From 21 to 25 May this year, a group of 30 young people from protected areas and rural communities all across Europe, including myself from the Yorkshire Dales, met together in the Cairngorms National Park. The aim was to give our thoughts and ideas, and to discuss the problems we face as young people living, working and learning in rural areas.
When I first heard about the EUROPARC Youth Manifesto I thought, ‘what a pretty amazing opportunity for our voice to be heard!’
Consultations with youth organisations across the UK and Europe have identified a need to involve youth in the work of protected areas, nature, biodiversity and rural community development. In order to safeguard the environment for future generations, there is a need to educate young people on what is special and important about our protected areas, listen to young people’s voices, and retain young people living, learning and working in the rural environment and communities.
And the EUROPARC Youth Manifesto was born.
The project aimed to reach young people aged 16-25 from across Europe, who had a wide range of backgrounds and who have been involved in community, protected area, youth or nature programmes, bringing them together to share knowledge and co-design the manifesto.
The Youth Manifesto started with an innovation and planning workshop in the Cairngorms and is to be continued in Finland in June to construct the final document.
The Youth Manifesto will then be officially launched to 500 delegates from protected areas all over Europe at the annual EUROPARC Conference 2018 ‘European Parks: Inspired by the Next Generation’ held in the Cairngorms National Park 18-21 September.
The conference aims to support, inspire and motivate delegates from across Europe to increase young people’s participation and engagement in nature and the outdoors.
The workshop provided the perfect opportunity to explore a new area, learn new skills and meet new people, to share ideas and to network with professionals working in protected areas across Europe. Katiana Saleiko, one of the delegates from the New Forest National Park said: ‘We shared ideas and drafted what we think is important for youth within rural areas’.
As part of the brainstorming, we discussed:
- What’s it like living, learning and working for a young person in your protected area or rural community?
- What are the main issues, problems, barriers facing young people in your protected area or rural community?
- What ideas could make it better for young people in your protected area or rural community?
- How can young people be involved in decision making and management in your protected area or rural community?
Here are some of the problems facing young people living and working in rural areas:
- Lack of services
- Lack of social activities/events specifically for young people
- Cost of living in protected/rural areas
- Public transport limited
- Feeling of isolation
- Not many working opportunities – mostly small businesses
- Few full time jobs available
- Poor broadband reception
- Lack of local shops
Following the EUROPARC Youth Manifesto, apprentice Ian Colledge and myself felt inspired by the week-long activities and are keen to set up a Youth Forum in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with the help of Young Rangers Officer, Rachael Alderson.
I think the Youth Forum is a great idea; it’s an important way of showing our commitment to trying to improve rural areas for young people. But don’t take my word for it, ask Ian, the Dales Ranger for the Yorkshire Dales National Park…
“I really believe it would be a great idea for better youth representation in the National Park. It would provide young people working within the National Park Authority the chance to meet to discuss issues affecting young people in our area. Creating the Youth Forum would give young people a platform to have their voices heard.”
I spoke to some of the delegates from around Europe to see what they thought about the Youth Manifesto:
“It was great for me getting to know you and learning about some of your stories and experiences.” Steffi Burger, Youth Representative for EUROPARC Federation.
“Thank you for this great adventure and was really nice to meet all of you amazing people who want to protect our National Parks in Europe for other generations. Hope to see you all in the future.” Matthew Gillard, Young Ranger for Pembrokeshire National Park.
“Spending a week working with other young people who live and work in rural and protected areas across the UK and Europe was a very rewarding experience. Hopefully the Manifesto we helped to create will having lasting impacts on the lives of young people in rural areas. What was clear to see over the course of the week was that the problems faced by each of us were often common amongst the rest of the group. I believe this further highlighted the need for the Manifesto.” Ian Colledge, Dales Ranger Apprentice from the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Hopefully this has highlighted and made you aware of you some of the real issues young people face living, learning and working in protected areas and rural communities and will encourage and inspire you to help us take action!
I had such a wonderful time, and really enjoyed meeting passionate, like-minded people and being able to share personal stories about the struggles we face as young people in rural areas; I really hope we are able to make a difference collectively.
At the end of the day, it is our future.
To find out more go to Europarc2018.com