Active Youth Health (AYh) is a health-focused team of Active Youth Association (AY) – a for-purpose organisation working with youth and communities in need in Lithuania and across borders.
AYh cooperates with organisations of the similar profile from all over Europe (more than 500 organisations) to organize events and trainings using non-formal education (including sport) as a powerful instrument to encourage youth to take an active part in society. We are integrating youngsters into the multinational environment and promoting healthy lifestyle.
We seek to prove that physical activity is not only healthy but is the most powerful tool for inclusion and we wish to make sport accessible to everyone disregarding age, gender, wealth, experience, religion, race or background.
Our vision is to engrave the idea that sports are not about medals. It is about personal glory and growth and being a part of a like-minded team and a united community.
In general, the key goals of the NGO corresponding to healthy lifestyle projects are: helping the underprivileged in Lithuania and other EU countries to (1) be better integrated into the society and (2) get access all public facilities. At the same time, AY (3) helps young people to build new cooperation for sports/ mental health initiatives, increase the needed skills for that and motivation for volunteering; (4) enhance self-esteem of the underprivileged (e.g. disabled); digital & multilingualism skills, social awareness, tolerance and other important values; (5) facilitate cooperation between different Lithuanian sport organisations, NGOs, youth workers, and sport trainers; (6) raise awareness about EU citizenship, work towards reducing youth unemployment; defend human rights and work on elimination of discrimination; (7) initiate social inclusion and provide opportunities for everyone willing to lead healthy lifestyle; (8) raise awareness of the importance of health-enhancing physical activity through grassroots sports.
In whatever activity we carry out, we follow our 4 core principles: 1) dedication – meaning that we give our 100% and more; 2) openness – we work with – and for the public; 3) positivity – we see opportunities rather than problems; and 4) enthusiasm – we want to change our surroundings for the better. Surely, it’s easy to list these values on paper and a lot harder to follow them through in real.
That is why, we focus extensively in having the right team for every project. The people we will be working with (in the current project) are professionals with relevant experience and a record of success (whether in youth work and/or sports). We also rely on a deep pool of volunteers (over 1000) and potential partners to ensure: 1) the project’s implementation goes smoothly; 2) the dissemination efforts reach the specified target groups.
Active Youth Association has lengthy experience in running youth projects (Youth in Action, ESC, and others). Up until now, the organization has successfully implemented (getting just the highest scores from the evaluators) more than 30 separate project actions on its own (and several times that as a partner).
We are coordinating Erasmus+ Big Collaborative Sports projects. One of them is called “Empowerment Through Sports”. With this project we aim to create contact between different social groups by using sports as a tool in order to foster social inclusion and make young people understand how minority discrimination works and how to counteract this.
We also coordinate a project sponsored by the Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania called “Urban Sports Culture”. The overall goal is to create thriving urban sports communities of youngsters in the partner cities of Denmark, Lithuania and Sweden, with special focus on Kaunas, as European Capital of Culture in 2022. The project will provide youngsters with skills using urbans sports and culture as tools for their further active inclusion in programming city development. At the same time, the project aims to help youth in building new cooperation for sports, cultural and social initiatives, increase the motivation for volunteering, strengthen bonds between Lithuanian and Nordic countries youth organizations, increase social inclusion of vulnerable groups and provide opportunities for everyone willing to do sports linked to health and wellbeing or start their cultural initiative.
To tackle the problem of girls in sport Active youth has initiated the project “One Goal” that is set on empowering young women football coaches. By travelling across the globe these women will gather experience for training, collect new training methods and even learn project management skills. This will not only highly increase their employability but encourage more young girls to join the world of football, once they see their women role models.
We are also coordinating an Erasmus+ Small Collaborative Sports project “Capoeira Connects Europe”. The main aim of “Capoeira Connects Europe” is to encourage people to engage with their own cultural heritage and to discover all forms of it around the world, thus increasing tolerance, empathy, reducing social exclusion of vulnerable and disadvantaged youth and promoting active and healthy lifestyle. This will be achieved by organising free capoeira events all across Europe and not only invite disadvantaged youth, but people!
We are partners in an Erasmus+ Small Collaborative Sports project called “Social A.C.T. – Active Cycling Team”. The project promotes the idea that cycling is beneficial to health. It focuses on the importance of sport volunteering to acquire skills and develop active citizenship. 25 beneficiaries will be trained to become group cycling guides and will use their skills by implementing local initiatives. This project also aims to facilitate social inclusion of the most vulnerable, those facing situations of isolation and/or discrimination.
And we partner in another Small Collaborative called “Sport Without Boundaries”. Sports and physical activities is a great opportunity to meet people of different generations, different backgrounds, different cultures and break negative stereotypes that exist in our society. The project aims to increase volunteerism and physical activity of disadvantaged groups living across Europe. Summer camps, international football tournaments are just a small part of what we want to achieve.
