Raimonda Bogužaitė: Young people to city and back
At school, in eighth grade, I opened my eyes to the various problems affecting my classmates and young people like me. I saw that nobody was doing anything to counteract these issues and this was unbearable to me, so I decided to do something myself!
Day by day I started being active and representing the needs of my peers in a passionate way within the school. Noticing my involvement, a teacher one day came to me and told me that in the city there were some organisations working with students at the municipality level and that I should join them. I took that advice and joined one of them.
I still remember my amazement to find out how many organisations there were in Lithuania dealing with youth and all those issues I was trying to fight alone. That was the moment when I started my journey as an activist on a broader level that still continues today.
I wanted my team to be proud of me and this motivated me to do more and from the very first days I entered the world of NGOs, I started to research and study for the topics we were going to address. It was clear to me how much the elements that can make the difference in preparing projects and campaigns were whether or not you have the right information and whether or not you can count on people around you who are as passionate as you.
Certainly having a passionate team and correct information are essential to be able to build effective and functional projects, but what really makes the difference is having a good mentor. In my case, my mentors were none other than the people who had been in the organization the longest and who were able to guide me and show me how things should be done. When I started, 14 years ago, finding information was not so easy – now with the internet there are many tools that help you to find the information and everything is more reachable – so I relied totally on what my mentors advised me.
Step by step, I found my way and the topic in me that, more than any other, pushed me to really want to change things: and that was ‘social life’.
I noticed there are a lot of small cities where you don’t have that much to do, where there is no University and because of that young people move away. Low involvement of young people in employment and decision-making activities, low inclusion of people with disabilities, discrimination, general inequality, small gathering in communities, emotional health, are other problems I also became very aware of.
I’ve always believed in the words “do it, make a mistake but do it”, so I naturally started talking about these things on social media, in a simple way, and encouraged others to take part in these causes.
Still after 14 years, I organize social actions and events, both serious and entertaining, and I also participate in the activities of the National Council for Youth Affairs, as well as other non-governmental organizations and municipal decision-making working groups. But, still the most common publicity for ideas is through social media. I run campaigns on social networks, write articles, and publish videos, still mixing it with face2face communication. I mostly use Instagram and Facebook where I also have live sessions and, in order to engage with the audience and know their opinion, I share some questionnaires through google tools.
Meeting with a lot of different people inspires me in creating new kinds of activities that can help stimulate other people to take action for a cause and start thinking more positively.
From what I have done, what I’m most proud about is the organization I created, called Jaunimas YRÀ, whose aim is thinking about “older” young people. We try to send back young people to their places of birth and talk about different important topics, like physical health and emotional health.
My advice for all the young people who want to start in activism is not to be afraid of change and try to move on no matter how hard it is. Try to find help if you need it, don’t be afraid to talk about anything, any problem. Understand what you really want and do it!
It is important also to be patient, results may not come as soon as we want but they will come. This one is a work that requires time and a lot of work.
In my experience, I became aware of this when in the municipality we had a problem of empowerment and youth leisure and we knew that we needed a big activity in which people could join and be together. Only after four or five years of working we finally organized some small events, conferences and short projects. But it was only after these small steps that we managed to organize a bigger festival involving the whole region, even though we had to work more than a year just to have a one-day event!
Although at this moment in my life I am in the process of completing my PhD and managing my job as a teacher, it still happens many times that I face underestimation, due to my age. But I don’t let this get me down and I keep finding the motivation to continue to dedicate myself to these causes in my sense of responsibility and citizenship, as I think this is the right time for young people to get involved and take action!