A bridge from Rustavi to Europe – “Georgian youth for Europe”

Rustavi, Batumi Street #22 – a place where volunteers from EU countries gather for informal education of young people. Here, they do different activities every day.

The idea around which these people unite is European values and development. At the head of all this is the organization “Georgian Youth for Europe”.

The organization was founded in 2007.

With the help of the youth programs of the European Commission and the Council of Europe, they implement various projects. Over the years, they have been able to host up to 220 long-term and short-term volunteers.

Today, Bakar Gelashvili is the volunteer coordinator of the organization. Initially, he was a participant in a long-term volunteer program in Poland for 10 months.

“This organization helped me to get an experience that I will always remember. Being there changed a lot of things in me and I developed more. I saw many things from a different angle.

I was in a city that is smaller than Rustavi. I interacted with Polish young people, it was interesting to communicate with them and get to know their culture. Also, I had the opportunity to participate in many interesting activities.

After arriving from Poland, a vacancy appeared in this organization – volunteer coordinator. Today we have seven volunteers from different countries, and I am their connecting link”, – Bakar Gelashvili, coordinator of long-term volunteers.

“Georgian Youth for Europe”, in parallel with ongoing international projects, also implements local level initiatives – creates various clubs and organizes non-formal education activities.

The European Solidarity Program is one of the directions that finances all the necessary expenses for young people between the ages of 18-30 to be able to go to EU member states and engage in volunteer activities.

It should be noted that the volunteering directions are diverse and the participants themselves choose what activities they want.

The founder of the organization tells us about the current programs.

Alexi Metreveli notes that many young people, with the help of their projects, were able to discover themselves and master a completely new profession.

“We are trying to involve many young people in the programs – to learn about European values, to see in reality whether Europe is good or bad. make friends

Here, there is a completely different kind of relationship. The most important thing about these programs is that they have opened up other opportunities for many young people. Many found a completely new field.

99% of activities are of international level. Thousands of young people, not only from Rustaveli, had the opportunity to participate during these years.

The organization works in three directions. First: short-term exchange programs funded by the European Commission are for young people aged 13-30. Second: trainings, seminars, study visits where young people can participate free of charge. Third: European volunteer service – we send and receive volunteers.

Due to the fact that we are not a member state of the European Union, we cannot be an applicant organization, but we have partners in different countries of the European Union, who submit an application, the program is financed, and then we already host it here”, – Alex Metreveli, the founder of the organization.

He talks about the importance of supporting youth organizations at the municipality level. Metreveli says that the administration of budgetary funding should be done efficiently so that various youth organizations can obtain funding through the competition. According to him, this would significantly increase the quality of youth services.

“We are an apolitical organization, which means that we were the opposition of all governments. Unfortunately, we did not benefit from any budget funding. It is hoped that in the future this will change and municipal services will be more connected to youth organizations who actually implement youth policy and there will not be a closed space at the city, village or community level.

5-6 organizations from Rustavi were actively involved in the development of the youth policy document, which was prepared and unfortunately, it was not worth implementing. There is a budget that is allocated for young people, and any non-governmental organization can have access to it – apply on the basis of a competition and not be administered by the youth organizations of the municipality.

There are several strong organizations in Rustavi that can offer the same service to young people in a better and more transparent manner. Involvement will be much more”, – Alex Metreveli, founder of the organization.

At the end of our conversation, we ask about the so-called “Russian law”.

Metreveli recalls the example of Belarus, when the work of non-governmental organizations in the country became impossible after the adoption of a similar law.

“We were against this law because there was no need for it – our sector is absolutely transparent. Therefore, the additional lever was not needed in any way.

We have many friends from Belarus who are currently working from Georgia. Exactly 7-8 years ago, the same law was initiated there. After that, they would not settle in Belarus again. Now they work online from Georgia.

There is a danger that if this topic spreads in the future and they want to adopt this law again, the European Union will most likely limit the implementation of programs in Georgia, just as it happened in the case of Belarus”, says Alex Metreveli.

Author: Nino Beridze

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