From 27 to 29 October 2023, the Finnish National Rescue Association (SPEK) and the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) hosted international workshops in Padasjoki, Finland, focused on youth involvement in building resilient societies. Young volunteers and civil protection authorities from across the Baltic Sea Region, including Denmark, Finland, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden, gathered to explore the role of youth in crisis management and to promote a culture of volunteerism. A key topic of discussion was leveraging social media to foster volunteerism.
These workshops were part of two collaborative projects: VOALA, led by CBSS and funded by the Swedish Institute, and BYFORES, coordinated by SPEK with financial support from the CBSS Project Support Facility.
The first session, “Building Resilience in One’s Community,” saw youth delve into critical aspects of their engagement and their proactive roles within their communities. Peer-to-peer interaction, the active role of schools in practical skills development, and regular cross-border cooperation were emphasised.
Participants suggested incorporating emergency days in schools to train children in various emergency responses, highlighting the importance of swimming lessons in safety education and the need for teaching anti-discrimination and mental health awareness.
The latter part of the workshop concentrated on increasing volunteer appeal among young people, specifically through social media. Young attendees shared their definitions of volunteerism, highlighting it as a community-centric mindset geared towards aiding others and creating a positive societal change. Team bonding and training emerged as the most exciting aspects of volunteering in civil protection.
One critical question posed was how to engage more young people in volunteerism. Utilizing social media as a tool was a significant part of the solution, with discussions around campaign creation, best practices, and effective content strategies.
Recommendations from young volunteers on using social media included focusing on relatable content for youth, showcasing diversity, combining online presence with community action, providing quality content, using different platforms for broader reach, and crafting clear messages for target audiences.
The workshop proved to be an invaluable platform for sharing experiences and strategies in promoting volunteerism both on the ground and online.
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