"Supportive summer, I'm a partner" 26/05/2016

Once again this year, the Walloon Government has decided to run the "Supportive summer, I'm a partner" initiative. This event is aimed at young people aged 15-21 most of whom are experiencing social and/or economic difficulties (young people from households where the main income comes from social benefits or subject to a mediation intervention for debt...). I've had the opportunity to meet some of these young people who were visibly happy to have had the chance to take part in this initiative.

The initiative's objective is to teach young people about citizenship and bring the generations closer together, all while providing a first experience of paid work. This objective is multifold and is part of the Government's Plan for Combating Poverty:

  • Giving young people the opportunity to develop their sense of citizenship through their involvement in enhancing and improving their neighbourhood and their environment;

A team of these young people told me that they had been responsible for cleaning up the neighbourhood's park (rubbish and graffiti). The people in the neighbourhood initially asked themselves, suspiciously, whether these young people were "still messing about" opposite their homes. Particularly since some of them were well-known for having contributed to the park's unpleasant untidiness in the first place. After several days of work, every now and then, the neighbourhood's residents started to come out and congratulate these young people who were working to improve their park and brought them lemonade or snacks for their breaks. In addition to that, they were proud of their own work. Those very youngsters who the day before had thrown their rubbish anywhere, were now ensuring the cleanliness of the park and educating other young people to respect their work.

  • Promoting solidarity towards disadvantaged people or those in difficulty and encouraging intergenerational links;

Another team told me that they had been given the task of helping the isolated people in their village, not only the elderly, but also people of foreign origin. The young people either helped them with their shopping or engaged in activities with them, which quickly created new links. Sometimes, these young people were welcomed like true lifelines.

  • Enhancing the image of young people among themselves and the populations that will benefit from their work;

In addition to simply observing the results of their work, the young people have sometimes promoted the initiative through the municipal newsletter, the written press, local television and even websites. The mission also involves allowing young people the means to express themselves about the completed project once it has finished.

  • Allowing young people to carry out or discover meaningful work.

Moreover, this work also enables them to acquire valuable experience that they can use when searching for a future student job for example.

In 2015, 2,796 young people benefited from this initiative. For 2016, €1,168,000 will be distributed to the municipalities and the public social welfare centres (CPAS).

May this project continue to have a bright future.

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