From Roots to Leaves- The Kosovo-Ireland Partnership

The impact of the YMCA Roots for Reconciliation ( project has been very visible for a number of participants from Kosovo and Ireland.

Together the two movements reignited their partnership recently and hope to build on solid foundations of very successful past projects and train a new generation of leaders to add to their talent pools.

Seeds were sown many years ago when YMCA Ireland joined the Balkan Tandem project that took place in Prishtina, Kosovo. Following that and the similar mission and priorities of the movements a joint ERASMUS bid was funded, this helped both movements invest in youth workers and peace advocates. The long term effect of this has seen some of those participants move up their respected organisations and continue to work in youth and peace building. Those professionals will now help the senior leadership shape the training of the next generation... moving from seeds to strong trees in terms of their importance to their institution and peace work practice.
bridges-for-the-future article
bridges comic book
TED talk inspired by the bridges event

General Secretaries from YMCA Ireland and Kosovo meeting in Isreal

Both shared their views on the roots and the international partnership:

"The only option for a peaceful Europe is a continuous investment on young people regarding peace. Youth workers in our YMCA have an important job in peace building and they bring together young people from all communities where as others can struggle as it seems tokenistic and a very tick-box approach. Kosovo remains committed to the Roots and after many years involved, our capacities have changed as a movement and we are able to contribute and lead more than ever before. The partnership with our friends in Ireland is exciting as young people in both places face similar issues" -Dorina Lluka

"YMCA Ireland has been involved in peace building and conflict resolution during the troubles, we have learned a lot and still have a lot to learn, we have valued the projects with Kosovo to share and also learn. We valued the cooperation between young people, staff and youth workers and we want to develop this further with a new programme looking to the future to build peace work in both countries." -John Peacock

Young people from Peja YMCA who attended worskshops led by YMCA Ireland and Kosovo

Below are some comments from former Roots participants on how the roots and the importance of this work truly is for them and their communities, while having one eye on the future and what's next:

"Investing in the training and development of youth workers is Crucial. It is these staff and volunteers who bring the YMCA to life and create transformative experiences with young people. If we want young people to think and act as global citizens, we need our voluntary and paid practitioners to adopt this mindset. Partnering with Roots for Reconciliation and YMCA Kosovo has been a significant way in which YMCA Ireland has fostered this perspective and enabled our movement to engage in the theory and practice of peace building beyond our own contested borders.
Creating opportunities for more of our leaders to participate in learning exchanges between Ireland and Kosovo is key to building capacity around global youth work, outdoor learning and peace
building." -Andy Hamilton

"It's really important to engage on programmes like this, to share and learn but to promote the work of peace. Those experiences with the roots helped me develop personally and professionally and helped me engage at a local grassroots level here in Northern Ireland. It was an experience I found valuable and we are looking forward to working again together on a future programme."-Darryn Causby

"I have witnessed both "sides" come together and co-create during the roots, the exposure is second to none, and I do feel this projects work is one of the best kept secrets within the movement. Having said that the platform we were given as young leaders has helped generate the next generation of young leaders. Peace ork is not a banner and some coloured T-Shirts; it's living the message, walking the walk and most importantly creating that environment for others to come on that journey. I am grateful for my times and experience with Roots and YMCA Ireland and I feel blessed we have others join us on a shared journey."-Adi Davies

Roots.. a generation of leaders who are creating spaces for the next generation!

Two of the participants from the Bridges and the youth work training who are now both employed by their YMCAs also shared their thoughts. Both young people are employed full time and were "seeds" planted by the roots participants in tandem and Erasmus grants connected to the roots.

"One of the problems is a lack of safe spaces for young people to talk about conflicts and issues and the implications it has on the world and their reality. The future partnership will give us a chance to further develop young people and workers with practical example of how conflict has effected people and how people deal with it, all this contributes to being a global citizen and offers people the chance to reach their full potential." -Aoileánn Conway

Aoileánn was not only a participant on the Youth Worker training but also at the most recent Roots event in Brussels.
 She is also a full time staff member for a YMCA in Ireland.

"These projects helped me develop and challenged my personal thoughts and behavior, it was also the first time I ever met Serbian young people at the Bridges project which is very different from the media and how my community thinks. By being part of the Ireland youth worker training I saw other countries issues and this helped me to understand their reality and their young people's needs. Trainings like this are needed and helps open people's eyes!" -Adhurim Bekaj

Adhurim was a volunteer at the time of the bridges project now a full time staff member in Kosovo

As you can see from the comments there is a strong will for more future work between Ireland and Kosovo, also great value placed on the spaces and opportunities from YMCA Europe's Roots project. For more information on the project or to read free resources like the Peace Work Guidebook please visit the Roots website.


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