Youth development programme hopes to promote civic values

23-01-2004

The third year of the Make a Connection program was officially launched this week. The programme aims to help instil civic values in young people by supporting youth development projects. The programme also hopes to help youngsters learn valuable life skills.

The Make a Connection programme is now entering its third year. The programme is headed by the Czech Civil Society Development Foundation, which provides grant support to the non-profit sector. Operating in various countries around the world, the programme aims to promote positive youth development by giving young people a chance to "make a connection" and become involved with the communities they live in. The outgoing coordinator for the programme, Lenka Naceradska believes that promoting the idea of volunteer work among the young is one of the best ways of tackling the decline in civic values that occurred under communism, which is seen by many as a problem throughout Czech society:

"We hope to tackle it through young people. This may be the easiest solution, instead of trying to change the older generation. Of course this is down to the historical background of the Czech Republic and all of Eastern Europe. While there were some volunteers in the past, [this activity] was so devalued that nobody was proud of giving anything to society. The main thing was just to do your own things for yourself."

The programme has already supported 150 projects in the last two years. These range from a "museum on wheels" that enables the disabled to visit historic sites to educational activities for disadvantaged children. Besides financial support, the Make a Connection programme also provides various types of management training to the volunteers involved in the projects. It is hoped that the experience and skills that the young people learn will be of invaluable use to them later on in life.

Those running the programme are willing to consider applications from young people aged between 16 and 24 years for support for various projects. There is no set agenda for the type of activity a project intends to implement so long as it is of benefit to the wider community. Lenka Naceradska explains:

"We don't support projects where a group of young people simply play football. We would support projects where - for example - they help to establish a football ground and they invite the rest of the community to be there with them. [The support] is not for the project itself. They have to open it up to the outside world - to their friends and to their society."

If you are interested in finding out more about the Make a Connection programme you can visit the programme's website at www.makeaconnection.org (for information in Czech visit www.makeaconnection.cz)

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