A decade being canalized the solidarity of thousands of young people.
We have collected testimonies by young people during the first years. Their experiences tell us how the Network has shaped their identity and options in a positive way. Also they tell us how the Network had an influence when they choose their career, social commitment, all in all, in the way to look the real situation and take a position before this reality.
Sixty young people started in Seville in 2001. We have said goodbye to 2011 with more than 2.300 persons (215 teachers and 130 educational centers in a decade). As figures show, the growth has been exponential.
We decided to make an effort to celebrate all this life in common. We want to know better the experience, investigating in the process, telling and listening to each other's stories. Educational team of Entreculturas, teachers and young people embarked on a systematical process to understand what is happening in the heart of girls and boys. What do they discover with the experience? Or what reasons did they have to want to build a more justice World? It has been an enriching experience but we want to resume some fundamental conclusions.
There are six keys in the experience of the young people in the Solidary Network. These points have a significant influence in the development of the pro-social personality and behaviors styles. As the Father Arrupe said: "education of women and men for the rest"
1. A participatory process of the solidarity actions. The experience of doing something to change the things. Groups of Network organize training and public awareness activities in the educational centers of the nearest community. These experiences are more significant because of girls and boys assume more responsibilities, taking decisions and learning from their mistakes. These kinds of activities generate illusion, motivation and confidence to change the thing. This attitude is one of the bases for the development of solidarity and commitment way of life.
2. Quality in education and the depth of reflections. The basic message and values must be clear in the activities. And, although as the teachers say, "sometimes they miss out on something" the fundamental thing is here and the objective of involving more people of their communities. In this sense, the grade of responsibility and autonomy will become higher when the education and the depth of the reflection are being increased in order to carry out actions.
3. Emotional relationships among young people. This kind of relationships will determinate the motivation, commitment and continuance of young groups. It is essential a good group atmosphere where they feel accepted and listened; and a mutual group help that works in the identity and feelings of comradeship and membership. The friendships reinforce the integration of the group. What if my friends do not participate on the Network? How do you care what other people think about you? For young people, it is important how they are seen by the rest. Most people think that friends, who are not on the Network, recognize the value to form a part of these groups though they do not take part of that. However, this thought coexists with the sensation that they are "weird". For this reason, when the group is not strong enough to the pressure group, boys and girls give up the program.
4. Emotional relationships with the teacher and monitoring style. The Network means a change in the traditional model of relationship between teacher and pupils. We have to remember that this program is carried out according to the framework of the scholar center, although it covers extracurricular spaces of the program. In other words, they teach Math, Language or History and at the same time they are with the group in the evenings and breaks. Sometimes the changing of role of teacher is difficult because the distances are reduced by the framework of the Network. The relationships are established from a horizontal point of view.It turns the teacher into a person who makes to assume a necessary leadership easier in the group. They do it from empathy and an indirect way in favor of boys and girls in charge of the process. This process helps them to think about consequences of their decisions and to put limits when it is necessary. In spite of these possible difficulties, one of the most exciting discoveries has been to listen to them to talk about his teachers. The educator is a model of life for the young people. They admire and love them for devoting their time to young people and coherence. Especially, young people trust in the educators. And the best thing that we can say, without fear of being wrong, this is a mutual feeling of trust.
5. Emotional experiences and managing the emotions. Experiences and relationships in our Network promote several emotional and fundamental competences in the development of a pro-social identity; or as the Father Arrupe would say: "education of women and men for the rest". An agreement declares that the Network helps to become aware of injustice situations, the emotions such as fury or pain generated by that situation and the way to understand it. Another fundamental aspect is the empathy developed by people who put in the place of those who are suffering exclusion. Empathy, self-esteem, confidence, trust, capacity of changes; identification, expression and channeling of the emotions provoked by injustice through the commitment action: Solidary Network of young people.
6. Participation in meetings. Meetings are really important because it is an exceptional space for the trainings, strengthening of the individual and collective identity and establishment of emotional connections (they meet each other, make friends and spend a fun time...). It supposes points of inflection in the personal life and in group; significant moments in those who have "strong experiences" that mark their life. First of all, in the meetings they discover that they share ideas with different people. They are not alone and "weird" although sometimes they can think it. That is, they help them to grow up and persevere in the way.
Finally, we would like to say the best way of celebrating our 10th anniversary is this systematizing, in which we have shared personal and collective experiences, have learned with the practice and have identifies the challenges for the next ten years... we will talk about that in the next chapter.
Thank you teachers, young people, volunteers, collaborators of Entreculturas and Public Administrations for making our dreams come true.