We partner in another project that has a very similar aim – “Inclusion for Healthy Generations”. With this one we have the ability to be free with our physical activity events and you can join us every single month. By providing participants with various activities and affordable ways to practice non-professional sports, we will give more opportunities to every member of our community. Setting a common goal for becoming healthier will help people come together and support each other to achieve it.
We are also partners in another Erasmus+ Collaborative project “SPORTIFICATION”. The project is aimed at increasing, promoting and encouraging participation of young people across the EU in sports and PA activities. This objective is relevant to young people aged 13 to 20 living at the periphery of cities because statistics show that they tend to be less involved in sports activities and PA activities, increasing risk of obesity and other weight-related medical problems. Young people find these activities less attractive than activities that connect them to computers, internet and application. Therefore, the connection that this objective establishes between sports and gamification is a consistent solution.
And lastly, we are partners in a project named “Sport as an Equal Playground”. It aims to bring sports closer to young people with fewer opportunities, who are at a disadvantage compared to their peers. We will be tackling the issue at the European level since it is a European need and nowadays cannot be tackled by single countries only. We will make an effort to integrate practices into different countries and offer a more coherent answer to the challenges is sport.
Also, we are paying huge attention to mental health. Our organised project “A Beautiful Mind“ contributed to the promotion of human rights by increasing the knowledge about mental health between the youngsters and the public overall. Participants were learning how to find ways of communicating with people having a mental disorder and ways to support them. This experience will allow us to contribute to the objectives of the current project and join the promotion of human rights.
We also partner up and work on a project “Be Kind to Your Mind”. Mental health plays an important role in everyone’s life. A mentally healthy person works more productively, and is capable of contributing more to his/her surroundings. It is clear that mental disorders could lead to serious problems and wasted human potential. And so the core goal of the project “Be Kind to Your Mind” is to increase knowledge about mental health between youngsters and the general public. In order to reach this goal, the following objectives have been set: raising awareness about the existing mental health situation. reducing prejudices towards the mentally ill, defining what is mental health and why it’s important, explaining how mental disorders are diagnosed and treated, advising youth how to live a healthier lifestyle and cope with the surrounding stress, finding ways of communicating with people having a mental disorder and ways to support them.
In fact, we have been organizing many different events/seminars/open practices for children and youth within Lithuania as well. E.g. 3×3 basketball championships, 6×6 football championships, public sports management & marketing seminars for sports management students, sports managers and simple sports enthusiasts. Furthermore, one of our biggest sports projects is the kindergarten basketball championship of Lithuania, where more than 150 teams participate every year (since 2013). By this championship, we promote grassroots sports, gender equality, social inclusion and increase awareness of healthy lifestyle since young days.
One of the main AY priorities is a healthy lifestyle and well-being of youth. For this reason, experience gained through our past projects will be used for the current project since Active Youth Association pays attention to every detail and carries out the full spectrum of activities.
Key person involved in our applications is the board member of AY – Gediminas Kondrackis. He has experience in all 1) finance-related; 2) organisational; and 3) legal matters. Mr. Gediminas has contributed to many international & local projects (more than 20). Mostly, by providing trainings on social entrepreneurship (e.g. in “More than Money: Social Entrepreneurship Heroes” and “Together: Refugees & Youth) & other topics. In his work, Mr. Gediminas focuses on NFE methods and is constantly updating his knowledge, which will be very important for the current projects as well. He is also able to build online platforms & use professional software, such as Photoshop. This is an asset for any project team. Mr. Gediminas holds a BSc degree in Economics from the University of Amsterdam.
Gediminas is accompanied by other well-trained staff of Active Youth. Augustus Romanovskis is the Active Youth Health project team leader and over the years he is only getting better at what he does. A person able to lead a team, a workshop session, create budgets and do it all with a smile is very important to any team. His degree in law, experience in running a business and now experience in starting and closing down projects is invaluable. He has now been a part of more than 10 projects as a project manager and runs the whole team with the belief that trust and communication is key.
No good project management team can work without a woman’s touch. Adriana Lavrukaitytė is a hardworking project manager and a multilingual student of European Studies and Human Resources Management with communication, teamwork and management skills gained through work experience, attended studies, training, studying abroad and participating in various Erasmus+ projects, as well as volunteering an being an active member of the University and the society. She has experience with many successful projects and is a leader in organising events and communicating with the people. Active Youth would not be the same without her.
Gediminas Augustas and Adriana are accompanied by other staff of the association, who all have international experience. They are young leaders, who developed during their studies & life in Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, USA, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Lithuania and Latvia. This has not only given them a strong educational basis but has also taught them how to communicate with people coming from different cultural and social backgrounds.
Not to mention that by being professional and open for discussions the team has gathered a big trustworthy group of international and local partners. The managers working in this team are also invited into international conferences, forums and international alliances of like-minded people. We, of course, also offer help in project writing and execution, we are mentors and mentees, we organise and we follow.
All in all, the previously mentioned activities have indeed given the key staff the needed experience to work in a multinational environment.