Let’s catch the wind!

Conference Summary

Last weekend was special in the life of Fekete Sereg Youth Association because for the very first time we organized an international conference in Nagyvázsony. It got the name „Let’s catch the wind”, an expression known in sailing. The wind symbolizes the hardships and the rewards, the good fortune of Life, the Journey we are all on. To catch the wind, we need constant practice, it is about trust, it is about listening, understanding and continuous learning. Therefore, the idea of the weekend was to gather together and share experiences on social entrepreneurship and volunteering. This common aim brought together youth workers, social entrepreneurs, diplomats, economists and young people from around the world. The participants literally sailed across the seven seas to get to Nagyvázsony – we hosted people from Tunesia, Columbia, Nepal, Peru and several countries of Europe.

The first day’s focus was on social entrepreneurship, an innovative type of business with social and environmental mission. The first presentation was held by Henry Devia Prado, Mayor of the Town of Pradera (Colombia). He delivered a speech on the current issues and possibilities of the young people living in Colombia, took a stand for peace and made a strong call for international cooperation. Reflecting on the subject of the day, Mr Nándor Németh, economy developer spoke about the good practice of the exceptional Hetedhét Határ Social Cooperative founded in a small Hungarian village, Gyulaj.

Speaking about innovation, technology and the importance of social responsibility, we also learnt about a new government project called „INPUT program”. Mónika Mátyás, coordinator of the project gave us a real insight into the program and its mission – their aim is to facilitate the growth and the transformation of the Hungarian tech startups and encourage people to start their own businesses. After the individual presentations of our guests, the participants had the opportunity to choose among various sessions and discuss the topics they were particularly interested in. It did not only help people to gain comprehensive knowledge about the methods of building successful social enterprises but the group discussions also delved deeper into the ways social entrepreneurs and young people can use innovative strategies to maximize social change in our communities.

The second day of the conference provided experts, young people, ex and future EVS volunteers with the opportunity to talk about the possibilities of volunteerism, civil service and granted them the platform to interact and network. Representatives of international organizations working in the field gave presentations in which they discussed their own experiences and shared their knowledge related to volunteering. As an example, the presentation held by a delegate of the Hungarian National Agency helped the EVS coordinators and youngsters to understand the links between Erasmus+, EVS and European Solidarity Corps. The president of Pistes Solidaire Mathieu Decq also presented the civil service opportunity in France. The highlight of the day was listening to the stories of two „pillars” of Fekete Sereg, Hamdi and Viktor. Hamdi, a young man from Tunesia is the very first EVS volunteer the association has ever hosted. This was 12 years ago, in 2006. Now Hamdi is happily married, proud father of a little girl, only one thing has not changed – he is still fluent in Hungarian.  He was very happy to recall his memories of volunteering in Nagyvázsony, he explained how the voluntary experience has changed his life – he „adopted” a big Hungarian family who he is still in touch with, he learnt how to take risks and jump into a new experience, he became more self-confident and is less afraid of the unknown.

His speech was followed by the presentation of Viktor, another ex EVS volunteer who was born in Nagyvázsony and used to support the work of Fekete Sereg. His story is also one of a kind. Originally he wanted to apply for a project in Mallorca but for some reason it did not work out and this is how he ended up volunteering in Turkey. And as one step followed the next, he learned the language and fell in love with the local culture. After his EVS, Viktor came back to Hungary but took the chance to apply for a position at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and shortly after he found himself in Turkey again, working for the Embassy of Hungary in Ankara as the Cultural Attaché. He clearly stated that this could have never happened without his EVS experience in Turkey. Back then he was very young (only 26 years old) and now, thinking back, he highlighted that the main reason why he got the job was that he was fluent in Turkish language. The message of the two presentations was the same – Viktor and Hamdi encouraged youngsters to get up, step out of their comfort zone and make a difference not only in their lives, but also in the world.

Previously I mentioned the seven seas and this now reminded me of the wonderful poem „Human Family” written by my favourite poet and essayist, Dr. Maya Angelou. In this poem, she says that she „sailed upon the seven seas and stopped in every land” and even after seeing all kinds of people from all over the world she believes that „we are more alike than unalike”. I feel that this understanding is the true gift of volunteering, travelling and meeting people from abroad. When we talk, listen and learn from each other regardless of where we come from, we can easily realise that we all have the same story, we share the same human experience. We might differ in details but on a bigger scale we all should understand that we are the same and as we are all living on Planet Earth it is our common responsibility to come together from time to time and discuss how we can help each other. I think this was the main message of the conference – to catch the wind as well as each other’s hands and use this energy to make a difference in our own community. Because if we do our little bit of good wherever we are, these little bits of good will add up and together they will overwhelm the world.

Anna Herold