In November 2016, a new YouthBuild generation of 12 students, started their courses and activities. The young students, aged up to 26 years old, hadn’t been in employment, education or training when the opportunity of participating in the YouthBuild program showed up. Some of them were struggling with being out on their own, after having grown up in foster homes. Others came from the most vulnerable community in Cluj-Napoca, Roma youth living in small, decrepit homes, without basic utilities, near the city garbage dump. None of them had the resources at their disposal to think past tomorrow.
Within the YouthBuild program, the students set out to attend a professional qualification course (either manicure-pedicure or hairdressing), participate in nonformal education activities, english classes or community asset building. Their activities will end in late February 2017. In their first meeting, they talked about their expectations and their fears. They talked about wanting to learn, and about being afraid of making mistakes and disappointing those that put their trust in them.
Learning for a qualification
Florin, 25 years old, has always liked hairdressing. He steals tips from his personal hairdresser and feels more comfortable with the practical part than the theory. He has learnt more about cutting hair from understanding the trainer’s explanations, his own mistakes and how to fix them.
After asking him of his first client, he told the story of trying to hairdress his friend, before starting the YouthBuild program. He tried to do the work in his home, after watching tutorials online. It didn’t come out as he was hoping and he doesn’t feel he did very well. Afterwards, he apologized to his friend. Then his face lights up, and he explains how on the previous day, he hairdressed the same friend again, during the practical work of the course. It came out the way he wanted, and his friend was satisfied. And Florin felt proud. He realized he had progressed and learnt a lot. As the program approaches its conclusion, he is making plans for learning more things from his stylist friend. He hopes to be able to work as a hairdresser in the future.
As part of the YouthBuild program, the students also participated in day-long sessions of nonformal education. They use games, exercises and discussions, to work on their communication and teamworking skills, with the guidance of a qualified trainer.
Ancuța, 20 years, is qualifying in manicure and pedicure. The nonformal activities and english classes are the only times she gets to spend with the whole group.
„It was hard in the beginning to talk with the others, but the trainer has a way of approaching us and explain things that immediately pulls you in. And it helps, because it’s become easier to talk to eachother, about what we’re learning and what we want to do.”, Ancuta says about the training sessions. „In one of the exercises, we were divided in smaller groups and had to build a tower from few materials. Everyone had their own ideas about how to do it. In the end, our tower fell apart. Seeing our work like that, I learned that we had to listen to each other, and not just stick with what we know, because that’s not ok,” she concluded her story.
How we serve others
A meaningful part of the YouthBuild program is serving the community. For this generation of students, it meant reaching out to Cojocna, a village near Cluj-Napoca. There, under the guidance of father Rednic, the local priest, the YouthBuild students participated in the putting the foundations of a local community center for local children belonging to vulnerable groups.
„We set out at the start of 2016 to build a Social-Missionary Community Center to reach out to Roma children, youth and grown ups who want more from their lives. The YouthBuild students participated on October, 25th in construction work of the Community Center. The students offered us support and became role models for the local youth, to get involved as much as they could. We confess that we can’t expect the weather to get better, to start work again. Having your group help us in our endeavour will make a big difference,” says father Rednic of the action.
Serving the community has made the students more aware of the help they received themselves. Talking about the people that made the program possible for them, they expressed their gratitude, and the hope that others will receive the chance that they got.
„I want to thank all the supporters for giving me, and all of us, this chance. It’s hard to find such people, I mean – they are making sacrifices for us. And I’d like for them to see in us the results of their work, and be happy about it,” says Ancuța.