The Cross Border Cooperation networking event is the annual meeting place of professionals in cross-border cooperation from the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries. It aims at facilitating dialogue between local governments, NGOs, academia, culture and business representatives. The 2023 edition has been devoted to youth under the “City of Youth” slogan with Lublin holding the title of the European Youth Capital (EYC) 2023. The EYC title also signifies municipal efforts in the field of youth and cooperation across the border in Ukraine.
In this context, the congress discussed issues related to youth migration and its role in intercultural integration. During the opening panel, participants talked about the significant role that young people play in shaping the city, as well as the efforts and strategies needed to harness their potential and turn their aspirations into practice. Adapting to a new reality is challenging and even more difficult for those who were forced to flee and who find themselves on unknown territory, and suddenly as refugees. They arrive from war zone having left their homes and escaped danger. With limited resources and networks to rely on, people are looking for means and options to cope with and maneuver in their new situation. It is crucial to emphasize the challenges of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the need for humanitarian partners to continue work side by side with local actors and municipalities.
The presence of DRC’s country director at the Congress made it possible to share the organisational hands on experience and knowledge around the needs of displaced youth in the region. This kind of hands-on engagement further strengthens links with local actors and promotes synergies to tailor assistance more effectively to locally defined needs of the displaced population affected by the war in Ukraine.
“It is obvious, that a significant number of the Ukrainian refugees in Europe are struggling to access protection assistance in displacement, despite the remarkable welcome offered by host countries. Strengthening the refugee human capital in displacement is one of the priorities of DRC and partners led intervention in Poland and in the region particularly. The human capital which young refugees who find their home in the city bring with them is invaluable. DRC has an important role to play here when it comes to creating and facilitating spaces that are safe, inclusive, and offer protection, education and psychosocial well-being. We work closely with the Polish civil society and duty-bearers to make this happen, and to help guide the response spearheaded by local organisations” - says Helena Lassen, DRC PMR country director.
Social Activism through partners
The city of Lublin located not far from the Polish-Ukrainian border has been providing shelter for hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine. As the full-scale war in Ukraine continues into its second year, Lublin holds a special place on the map of DRC operations in Poland. Since 2022, DRC has been supporting a partner-led humanitarian response for the assistance and protection of refugees and other vulnerable people from Ukraine, and the communities, including organisations and local authorities in Lublin.
A so-called safe space – Baobab, run by the DRC partner in Lublin – the Homo Faber Association has appeared on the map of Lublin in early 2023 but has already become a significant and known spot for youth in the city. It has become even more special to migrants and refugee youth within the initiative titled “Integrational Youth Club”. The initiative was met with great interest. A total of 44 young people aged 12-17 have been engaged in organising cinema screenings, cooking sessions as well as initiating street art activities, all facilitated by experienced youth workers.
In recognition of the unleashed capacities of youth, the similar initiatives were successfully implemented in different parts of Poland. DRC and Polish civil society organisations established a network of such centres where alongside access to basic needs, leadership talents, new hobbies and interests are also nurtured. One of them is Wroclaw Community Center where an initiative called “Intercultural Peer Club” has been implemented recently. The programme covered the trainings on anti-violence and discrimination for Ukrainian girls under the campaign “WenDO”. During the trainings, participants learned how to respond to violence and various forms of personal boundary crossing.
Community Centre in Gdynia in northern part of the country runs the be-weekly meetings of the Friend’s Club for children aged 12-14 ensuring the integration and adaptation into a new reality. While in Rzeszów English Speaking Club for teenagers became the safe to learn and to connect around their native culture. The daily operation of the community centres is facilitated by Polish non-governmental organisations based on their specific expertise, know-how and the strong networks and relations they have built in the area. With our strong presence in the region, DRC in Poland is committed to ensuring those affected by Ukraine conflict claim their basic rights, are included and empowered.