The Malta Independent 11 July 2020, Saturday

The Youth Local Councils: An added value to their community

Malta Independent Sunday, 25 July 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

The Youth Local Councils project, organised for the first time by the Secretariat for Youth and Sport in collaboration with the National Youth Council, proved to be a resounding success. It gave our young people an excellent opportunity to discuss real issues and, more importantly, to act upon them, and as a direct consequence our local communities were enriched with enthusiasm, fresh ideas and dedication that knew no bounds. More than a hundred teenagers aged between 14 and 18 from 15 localities formed the 15 youth local councils in their respective localities, which augurs well for the future.

The idea behind this project was to empower our young people through the provision of skills and access to the decision-making process. To this end, the young participants were expected to attend training sessions regarding leadership, team building, public speaking, the drafting of business plans, working within a budget and the Local Councils Act, amongst others. Following this, the youth local councillors were expected to elect their mayor, secretary and other officials.

Discussions followed the same procedures adopted by local councils and revolved around the issues that most likely concerned the locality involved. Motions were presented for discussion and when decisions were taken, either by consensus or by vote, the youth councillors were asked to transform their motion into a business plan, including budgets and timelines. In the meantime, the youth mayor was expected to report progress to the mayor and the local council regularly and officially. This created a form of structured dialogue between the respective Local Councils and their youth. Throughout the process the youth councillors were continually monitored and supported by youth workers.

The 15 youth local councils finally submitted their business plans for adjudication by an independent panel which, after meticulous analysis, chose what it considered to be the best three projects. These youth local councils will now benefit from a grant of €10,000 to realise their projects. The adjudicating board noted that most of the proposed projects were of a very high standard and worthy of consideration, despite not making it to the top three. In fact, there are other ways by which the councils whose projects were not selected may be able to see them realised: they can either seek EU funds or request funds that have been allocated to their respective local council.

This experiment showed the dynamism and commitment of these young people and their submissions proved that a great deal of work had been done before the actual presentation. They had discussed the obvious needs of their locality, but most of them had gone much further, as they came up with a number of new ideas and suggestions that they felt would improve the life of local residents. The three winning projects were those submitted by the youth councillors of Mtarfa, Qormi and Bormla – and they definitely deserve to be named.

The Mtarfa project dealt with the direct involvement of members of the community. A questionnaire was given to every household and discussions were also held with various organisations. The youth councillors finally decided to work on a DVD, which will eventually be distributed to every resident, about the historical and natural sites, thus aiming to creating an interest and appreciation of the area. They also plan a publication for primary and secondary students to make them more aware of the history of Mtarfa, while ensuring the inclusion of everyone in the proposed project. The Mtarfa youth councillors were right on the nail: they are striving to promote a deeper sense of community in an area that is now mostly inhabited by people who have recently moved to Mtarfa from elsewhere.

Being fully aware of the illiteracy problem in their area, Bormla youth councillors presented a vision that aims to tackle this challenge. They plan to run IT courses, which they feel could be extremely helpful. Two computer courses – E-Tfal and Learn – are expected to attract about 200 people. Another project deals with the production of a DVD and an informative booklet about the rich history of the town, which will be given to every resident. The youth councillors will also be organising three seminars that will deal with common social problems. They are also determined to see more people from the area adopting a healthy life style through sport.

Qormi took their inspiration from the EU Year dedicated to the fight against social poverty and exclusion. They presented a project that deals with infrastructure, namely the turning of three gardens into areas that are easily accessible to everyone, including those with special needs and two of which will be making full use of solar energy. The projects deal with a sustainable environment, technology and the rights of people with a disability, and two WiFi points will be installed for those who do not have access to the internet. These youth councillors also made use of the Community Radio and presented interesting topics specially aimed at young people.

The other projects that failed to earn a place in the top three have some fantastic ideas which, if put into practise, will undoubtedly benefit the residents of their particular locality.

It is felt that the direct involvement of youth local councils in these initiatives has provided a fantastic experience in community service. The projects presented by these teenagers have proved to be simply amazing and we are convinced that we will have many more in the second edition.

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