May 21, 2024 | Tuesday

YEAs for Change: Unveiling the Young European Ambassadors’ Volunteer Agreement and Insights

By Desantila Muriqi, Young European Ambassador

Volunteering injects energy into our lives, giving us the opportunity to dive in, make an impact, and be a part of change. Whether it’s committing to environmental causes, advocating for human rights, exploring tech innovations, contributing to diplomatic relations, promoting media, arts, and culture, advancing scientific endeavours, supporting health and sustainability initiatives, or nurturing entrepreneurship, volunteering empowers us to contribute positively to society. 

Volunteering is the driving force behind networks committed to amplifying voices, such as the Young European Ambassadors network. This platform is dedicated to nurturing positive change in our communities, countries, and regions by facilitating volunteering initiatives. Established in 2020 as part of the EU Regional Communication Programme for the Western Balkans, the YEA network counts 180 members from the region, approximately 30 from each Western Balkans country. Moreover, with an additional 60 new faces joining each year, our community thrives and continues to grow dynamically. When we YEAs come on board, we sign a volunteering agreement that outlines our responsibilities alongside those of the project team.

As I uncover this agreement and share YEAs’ volunteering motivations, I, along with my YEA peers, will also provide insider tips on getting involved and strategies to enrich your volunteering journey. So, keep reading for more!

Overview of the Agreement

In this section, I’ll guide you through the YEA Volunteer Agreement 2024-2027, beginning with an overview of the network’s structure and then detailing the roles of both the YEAs and the YEA project team.

By signing this Agreement, we, the YEAs, acknowledge and accept various guidelines. Firstly, we recognise that the YEA network operates as an advocacy project, focusing on involving young people in critical aspects of EU integration, independent from political agendas. We also acknowledge our responsibility to actively volunteer for causes aligned with our interests and share information online to engage a diverse audience, including those unable to participate in person. We’re tasked with preparing monthly social media plans and engaging in diverse events and initiatives to refine our advocacy skills. While as YEAs we are actively engaged, we receive support from the WeBalkans YEA Project Team, dedicated to enhancing our presence through comprehensive training and assistance, both online and offline. Moreover, they facilitate our participation in youth events and projects across the Western Balkans and the EU, while also actively encouraging collaboration with civil society initiatives to strengthen community engagement and advocacy efforts.

Furthermore, we as YEAs commit to adhering to outlined Terms and Conditions, maintaining respectful language and behaviour, completing tasks and initiatives within designated timeframes, providing sufficient notice when unavailable, and aligning with the organisation’s aims and objectives. All activities within this project are voluntary, with expenses reimbursed based on approved activities and budgets. It’s important to note that this volunteer agreement is morally binding and not intended to be a legally binding contract between the volunteer and the organisation. Either party reserves the right to cancel this agreement at any time. 

In essence, the Volunteer Agreement empowers YEAs to make a meaningful impact and embody the spirit of volunteering!

YEA insights on why they decided to re-sign the Volunteer Agreement 

So far, 23 YEAs from Kosovo have signed the Volunteer Agreement 2024-2027. This is the second volunteer agreement we are signing. I’ve been catching up with my peers to learn more about their decision to re-sign.

Starting off, Jora shares her reasons: “I was motivated to re-sign the 2024-2027 Volunteer Agreement because of my strong belief in the power of volunteering to create positive change in society. The opportunity to continue making a difference and contribute to fostering unity in our region is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to me”. Building on this sentiment, I’d like to emphasise that the strength of our network truly shines when we embrace the diversity of all YEAs. Here, we reject the notion of a one-size-fits-all changemaker—each individual’s unique contributions are valued, all united by the common goal of working for a better Western Balkans.

Speaking of our uniqueness in activism, Agnesa mentions an additional uniting factor, “I find the concept of the YEA role very appealing and effective. Our young community has wholeheartedly embraced the EU values and works to incorporate them in our everyday lives. The YEA network is an effective bridge between the EU and the local communities, and each and every one of us cultivates different parts of that bridge.” She emphasises the significance of EU values for our network, another fundamental element that binds our network together.

Adding up to this, Jehona shares, “I wanted to reiterate my commitment to the YEA network because of the missions entrusted to us. Continuing to raise awareness about the European Union, its missions and its values is something that is particularly close to my heart. In addition, the team spirit that reigns within the network is a real driving force for undertaking great initiatives, challenging oneself and opening up to the world”. Jehona also highlights another crucial element of our network: the meaningful friendships that blossom as we journey together.

