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Millenium Ambassadors or Youth in Action

21820993642_60f1a04cd3_kby Kristina Tolordava

Have you ever thought to participate in a high-level panel discussion where one of the guests would be Prime-Minister of Latvia and other world leaders? And even more,  that you are not going just to attend the meeting but also discuss the topic with them? Does it sound to you too unrealistic?

Well, believe me, it is certainly realistic business to do and what is important, our two respondents have been those lucky ones whose voices were heard globally on June 1-6 in Brussels. Thus, let me take an adventage of this ocassion and share with you a few personal observations on an active involvement of Latvian youngsters into global discussions covering variety of topics starting from gender issues and ending with environment concerns.

‘Millenium Kids’ and consequent project ‘Millenium Ambassadors’ is about the contest for youth who are born around millennium and who are actively contributing to SDG goals in Latvia. As a result of the contest, two most active and successful youngsters were chosen to travel to Brussels from 1-6 June and met other participants from Ireland, Belgium, Lebanon, Congo and Indonesia. During this business trip, they got acquainted with various information about global development, and more importantly they were able to interact with world leaders about their vision for the post2015 SDG’s.  After Millennium kids return home and become an ambassador for the European Year of Development – talking about development during festivals and events, and online via social media.

So, now more about our winners. Ralfs Grinvalds comes from Latvia, Ventspils. He is a senior high school student and after graduation he shall move forward to find his own place in his life. Ralfs is an active youngster who frequently participates in different youth projects and also is in charge of public speeches for a school parliament. Edgars Kozulins is from Riga. He studies in a technical school in Riga. Alike to Ralfs, he is a very energetic youngster who works as a  photographer at National Youth Council of Latvia. Besides, he has established dance group “The Others” where he performs choreographers’ duties.

In order to win the contest, each of them had to make certain actions. Within this requirement, Ralfs made a video about an ongoing earthquake in Nepal. As a result of a disaster, many people were in a very poor condition and urgently seeking for a help. Ralfs saw where he could possibly contribute and made a video focused on a donation which clearly gave a message to the rest of the world to support people of Nepal. As for Edgars, he wrote an article about saving the environment, as one of the goals of Millenium Goals is about environment protection.

I was deeply interested in the motivation of my young respondents, what was the driving force behind such an action.

Ralfs eagerly shared his compassion of exploring new areas deeper, as he noted: ‘Daily life makes you miss a lot, you wake up in the morning, you go to school, you do casual things –what in a way prevents to see other things around you. In this regard, I would like to get deeper into things what actually is happening in the world and perhaps I can change something. I wanted to see what was going on in an adults’ world and in the world where a smart people talk  and decide major problems and maybe I can be one of them in times’…For Edgars participation in this contest was a step in a different world which turned out for him enormously important and once he realized the significance of  development goals he figured that he ought to do something about it.

In fact, there are some stages or events in the lifetime what may turn one’s live in a different direction. By following this logic, I was curious about contestants’ life, perhaps this project was in a way vital for their further development?! To find out if I was near to the truth, my next question exactly referred about the possible impact this particular project could have had on them.

Ralfs gladly shared his impressions about the project and how it had affected his vision about his future. Now, he is extremely interested in politics and thinks about connecting his life with learning Comparative Politics and also Psychology. Further, he mentioned that he had an opportunity to interact with variety  people of various background and most notably this is what he finds as his biggest passion- to talk, to share, to hear and to be heard. Edgars spelled very shortly ‘A lot’ and then proceeded: ‘After a week in Brussels, I was attending “LAPAS” tent events where I was informing young people about development goals 2015 and my own experience in regards to it. Since then,  I have been interviewed many times by different media sources and it seems to me that I became a quite popular.’-He laughs at this point.

Indeed, The motto of “Millenium Ambassadors” which is the following project of Millenium Kids”, where the same participants are involved is very interesting. It sounds to me as a very fair warning: ” Do Not Decide Our Future Without Us’”! In regard to this, it was interesting to find out who exactly my respondents were addressing it to;

Ralfs: ‘Sometimes it seems to me and I think my peers would agree on that, that our voices are not well heard by authorities. I think we, youngsters have a lot of things to share and they (government) shall listen to us.’ Edgars: ‘It is for youth in the world. If we keep complaining about our present then that’s the very reason why we need to change it. What is important, we have this opportunity now and ” Millenium Ambassadors” is precisely about the fact that we have an opportunity to influence politics which is primarily linked with our future. Although, it is addressed to politicians to some extent.

It is often said that criticizing government is rather easy while decision-making and accountability is much harder to bear. Therefore, while hearing the complaints about what government does or does not do, I asked my respondents to imagine themselves in governments‘shoes’ and behave as one would act in the position of a president or prime minister of Latvia and waited how “Millenium Kids” would use it in relation to children?

Ralfs finds the education as starting point. He thinks, that global society shall work on this aspect very thoroughly. Edgars wants to cancel the law about volunteer work which is gonna be in force from 1st of January. The main issue here lies in the substance of the statute which straightly prohibits involvement of kids in a volunteer work during working days. He thinks this will prevent children to perform volunteer’s work, which in turn will negatively affect their kind aspirations to contribute to the well-being of others and also lose an unique opportunity of working as a volunteer.

My next question was aimed to reflect the issues of Latvian youth through the eyes of my respondents.

Ralfs finds difficult to use the knowledge without experience. He wants to feel a bit  in a skin of people who are actually working and making the money. Fortunately, he sees along with the issue also a solution which is Life-long learning. He strongly believes that young people shall be equipped with readiness and willingness to adapt to changing environment and its subsequent needs. Edgars also mentioned the importance of a good quality of educaton. He thinks that Latvia needs to work on this aspect and one of development goals is exactly about increasing the quality of education.He also sees a problem in the formal educaion while  non formal education seems to him more useful. Edgars thinks it would be much better if to merge informal and non formal education and make it compulsory.

My last question referred to the future of youth in Latvia and outside its boundaries.

Ralfs considers that each person is an unique and the changes in his/her life very much depend upon them. On a local level, he also does not foresee major issues which may drag Latvia way back although he admits that some global events such as a refugee crisis, or unemployment may affect the country. He is much grateful to the EU for variety of learning opportunities it has provided him so far and  is glad that since Latvia is in EU the country has become more international.  Ralfs fully enjoyes the benefits of borderless EU where he may move  freely and find his own place. As he spelled:’ I think the future of an entire world will be brighter if we work on it. If everyone puts  a bit of an effort in making this place a better one, then it definitely will be better.’ Edgars wants youth to be more active and take all the opportunities they are given and he hopes they will do it at some point.

At the very end of our cheerful and interesting conversation, ‘Millenium Kids/Ambassadors’  left messages to their peers.

Ralfs: ‘I would like to encourage everybody who has not done anything helpful for others to search for a way to help, search for a way to interact, search for a way to share your opinion and I think you gonna feel better then and maybe you find your passion as I did. Edgars: ‘I hope that youth will be more active and you (politicians) will listen to active youth.’

If only government on local and world level would listen to the youth, if only they could give more space for discussions, if only they could be more open while making decision directly affecting this and next generation, what actually would happen? If in reality the youth is actively involved in global politics, will be the world a better place to live in?

This question I would leave for you to think about, but one fast glance at our respondents is enough to see that they got something to advice and its worth to have a close look at it.