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Young Bridge Builders Go Viral

Through an online platform, refugee boys and girls will stand up for their rights and have their say with local community.

Photo of Info Park
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Serbia is currently hosting hundreds of unaccompanied and separated boys and girls, who are left behind by humanitarian and government refugee agenda. They spend their childhood confined by cultural expectations and social norms segregated in their own rooms in reception camps, deprived of education and experiences their local peers enjoy freely. Along with risks of displacement, this renders them prone to higher risks of gender-based violence, illiteracy, poverty and other social issues in the future. This is why Info Park started organizing Girls Day and Boys Day on weekends as comprehensive programs aimed at bringing refugee girls and boys out of the camps into the city center for: education and life skills empowerment sessions. However, besides the much needed empowerment, these programs do not help their voices be heard. As a natural way to build up on these programs, Info Park now wishes to go a step further and let them raise their voice and have their say on a variety of issues. In a changing online environment we are living, a generation of youngsters is growing up very publicly with online videos. Global statistics shows that most teenagers are active on social media starting at the age of 10 with YouTube being their favorite platform to learn, play, and achieve the goals. This is why the idea is to engage refugee boys and girls from Girls Day and Boys Day to start their own YouTube channel and through this platform talk about all the things of interest to them. This way, the program will ensure that their voices are best heard among their peers in Serbia and beyond, but at the same time ease their socialization and integration into society. In order to ensure the program’s success, Info Park aims to engage authors of the most popular YouTube show in the country called Marka Zvaka. Being mentors to these young boys and girls, they would guide them in the entire process of building their own YouTube channel and community.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Belgrade is a central location where refugees boys and girls have been gathering since 2015 on their journey towards Europe and destination countries. Info Park hub is also situated in this area and is set to serve as a base station for the purpose of this program where all activities around YouTube channel would take place. However, as it goes with all Internet channels, the overall reach will go much beyond the borders of Belgrade, Serbia and Europe.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

As statistics show, all youngsters share the same passion for YouTube. This is why YouTube is the best platform for establishing communication between boys and girls refugees and their peers in Serbia and around the world. This is the best channel for both sides to share the thoughts and issues they are facing and thus realize that these issues and thoughts are the same. This will be their chance to meet each other the way they are and thus bring them closer together.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

As humans, we create meaningful content, and this puts us on a never-ending quest for purpose, identity, communication – the need to be seen, to be heard, to be accepted and respected member of the community. The need for basic human dignity is the one that refugees are losing constantly, so it takes time to be recovered. The need to not only be seen as a refugee, but as a human being, an individual with all their strengths and skills, knowledge, and experience. The humanitarian response for displaced persons has for too long focused on covering basic needs: food and shelter. But our blankets don’t fully cover the people on the move as unique individuals as a whole. These boys and girls are not only in need, they carry so many resources, although they often come with a jacket only. Their new neighbors could benefit so much from all the human assets the refugees bring, if only the connection was established.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The boys and girls who finish the program will acquire a large set of psycho-social and interpersonal skills that can help them make informed decisions, communicate effectively, and develop coping and self-management skills that will help them lead a healthy and productive life. Furthermore, they will act as positive role models for their friends and peers, promoting healthy lifestyles. They will be our partners in a fight against all forms of violence and discrimination, challenging stereotypes and bridging differences. They will be empowered to fulfill their needs and take their ideas forward. They will be able to support other refugee boys and girls who are new participants as peer-mentors. Secondly, the connection between young refugees and local community will be established and there will be a designated space they can engage. Thirdly, boys and girls’ perspective on different issues on humanitarian agenda and their lived experience will be put forward and their voices included.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

For the past four years since the refugee crisis erupted in Serbia, Info Park has been working as a first line responder and has thus seen firsthand how leaving unaccompanied and separated children without proper care and depriving them of education, can have devastating consequences for their lives and well-being in the future albeit in this short period of time of monitoring it. Working with these boys and girls within Boys Day and Girls Day programs, we figured out how proactive and willing they are to gain new skills and also have fun like all other children. Ever since their founding, the programs have only grown and expanded with joint forces as the boys and girls became their co-creators.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Refugee boys and girls are often treated unfairly due to the traditional and cultural norms which often include deprivation of education, exposing the boys and girls instead to labor exploitation and other harmful practices. Due to perpetuated involuntary limbo that displaced boys and girls in Serbia find themselves in, there is limited to no continuous meaningful involvement in local community life. This especially goes for girls in puberty who are confined to private places and shun from joint areas due to cultural expectations. For instance, the refugee children who are enrolled into schools in Serbia do not engage with their school mates and are ignored even by the teachers too. The rate of girls’ enrollment is lower, but the dropout rate is higher. Even the activities offered outside the formal system, usually by NGOs, are accessed by men and boys more easily, given that they can move more freely. This is why online communication will open more opportunities for them.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

With the vision of achieving a sustainable world free from poverty and injustice, this program aims to build bridges between young people on the move and their Serbian counterparts through the online platform and passion they all share - YouTube. As the youngsters today speak one language, it qualifies them to be the main force in achieving this goal. Therefore, in addition to what the Government and other NGOs offer to young boys and girls on the move, this program is designed to let them have their say for the first time and thus contribute to building diverse and welcoming communities.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We liaise with numerous organizations and groups committed to the same values as us: honest, ethical and human treatment of the refugees in need and in transit. For the purpose of this project we will cooperate with Marka Žvaka, the famous YouTube duo that will mentor our refugee boys and girl and guide them throughout the program to ensure their success. Marko Žvaka is an engaged humorous collage program that aired from 2006 to 2011 on the Serbian national television B92. Since 2011, they work independently showcasing stories of the most marginalized groups but in an entertaining way. New releases are up on their YouTube channel every Thursday.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Info Park

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Info Park is a daily shelter in downtown Belgrade, specialized in protection, information, communication, empowerment and education services focused on refugees and other migrants with special focus on youngsters. Info Park is a grassroots initiative of long-term civil activists that assisted refugees since spring 2015. Core of our work is prevention of violence, including sexual violence and exploitation with particular focus on gender-based violence (GBV). We run numerous empowerment programs for refugee boys and girls from the camps since 2017. Currently, Info Park implements a unique protection program for boys and girls on the move, outside of a regular system, aiming to improve their safety from all kinds of harm. Our team consists of 10 regular staff working on different activities, and 80% of our positions, including top managing ones are held by women.

Website URL:

https://facebook.com/infoparkserbia/

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Belgrade, Serbia

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Belgrade, Serbia

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Photo of Linde Lamboo
Team

Really lovely programme @Info Park! What especially resonates with me is how youngsters who have completed the programme have the opportunity to become mentors for the next cohort, which must teach them so many new, valuable skills. In this programme, is there also some support (outside of the Youtube mentoring) for these youngsters in for example dealing with their online presence, which I suppose may have a negative backlash sometimes as well. Or am I completely off?

Photo of Info Park
Team

Dear Linde Lamboo , thank you so much for your comment and support. It means a lot. Of course, our superboys are completing their empowerment workshops supported by UNFPA Boys on the move curriculum, while supergirls have their workshops based on Girls Shine (IRC, Save the Children) methodology. YouTube would be just another medium for them to express themselves to a wider audience in the country of residence, countries of origin, and potential destination countries. Continue to follow us and subscribe to our newsletter at comms@infopark.online
Many thanks and all the best from Info Park Team

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