Happy Birthday Italy, a multicultural youth event
The Risorgimento (‘Resurgence’) showed the way to Italy’s unification with the proclamation of the Italian Kingdom on March 17, 1861. This movement has been led by young people, willing to create a strong and united country as the only condition to free the Italian people from the foreign invaders
In this tough crisis time, youngsters are usually the first in line. There is no need to remind that on average 25% of them are jobless. Through the Indignados movement and other youth revolts, like the recent one in the United Kingdom, they want to express themselves and take their place in society.
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by Agnès Quatrevaux*
“Young Italy” was one of the movements, created by Giuseppe Mazzini and mostly relied on young people. It became a member of the broad movement called Young Europe. Cavour and Garibaldi were the two other leading figures of the riots who led to the unification of Italy.
“We have made Italy. Now we must make Italians ”. Applied to the actual European Union, Happy Birthday Italy is an event whose aim is to bring back to life the spirit of the young rebels of the Risorgimento. Of course, the activities in Turin are not that revolutionary. The goal was to gather 500 young people, allow them to interact with one another and discuss various European and youth-related topics. The main concept was to develop ideas and solutions to current issues through a festive event.
In this tough crisis time, youngsters are usually the first in line. There is no need to remind that on average 25% of them are jobless. Through the Indignados movement and other youth revolts, like the recent one in the United Kingdom, they want to express themselves and take their place in society. Their reflection appears in the discussions they have with their peers and with the political sphere. It is then absolutely necessary to link young people with their political representatives.
That is the reason why ThinkYoung in collaboration with Thinkingpot launched the event based on the last experience of the Yeppies. With the support of Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Turin’s museum created in a former train factory, and the CUS Torino, the universitary gym which provided the accommodation, youngsters made an appointment at the beginning of the summer holidays, from the 7th to the 11th of July, 2011.
It has been organized for Happy Birthday Italy in three sessions. Among the workshops, the participants had the opportunity to talk about youth opinion, the Franco-Italian Relation, Kosovo, team spirit, legality, the role of social journalism, agriculture, law and the sustainable development. These workshops have been prepared by professionals or even the youngsters themselves. Several student associations were involved in the organization such as the European Law Student Association (ELSA), the Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (AIESEC) or the Erasmus Student Network (ESN).
The atmosphere of the whole event was both serious and easy-going. The enthusiasm of the stakeholders and the participants was palpable. A lot of new ideas emerged and together they tried to find solutions to the different issues discussed. For instance during the FLARE workshop about legality, young people were asked to mime scenes of illegal activities such as discrimination, receiving stolen goods, counterfeiting or even theft. The other groups had to guess which situation it was referring to.
Afterwards, a debate followed between the youngsters about which kind of illegal activities they are used to live with in daily life and how they can fight against them. During the ‘Advocacy for young people in Kosovo’ workshop which interested a lot, a quiz about Kosovo with gifts on top made them discover the badly-known country.
The perspective of meeting a lot of young people from throughout Europe was a huge motivation for the participants to join us in Turin. With this unique human experience, all the participants left with the pleasure to have met a group of diverse European people and even beyond. We not only had the pleasure to welcome people from all over Europe, but also youngsters from Russia, India and China for example.
The cultural aspect was not left aside. Much time was reserved on the program to enjoy the city, its palaces, its squares and its famous museums. The Traffic festival happened to be at the same time. Some of them left Turin with the goal to visit neighbor countries like Switzerland or Spain.
All these elements mixed together made HBI a huge success. As one of our participants said, “Looking forward to the next event! I had a fantastic time in Turin”. Some have already expressed their desire for the event to be organized next year in another city. Maastricht? To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Maastricht treaty?. Rome? To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome? European history conceals a lot of important dates and with this comes the chance to celebrate and allow young Europeans to meet and discuss the future of Europe. The fate of Europe is in our hands! Let’s link young European citizens together for a brighter future! Let’s Think Young!
*Agnès Quatrevaux is project manager of the think tank THINK YOUNG www.thinkyoung.eu