Community Activism Summer Camp Motivation for New Opportunities

“I felt hopeless until July of this year when I saw an ad for the Summer Activism Camp. “I considered it an opportunity to learn something that will help me make my ideas a reality, said the youngest participant of the Community Activism Summer Camp.

Her name is Esma, and although she just started high school, she already has plenty of experience advocating for change. Esma says that she didn’t really perceive what she did as activism: “The world of activism was unknown to me, the term ‘activism’ didn’t mean anything to me, and I didn’t identify with it.”

She adds that she was not very happy with the results or with the way things unfolded: “I volunteered at school, but that was pretty unsuccessful. All the initiatives failed except for those started by the school. Even then, our volunteer group was just there to be photographed, and we were useless as an actual movement.”

Esma, together with more than 80 young people from 12 local communities: Bihać, Centar Sarajevo, Gacko, Goražde, Gradiška, Istočno Sarajevo, Mostar, Novo Sarajevo, Prozor-Rama, Prijedor, Ugljevik, and Vitez, signed up to participate in the Community Activism Summer Camp. The camp was organized by the Institute for Youth Development KULT as part of the project “Strengthening the Capacity of Young People from 13 Partner Communities,” which is part of the Regional Program for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2). This project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

So, why did we choose Esma? We were simply impressed with the way this young girl thinks, especially when she said, “I’ve always thought that it’s very important to be active in your community. I want to share ideas with like-minded people and take the opportunity to be a part of something that will benefit society. Unfortunately, I don’t often get opportunities like this one, which just makes me want to seize it even more.”

The Community Activism Summer Camp allowed young people to spend a few days with trainers from the Institute for Youth Development KULT. Through different tasks, group work, and sharing opinions, they discovered creative solutions, recognized their skills and abilities, and learned how to identify needs and shape ideas that could be translated into actual activities.

After the camp, all teams from these local communities were tasked with organizing a Youth Dialogue. They were supported by a mentor from the Institute for Youth Development KULT, a UN volunteer working in the ReLOaD2 program, and a youth officer.

This is what Esma had to say about her experience at the camp, organizing the Youth Dialogue in the community, and her assessment of her newly acquired skills and knowledge: “I think it goes without saying that this was a beautiful and useful experience, but the main benefit is that I now identify with the word ‘activism.’ I will continue to be more proactive in seeking opportunities that were always there, but I hadn’t noticed before.”

The youth dialogue was an opportunity to discuss what young people want and need and how to achieve it. The youth from Centar Municipality used the dialogue to talk about who can help young people in this community to launch an initiative or another activity. It was noted that the Municipality is already making significant efforts to support youth in this. However, young people think it would be useful to form a group that would receive proposals for different initiatives: “I think it would be good to organize a tree-planting activity. Seedlings could be bought with funds made collecting and selling old paper.”

Providing youth with mentorship and support while they were organizing the Youth Dialogue was an opportunity to get to know the youth of Centar municipality a bit better. It became clear that, while these young people are generally happy with their community, they are still motivated to work on improving their capacities.

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