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Frontpage News 2015 Putting youth programmes at the heart of troubled communities

Street work (5)
Photo credit: Ekopolis Foundation

Putting youth programmes at the heart of troubled communities

The Slovak NGO KASPIAN has been working in Petržalka, the largest Slovak housing estate, for almost 20 years. Many of the children and young people in the area come from troubled backgrounds with high levels of deprivation.

KASPIAN offers social services, leisure activities and non-formal education, and counselling for young people to better cope with challenges they face in their day-to-day lives. The services are offered to children aged from six to 23 for free, without any obligation for registration or regular attendance.

Building trust

Supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the NGO programme, KASPIAN has been able to stabilise its services working with young people offering ‘low threshold’, or easy-to-access programmes and activities like youth clubs. On average, 450 children and young people use the services of KASPIAN each year. Stable financing is essential for this type of service as it allows relationships to develop between staff and the young people, who are often vulnerable and take time to trust.

The team offers a listening ear and trusted environment where children can talk and discuss their problems openly and freely. Since its inception, the KASPIAN team has worked with a total of 663 children and young people. They have staged community exhibitions, taken part in training courses, and internships abroad. A registration system to better collect and manage data has also been created.

Sharing Norwegian experience 

The project has also had a positive impact on other people working with children and youth in Slovakia. Through a training course, ‘The Alphabet of Low Threshold’, an international conference ‘MY STREET’ and a seminar, KASPIAN shared its experience and good practice. Norwegian partner, the City of Oslo's Agency for Social and Welfare Services, was involved in these educational activities – sharing their experience with the ‘Early Intervention’ project which focuses on children and youth at risk. The main focus of this project was on early intervention while working with groups at risk to prevent marginalisation which could lead to engagement in criminal activities, drug taking and other damaging behaviours at a later stage. The conference was highly successful with more than 120 people participating.

conf_MY STREET (1) Participants at the 'MY STREET' international conference. Photo credit: Ekopolis Foundation

KASPIAN have based their direct work with children and young people on the Norwegian model. The KASPIAN staff were especially interested in the approach of Norwegian social workers to clients, which triggered thoughtful discussions about young people and their understanding of the services provided to them.