Actions of Social Solidarity during the Pandemic
About the organisation
Amazing Youth is a non-profit organisation founded by young people for young people. It was established in Athens, Greece in 2020, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, with the aim to provide volunteering activities and socialization opportunities for the youth. Its goal is to empower them to participate actively in the society to improve their own lives and tackle issues that concern them. Employment, Environment, Education, Human Rights and Digital Revolution are some of the main topics that Amazing Youth is focusing on. Even though the organisation started operating recently, it has already established a wide network of youngsters and students across Greece and Europe, whom empowers and help make their voices heard.
“The important is to give youth the incentive to participate. There are too many young people who want to help but don’t have the means or the resources,”says Dimitris Maniatakos, Project Manager at Amazing Youth.
Through its activities, the organisation aims to build a “bridge” with youngsters who have the willingness to help, but have not found or have not even searched for the way. “We approach them and tell them ‘we can offer you the ways to help’,” Dimitris says. People are a little bit hesitant at the beginning but, when they see that others are getting involved too, they are motivated.
Dimitris believes that what people participating in their actions do is beyond volunteerism. “They are people who produce social work. They first become socially active and this helps them for the whole course of their lives.” Of course, Amazing Youth is also targeting young people who already have the socio-environmental conscience to participate in volunteering activities, but primarily the organisation wants to involve those with no previous background in volunteerism.
“Solidarity missions” is Amazing Youth’s first initiative, implemented in 2021. The idea was to cook and serve meals for homeless people, as well as offer stationery, toys and other gifts to children without family or from very poor ones. The action was funded with the support of the European Solidarity Corps programme, which offers opportunities to young people to help address societal and humanitarian challenges through volunteering or by setting up their own solidarity projects, and the Youth and Lifelong Learning Foundation. It was implemented by the Amazing Youth team and its volunteers, in collaboration with the Chatzikiriakeio Childcare Institution.
The idea for the “Solidarity Missions” was born during the Covid-19 pandemic. The health crisis and the extended lockdowns gave people the time and extra motivation to think about and get involved with matters beyond their daily routine, Dimitris explains. “The pandemic was an opportunity to analyze the general meaning of life. All of us in the team wanted to engage in social solidarity activities, to help our community, but we also learned new skills,” he says. Something that is linked to one of the organisation’s goals: to show how we can make a positive outcome through every difficulty.
Amazing Youth approached youngsters to participate in its actions mainly through social media. They posted an open call and a participation poll on Instagram and then made contact with the people that were willing to participate – not only in the current action but also to future ones. Twelve young people in total participated in the “Solidarity Missions”, each one of them contributing in their own way to the success of the initiative. Some of them helped in designing the action; others were very good at brainstorming and motivating the team; others were good at cooking; others did some research on toys and what a 6–18-year-old child needs.
Dimitris points out that the goal of the action was not just to serve meals or give gifts. It was more about approaching these people and children, and letting them know that “we are here for you”.
“What we wanted to do was to offer, of course, some food because these people really needed it, but at the same time we wanted to talk to them. It wasn’t just about serving meals. These people really needed to talk to someone,” he says, adding that the smile on their faces and the gratitude they expressed was the team’s biggest reward.
“The moment you serve the food and you see a man smiling and saying ‘thank you’, as well as the children’s smiles when you give them the gifts, is one of the biggest positive surprises that one can experience. This was the most positive impact we had and our driving force to continue.”
Positive and unexpected outcomes
Beside their obvious positive outcomes – the meals and gifts that were delivered, and their big psychological impact on homeless people and vulnerable children – the “Solidarity Missions” brought another positive surprise: when the actions were completed, the volunteers were already looking forward for the next ones to come. Seeing this mood and the spirit of solidarity that was created through the action, Amazing Youth went straight to the debate about what its next action could be.
The project is now on the phase of developing videos and publications on social media in order to attract more youngsters for its future actions. This was the first initiative of the organization and there is great will to continue. “We want this action to be the vanguard of what lies ahead. Through this action we have seen the needs, the way and the means we need, and we focused on a specific audience. Now that we have completed the action, we are thinking of expanding it to include many more volunteers.”
Volunteerism is more than just giving
Speaking about the difficulties that the team encountered during the implementation, Dimitris notes that the most difficult task was to be able to convey the meaning of the action to the volunteers; to make them understand precisely the purpose and the objective of the action. It’s not just about doing the action; it’s about being able to figure out why you’re doing the action, he says.
“I think that very often this meaning is lost in many programs. That’s something we want to change. We’re not doing an action just to have an action. We are doing an action that will make both sides win; the one receiving and the one delivering.” This is the hardest part. To help volunteers deeply understand the impact of their actions, putting themselves in the shoes of the people they’re helping.
“Our goal is to make solidarity an experience for young people and volunteers. We want to reach out to many young people and achieve a positive impact on society.”
Stop overthinking. Act!
Dimitris believes that that young people who want to engage in solidarity actions should not overthink about it. They should not think about every little detail of each programme and how they can contribute to the implementation. When there is a group of people, each one takes a responsibility and everyone helps each other. We all learn to act together, we learn to work with other young people and we learn skills from each other.
“Young people should not think about how difficult this is. Everything is difficult until you start doing it. Once you start it, it gets very, very easy.”
You can find more info about Amazing Youth at https://amazingyouth.gr/.