Youth Work in the time of COVID-19

As we head into the new year, our International Projects Coordinator, Dorothea Elek, reflects on the impact of the pandemic on the youth and NGO sector, what it means for EPTO and thoughts about the future:

"The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant effect in all dimensions of our lives, our jobs, our private and social life our budget and our way of living is affected by what happens around the world.
The NGO and youth sector is struggling, with travel being banned and face to face activities being impossible to organise, for safety reasons, we've ended up not reaching as many young people as we wished we had in the last year. The need for activities, that EPTO usually provides, for young people and youth workers, is growing day by day and for now we can not fulfil the demand. We see hate speech on the rise as well as bullying and discriminatory behaviours online and offline as well. We are certain that when the pandemic comes under control we will face a huge challenge especially in the fields of anti-discrimination education, hate speech and cyber bullying. The ever growing online activities will generate such a need of activities combating hate, that we are afraid we will not be able to keep the pace with ever growing need.

Nowadays youth workers are facing a situation in which they need to adapt their activities so they are suitable for online and offline. We see a growth in online activities like never before, and I am afraid that we will not be able to go back and recover from a time when we were glued to our desktop for months and months. In 2020, suddenly screen time and sitting in a chair for hours on end is no longer seen as a health hazard. I am wondering how life will be in 8 - 9 months and I am looking forward to seeing innovative projects, tools and methods that will help us recover and go back to how everything was before. At the same time I think youth workers and NGO’s all over are questioning themselves - will we go back to how it was before?"

Note: In 2020/2021 EPTO has been running several large-scale projects supported by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission, namely "PEACEJAM: Nobel Peace Prize Laureates mentoring youth to build an inclusive Europe" and "PeerAct - Upscaling peer-to-peer anti-bias education for promoting common values" which have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. We have had to adapt our project activities by going online or postponing them.