Together with fifteen youth leaders we travelled through Ukraine and reflected on political and personal development. The tour was aimed towards skills development to make a change in society based on respect for diversity.
Since the ‘Revolution of Dignity’ (known as ‘Maydan’) sprang up at the end of 2014, Ukraine has found itself in crisis. Internal forces such as separatist and patriotic movements, as well as external forces , namely the Russian occupation, are obstructing attempts to solve the conflict. Potential youth leaders are part of the solution in which peace and mutual respect for diversity go hand in hand. Unlike many representatives of the elder generations, young people often feel their efforts can make a difference in creating the future they envision. Hence, the aim of this project was to bolster the potential of youth leaders / young activists and generate respect for diversity through exchange and training. We tried to do this through a annual organised tour between 2015 and 2018.
Interested candidates applied by answering various questions. People were selected based on motivation, geography, sex and willingness to engage in dialogue. Political viewpoint did not play a role in the selection process. Hence, participants came from all over Ukraine, even the non-governmental controlled areas (NGCA).
The main activity of this project was the travel itself, during which various activities took place. As many Ukrainians have not travelled much outside of their own region, getting around the country was in and of itself valuable. Participants learned more about their own country during conversations with host communities and among the group itself. This in turn led to a greater feeling of interconnectedness.
During the tour different workshops , including personal development and group workshops, were given, mainly based on the non-violent communication (NVC) approach. Within the group workshops, a safe environment was created in which sensitive social and personal topics could be discussed. The participants were also encouraged to consider initiating change themselves, step by step, rather than waiting for the government to take action. To gain insights on the different possibilities of doing so, participants learned how to structure a Personal Development Plan (PoP).
Guest speakers provided input for dynamic discussions. These guest lectures were reviewed within the group workshops afterwards.
The first challenge was to attract a diverse group of people. Thanks to our persistence, we managed to bring together a diverse group. Another challenge was then to sufficiently inspire the youth during the trip so they would take what they learned and use it to bring about change in their own environment after the Youth Peace Tour was over. The follow-up of the project is aimed to help achieve this second aim.