Representing the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, Ellen Layzell from England describes her unforgettable week in Georgia for the Autumn Seminar 2023.
During the last week of October and through to November, Harry Sprague and I were fortunate enough to represent The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs at the Rural Youth Europe Autumn Seminar. This event was hosted by the Umbrella Youth Organisation in Georgia. Harry and I were part of 16 members who attended, representing youth groups from 10 different countries.
The title for this year’s Autumn Seminar was “Healthy Youth Workers – Healthy Youth”. Throughout the week we focused on health as a human right/social right in rural areas and how to integrate it into the youth work of rural youth organisations such as ours. It was fascinating to learn about the different factors that influence health, yet fundamentally all agreeing on the significance of the topic.
After arriving in Bakuriani on Saturday, the week began with ice breaker games to get to know everyone, and particularly to remember each other’s names! As a group we spoke through our fears and expectations for the week, and the aims and objectives of the Autumn Seminar which included:
- To empower local youth leaders with necessary competencies including healthy habits.
- To discover challenges and opportunities rural youth face regarding health issues.
- To create a guidebook for the further dissemination campaigns.
- To advocate for a healthy lifestyle among rural youth.
To prepare us for the week ahead, we had an introduction to The Council of Europe and Human Rights. This was followed by an international evening, where we were encouraged to present traditional clothing and food and drink samples from our countries. This appeared to be a very successful evening, indulging in different cultures through their local cuisine!
Our second day began with an introduction on social rights followed by ‘Enter Dignityland’, a card game on social rights. For this we split into groups, with each group representing members of parliament. Amongst our groups, having to decide and prioritise on the social policies concerning social rights. Through argumentation and decision-making processes, we learnt more about social rights and their links to social policies. To follow this exercise, we presented our rural youth organisations and shared their best practices.
The day was finished off with another international evening, this time comprising of various activities including presentations, games and dancing.
The focus of our third day was health as a human right, and for our first exercise we split into 3 groups which each covered a different aspect of health – nutrition, sleep, and exercise. The aim was for each group to debate why their factor is more important than the others, and we all proved to be quite competitive!
We then moved on to work-life balance. Having previously each completed an online survey, we spent this time discussing our answers. It appeared that we all had quite poor work-life balance, so we finished the session with some breathing and meditation exercises! In the evening and to finish the day, we had a Halloween Party.
Stepping outside of the classroom, we had an excursion to Borjomi. The town is known for its mineral water, which we had the opportunity to try straight from the springs in Borjomi Central Park. We spent the rest of the day occupied by the towns sulfur pool, cable car and markets, followed by a meal in a Georgian restaurant. Once returned to our venue, we had an evening full of karaoke!
The morning of our fifth day began with a debate, focusing on the food system and health. This was followed by multiple sessions on advocacy at both local and European levels. The day was finished off with a variety of fun games.
Our final day was spent producing a guidebook, addressing health problems in rural areas and providing recommendations. Being part of a rural youth organisation, all participants have a sense of power and ability to fight for change with the help of this guidebook.
To finish, we had a farewell dinner. After an incredible week surrounded by different cultures, new friends, travel and ultimately learning about health as a human right/social right in rural areas, we then all set off for our departures home!
Thank you to Rural Youth Europe and The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs for the opportunity, I’d encourage anyone considering international travel to apply!