Zsuzsanna was part of the Hungarian fellow of Community Solutions Program (CSP) carried out by Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) after the 4-month-long fellowship program organized by IREX. As a fellow at Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association, IFS organisation’s member in Ohio, she took part also in the annual meeting of IFS in New York.
In this message to the IFS Office and international members, she shares her experience during the program and her work back in Hungary.
Dear International Friends,
I am very happy to share some great news with you.
My name is Zsuzsanna, last year I spent 4 months in the US with an amazing exchange program called Community Solutions Program (CSP) supported by the Department of the State and organized by IREX. I spent 3,5 months in my favourite Cleveland city (where I can’t wait to return to!) as a fellow at Greater Cleveland Neighborhood Centers Association (GCNCA) and also completed the leadership course of Community Leadership Institute. Thanks to GCNCA I also participated in the annual meeting of the International Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers in New York and I conducted research about many US youth development programs in Cleveland. There are no words how much I have learnt during these months and from professionals and how much I’m grateful for these opportunities and for all of you! Your contribution to my American experience will always stay with me as personally and professionally!
In Hungary, I am a PhD student in Social Policy and a part-time research fellow. I am also a volunteer (9 years) at ‘I will Shine’ Association that organises summer children camps (watch our video with English subtitle about our summer camp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deO2cUtChPw) and monthly weekend programs for deprived Roma children and youngsters living in a small village (120 km/75 miles far from Budapest). Roma people in Hungary face many times social exclusion, inequality of life chances, especially respect to education and labour market and discrimination. Poverty and other forms of socio-economic disadvantage can be transmitted intergenerationally. Roma youngsters living in the underserved rural area face many difficulties regarding their life choices and transition from childhood to adulthood.
Half-year after I had returned from the US I left Budapest for 3,5 months I moved to this beloved village, the place of our voluntary activity. and I am glad to share with you that we carried out a Youth Participatory Action research that is the Action Project of Community Solutions Program and the subject of my PhD research as well! I believe in Youth Participatory Action Research because it gives the right of research and knowledge to the youth involved as they take part in every step of the research. The final aim is to take actions that can make some differences in the issue they chose together as a research topic. It is not only research but a youth development program that can increase the knowledge, awareness, self-confidence and the sense of agency of the involved youth!
I need to say that these adolescents are totally awesome, we had a research meeting in countless evenings during the summer and we had also many fun events during the research. We are 11 in the research group, boys and girls, and they are at the age of 13-22. Among many others, we had team building and critical thinking occasion, we talked about children’s rights and conflict resolution as well. We have talked a lot about the problems and interests of local youth and they have chosen early childbearing as a research topic with the focus of the advantages of finishing the high school/craft. Many of the local youngsters become parents without finishing high school or they drop out of high school for other reasons. We created a cool questionnaire to get to know the experiences and opinions of local youth about high school, childbearing and work, we had a focus group with a group of young local adults without children and we did interviews with young mothers about their experiences.
Even if many girls explained their school dropout with an unintended pregnancy, we identified many factors in their lives that could result finally easily school dropout without any high school certification, even if they didn’t get pregnant. This means that in most of the cases school dropout is the result of a long process that includes many systemic complex reasons and bad experiences. We presented our research findings in my home town and in the village of youngsters. At the end of this latter meeting, we created a working group of local youngsters and professionals that continues to talk about our research findings and can plan and realize interventions in the future.
I have been thinking a lot of all my international friends during these months, hoping that you all are fine, safe and healthy. I cannot wait to meet you again! Take care!
All the bests,
Zsuzsi (Susie 🙂 )