Speaking of journeys, Amina touches on a crucial aspect of volunteering, also noteworthy within the YEA network, “I want to keep making a difference in my country and inspire more people to be changemakers. I’m not the same activist I was the first time I signed our Volunteer Agreement, so I want to give new pieces of me to my community”. Amina’s words beautifully highlight the reciprocal nature of volunteering, wherein our actions not only affect others but also shape our own growth. Just as we champion our causes, we undergo transformation alongside our volunteer efforts.

Djellza wraps it up with words that many of us can relate to. “The YEA network changed my life. It gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been a YEA, but most importantly, gave me a network of amazing people who are genuinely striving towards making the region a better place. I feel very connected to the values and mission of the project and I feel that our paths are very much intertwined. All I feel for the YEA network is genuine love and appreciation, so deciding to sign the volunteer agreement was the easiest decision of my life”. 

Aida, on the other hand, highlights another significant trait shared by many members of our network: the belief that while we may already be doing good, there’s always room to do better.  “I’m looking forward to new projects and contributing more to our societies”, she says.  

Consequently, as I consider areas for improvement in the near future, I chat with the YEAs about their main goals for 2024-2027. Amina shares, “This time, I’m aiming to include more people in discussions, panels and protests, have more contact with diverse groups and make some new, fun posts to go along with those!” Agnesa adds, “I personally aim to use my experience in EU integration in informing my peers about key updates to Kosova’s integration”. Diellza additionally says, “My goal is to initiate and participate in as many projects and also represent the network in the best way possible! With a very special emphasis on initiating projects as one of them is already in the works :)”. While our objectives vary, we all share a common thread: a commitment to fostering a positive impact in our communities, which lies at the heart of our network’s mission.

Getting Started in Volunteering

Feeling uncertain about where to begin? You’re not alone. If you’ve made it this far, you might be reflecting on the experiences of the YEAs who’ve been volunteering for this network for around three years, wondering how to take that first step. Well, those very YEAs are here to offer guidance based on our own experiences.

A great place to begin is with Amina’s advice: “Don’t overthink how you’re starting or where you’re starting! Join a festival, lead a discussion, plant a tree, clean your community, it doesn’t matter! What matters is you’re ready to make a change, and after that, starting is the easy part”. But then comes the question: which of those activities to pick?  Two recommendations stand out. Agnesa suggests, “Start from your challenges and barriers. Start with what matters to you. Start from your community. Activism and volunteering don’t have to be about topics that sound shiny or that everyone supports. It just has to be real and a service that strives for the better while being patient with knowing that true change takes time”. Viola adds, Start somewhere where you are passionate about. You will most likely find people with common interests, explore your passions further, and at the same time make a valuable contribution to the community”. Remember, the key is to start where you feel most aligned and passionate, and the rest will follow naturally.

Even after tackling the hurdle of figuring out where to begin, diving into volunteering brings its own share of challenges. Keeping that in mind, Jora recommends: “Don’t be afraid to reach out, ask questions, and get involved – every act of kindness and service, no matter how small, can make a difference in someone’s life and in the world”. Additionally, it’s important to go easy on yourself. If you find that a certain environment, group, or cause no longer aligns with your interests or values, feel empowered to explore other things. As long as you’re making a positive impact, there will always be a place for you.

Lastly, Jehona’s insight is invaluable: “First of all, you should know that wanting to volunteer means wanting to carry out a strong civic act. And for that, you can be proud of yourself! A voluntary act should make you happy, bring you a feeling of accomplishment, and help you grow and evolve within society. so above all, do what you like best, within a structure or a network that thrills you”. The fact that you’re reading this far demonstrates your commitment to civic engagement, indicating that you’re more than prepared to take the next step. You’re ready to make a difference 

What’s even better is that all the YEAs offering these recommendations are easily accessible on their social media platforms. Feel free to reach out to any of us with questions about your volunteering or activism journey. In addition, here’s some exciting news: the call for the next 10 Kosovo YEAs to join our network will be launched in a few months. So, start attending our events, get to know us, and decide if you’d like to be part of this network starting December 2024.