The study visit consisted in 4 days (1-5 June) around the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, its youth centres (especially the De Poort Jugendcentrum) and a survey on the method applied in education. My expectations before leaving were to know directly the reality of youth centers, which are very different from Italy, especially because the resources available for youth policies are few and often concentrated for a short time. As I studied at the University in the Netherlands, instead, the youth centers are long-established services that are able to involve a large number of young people from all social realities, including foreign ones. Another expectation was to be able in the future to propose other study visits to some students or young people attending our youth centers, as an exchange of good practices and to stimulate new ideas or projects.
I was not expecting instead to have to share with the young people who attend the youth center some activities, in particular the race called “Breakout run”. This was a real adventure for me, I managed to survive despite 8 km very hard. Unfortunately, I was the only participant among all the other colleagues present at the study visit. Although I understood the meaning of this activity, which for the local youth workers come after three months of training and the creation of a group able to help each other in difficulties … perhaps for a guest of my age it was a bit too much.
Unfortunately I am no longer a youth center operator but I deal with projects for youth policies in my city. It was very difficult to relate to the current educators of the youth center of Cinisello Balsamo because, in the coming months, it will be managed by a new association. I will probably meet them in the next months to talk about the experiences made during this study visit.
On Monday we started the study visits and it was very interesting to see the youth center run by Paul at De Poort. The building was entirely designed for young people not only in the equipment (music rooms, kitchen, party room, bar) but also for the walls that have been painted with many colors in order to not get dirty easily. There are several activities run in the center that collects
young people from 11 years-old aged. It was very interesting to know who the volunteer group is made up of. Some are young people who have many problems in life and do not have a family or a house, while others are young normal. I immediately reported in my work group and among the project stakeholders this analysis because in our youth center the users are almost exclusively problematic. It is important that the balance between these categories is respected because the center works best. This will be an important piece of advice that I will give to future managers of the city youth center.
The second study visit was dedicated to T.O.M. This is a recovery centre for children who do not attend compulsory school for various reasons. It was very interesting to understand which strategies are used to help these kids to found out the deep reasons that led them to fail in their school path. Only by rediscovering themselves and their lifestyle, the youngsters are able to go back to school and move towards what is most interesting to them. This study visit was very interesting because the method used is very similar in some schools in the suburbs of the city where I work. A comparison between the operators of these schools and the operators of T.O.M. could be an excellent opportunity to exchange useful business advice in the future.
The last study visit was instead dedicated to the splendid and historic De Tavenu youth center. The educational method used is similar to the center of De Poort, except for the spaces that are larger and involve younger people.
I can conclude that this project has given me new interesting ideas to be explored. For example, I was very surprised by the youth participation and by how confidence and autonomy are given in the management of spaces for young people. The kids even have the keys to the center and they can manage the openings and closures themselves! Perhaps this possibility may be there after a long time. The users of our youth center do not stay for many years because the proposed activities involve them for a short time. In the Dutch youth centers, however, young people have activities that involve them from 11 to 30 years.
I think this project was useful to deepen my knowledge about the youth policies applied abroad. Unfortunately, the gap between Italy and the Netherlands is very wide, especially as regards the resources that the Politicians make available to young people. Until the young people are put at the
center of politics in Italy, the difference will always be too wide. I want to thank Paul very much for the hospitality, I think the most interesting aspect is the possibility to send some young people of our city to his youth center, to share this experience like me and propose the possibility to open a youth center like this even in our city.
Report by Matteo Longoni
Municipality of Cinisello Balsamo – Italy