gathering in the adjacent San Anton Gardens. Members of the participating voluntary organisations had the opportunity to join the Corps through the European Youth Portal by accessing the following link: https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity_en.
Photos/linked media courtesy of the President’s Press Office / President’s Facebook Page