The Ronald McDonald House Charities Malta hosted a community roundtable organized by NWAMI International Malta on 26 July as part of the NGO’s youth project ‘Together We Strive’, funded by the Scheme of Projects of Voluntary Organizations operated from the Maltese Council for the Voluntary Sector.
The community roundtable was facilitated by the president of NWAMI International Malta Maria-Gabriele Doublesin. Its aim was to hear the perspective of local and international community stakeholders on current and pertinent issues facing young people, explore the willingness of young people to engage with others outside the ring their own social, as well as their interest in protecting the environment.
This activity was attended by community police officers responsible for the northern region, representatives of the local councils of Swieqi and San Ġwann, Agency Young peoplethe African Youth and Young Adults Movement Malta (YAYA) and Proutist Universal, together with a British-Zimbabwe inclusion coach for the empowerment of women of colour.
Focus on lack of opportunities, community engagement
The general thrust of the discussion focused mostly on the lack of opportunities for youth and community involvement in new urban centers such as Swieqi, in contrast to the commitment we find in the villages where entities traditional clubs such as band clubs are an indispensable component of social life.
It was noted how the lack of structures such as youth clubs and the heterogeneous nature of the community – not only in the case of multicultural communities, but also in relation to the demography of Maltese living in areas such as these – lead to a lack of commitment. and a sense of belonging. This, in turn, raises several situations, ranging from alienation of young people to a lack of attention to issues such as waste separation and cleanliness.
In the case of young people, it has often been pointed out that the generation raised on social media had difficulty socializing, thus even affecting mental health. Therefore, a real on-site monitoring of this situation was necessary along with concrete initiatives to address the issue.
There was general agreement between Maltese representatives and non-Maltese expatriate migrants that a culture of mutual understanding is needed to stabilize community relations. On the one hand, entering a new culture implies embracing it and adapting to it, while on the other hand, the local element needs to be strengthened through education, especially through the media, in order to foster integration and – cooperation. It was noted that the media has a central role, not only to spread messages towards a common understanding of community life, but also to prevent racism and discrimination.
Local vs non-local, the concept of ‘who else is in the room’
The main talks from this roundtable were the concept that the idea of local versus non-local is a social construction and, therefore, the importance of being aware of ‘who else is in the room’. In this way, a level of understanding can begin to be created, as a basis for more positive commitment, cooperation and integration, the representatives said.
In the case of young people, it is imperative to create structures to bring them and their communities closer in a concrete way. This can also be achieved through the creation of synergies and relationships – currently non-existent – between local councils and their communities.
Government officials who attended the meeting showed a concrete interest in finding out about these problems, and it was also suggested that community influencers could be trained to bring responsibility from the members of their own communities.
The discussion highlighted the need for more local support and community involvement with different nationalities, and to constantly keep in mind the concept of how the community can be more inclusive, rather than remaining stuck in a mentality ‘us and them’.
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