Hundreds of young people gathered from 27th April – 2nd May at Connect Slovenia, an international youth-led conference encouraging youngsters to “be the change they wish to see for the world”.
“I have been to the place where everything is possible because people make it possible” Connect Slovenia Participant
Nives, Lea, Katharina, Hagar, Orijan, Floriaan and Kristien are in their early twenties. They are talented, committed and form the international Core Team behind Connect 2018 – a five-day event that brought together 200 youngsters from around the globe at the Ljubljana Waldorf School in Slovenia.
Connect conference originated more than 10 years ago in the Youth Section at the Goetheanum. It quickly became an independent, spontaneous movement that enabled young attendees to become the event organisers in their local communities. This year the team’s objective was to provide students in the final year of high school with the opportunity that Connect gave them two years ago in Belgium: a safe space to bond with likeminded people searching for ways to make a difference in the world.
Supported by nearly fifty young volunteers, schoolteachers, experienced youth workers and previous Connect organisers acting as mentors, the team developed a full on programme that gave participants multiple opportunities to connect:
“We envision this week to be a safe space full of freedom, inspiration, action, light, music and laughter. We have put together a programme which is both an offer from our side and an open space for you to co-create a unique experience…”
Amongst the collaborators was Andrea de la Cruz from the Youth Section at the Goetheanum’s team, who presented the upcoming International Youth Conference Becoming Human (Dornach, 14-18 July). She also facilitated conversation groups and a workshop inspired by the Section’s research project, which asks 18-35 year olds “What will the world look like in 2030 if what lives within us becomes a reality, and what will we do to make it happen?”
Preparations for Connect 2018 began over a year ago, giving the team enough time to establish strong relationships with organisations and schools in Europe, Africa and America. They also secured the necessary financial support to enable a key wish of the organisers: “to bring together different cultures, religions and social classes in order to break down the prejudices and barriers in our minds.”
They achieved enough support to gather representatives from more than 20 countries including Argentinian, Brazilian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, German, Romanian and Tanzanian youth. Ugandan students were also expected to join them in the Slovenian capital but despite all of the team’s efforts, the participants were denied visas to travel. The reasons given by the authorities were that the “conference seemed fake”, and that they did not believe the young Ugandans would return to the country after their European visit.
It was not an easy experience for the Tanzanians either, who were retained and questioned at European borders whilst their stories were fact-checked with different organisers.
The discrimination and injustice that the African youngsters faced, deeply touched the young attendees who became determined to connect deeper and better as soon as they understood the privilege of their own situations. When asked about the future during the Youth Section’s sessions, they did not hesitate to project a future with “less borders, more intercultural friendships, hope and exposure for those who couldn’t be here”.
For more information about Connect Slovenia, visit www.connectslovenia.org
To register for Becoming Human (14-18 July) www.becominghuman2018.com
To participate or enquire about the Youth Section’s research project email firstname.lastname@example.org