Education. What’s the first association coming to mind upon reading this word? Probably school, university, classes, teachers, or something along the lines. The wide-spread definition of education is mostly restricted to formal education. But what you learn fairly quickly when you are a volunteer is that it entails so much more. The broad sector of non-formal education is often dismissed or ignored. A false belief of many is that non-formal education won’t majorly improve your chances at securing a well-paid job that’s regarded highly. As the words “false belief” may have already ruined the element of surprise, that point is debatable. Non-formal education has so much to offer, especially when many young people have a dull sense of either being failed by or having failed the system of formal education, one point that’s not debatable is that there is a lot of room for improvement in the sector of formal education.
While wide parts of the world are struggling to even provide formal education amidst a global pandemic, it naturally took some adjustment to continue non-formal activities inside schools. By the end of last month, everything stood and we — the four Vicolocorto volunteers — were finally able to present what we had been working on for several months. The cooperation with the foundation Wanda di Ferdinando, which focuses on supporting projects that help kids and young people to receive the education they are entitled to, had their premier on Zoom with the title La Scuola delle Idee — The School of Ideas.
The meetings took place as part of a project called Articolo 26. The name derived from the 26th article in Italy’s constitution: the right to education. Therefore it aims to level the playing fields and to help mainly youngsters with difficulties to pursue the way of education that they want.
While Vicolocorto’s presentation focused more on the impact Italian students can have in the here and now, in their own community, the association L’Africa Chiama introduced four youngsters that changed their community for the better in another part of the world, receiving support from the association all the way over in Fano, Italy. They introduced their projects that had either the aim to better the access to education or to work toward a more healthy and stable environmental situation. Every single testimony during the online meetings was in order to inspire young students and show them some ways of how small efforts can have the biggest impacts on our direct environment.
Coming back from Africa to Italy, we volunteers had worked on a personal project plan for a book box where one can exchange unwanted books with new ones for free. Its main aim is to better the access to books (which make up a big part of education and personal development) and keep the medium of paperback books alive and well. And although it might seem like a very little project compared to planting trees in Africa, it is a possible way to give something back to the community. Our second focus point was the impact volunteering has on the community. For both topics we had recorded, interviewed, edited and uploaded short videos with the hope of delivering a medium that is a bit more interesting than just reading from a paper.
Our environmental part for La Scuola delle Idee was the personal project a former Spanish volunteer, Marc, had established during his European Solidarity Corps: the reduction to cigarette butts on the streets. (All these videos are also uploaded to the Vicolocorto YouTube account.) Later we took part in the reflection of the meeting, at least insofar as the language barrier would allow us to.
At the end of the day we had succeeded in communicating with some youngsters on topics somewhat close to our hearts, together with associations and foundations that are doing important work for people in their direct and indirect surroundings.