"The Future is Europe": "Volunteers for sustainability" from all over Europe in Venice

The "Volunteers for sustainability" seminar was the fourth and last scheduled activity of the  "The Future is Europe" partnership project of the Erasmus+ Key Action 2 programme. This project, put forward by Don Bosco Youth-Net, the European network of Salesian youth organisations, has encouraged young people to work together to come up with a vision of volunteering for the coming years, setting long-term goals and helping all partner organisations to develop concrete actions.

 The experience, held in Venice from 31 August to 3 September 2023, brought together ten Salesian youth organisations from all over Europe, including the host organisation TGS Eurogroup, an association for social promotion promoted by the Salesian St Mark's Province in Northeastern Italy.

 On Thursday, 31 August, 25 young volunteers from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Spain were welcomed in Venice at the Domus Civica student house. A first team building session was followed by a moment of sharing and reflection on Sustainable Development Goals, with particular reference to Goal 12, "Responsible consumption and production", designed to guarantee sustainable models of production and consumption, to conclude with a festive evening of cultural exchange.

 On the morning of Friday, 1 September, after an exciting Salesian “good morning” inside St Mark's Basilica, seminar participants went to the top floor of the Procuratie Vecchie in St Mark's Square as guests of the The Human Safety Net Foundation for the introductory session of Volunteers for Sustainability": a moment of dialogue and exchange between young volunteers from all over Europe, local institutions and Venetian youth organizations.

 After the visit to the interactive exhibition known as A World of Potential at the headquarters of The Human Safety Net, in the afternoon a sustainability walk took place in the company of the young volunteers of Venice Calls; the final destination was the headquarters of the Venetian association at the enchanting cloister of Santa Cosma and Damiano, where the participants were involved in a sustainability workshop, divided into reflection groups that produced proposals for projects, ideas and solutions, guidelines and intervention in terms of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

 After a day of suggestions, reflections and elaboration of strategies and future perspectives, on Saturday, 2 September it was time to move from theory to practice with field work: led by the young people from Venice Calls, the participants were involved in a cleanup activity along the shore of S. Alvise, on the edge of the historic centre of Venice: once large amounts of debris and waste had been collected, they were sifted and divided into separate collections.

 In the afternoon it was time for participants to draw up a first assessment of the seminar and, by extension, of the entire "The Future is Europe" project, which, after four intense seminars organized between 2022 and 2023 in Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy, is now entering the final phase.

 The day ended with Mass celebrated by Fr Biju John, in the ancient church of San Teodoro, attached to the San Marco Basilica, and an evening of fraternity for the lagoon city.

 On Sunday, 3 September, after an evaluation meeting for the project representatives from the different partner organisations, it was time to greet them, to prepare to meet up for the next online meetings that will aim to draw up the final document of "The Future is Europe".