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European Economic and Social Committee names 2011 winners EESC, 99 rue Belliard, Brussels

And the winners are...

 

1. prize: Erasmus Student network (ESN)

                http://www.esn.org/

 

2. prize: European Alternatives

                http://www.euroalter.com/

 

3. prize: The Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU)

                http://www.obessu.org/

 

Erasmus Student Network (ESN)

Erasmus Student Network is a non-profit interdisciplinary student association in Europe, founded in 1989 with the aim of supporting and developing student exchanges and promoting the added value that mobility brings both to the exchange students and to the host country.

ESN is present in more than 370 Higher Education institutions from 36 countries and has 12 000 members all around Europe.

ESN has been awarded first prize for its project SocialErasmus which not only gives students the opportunity to get to know new cultures and education systems, it also enables them to engage as volunteers and to act in aid of a local community.

The project encompasses multicultural information meetings, as well as ecological and cultural events and charitable actions. The project aims to enrich society through international students.

SocialErasmus was launched in 2008 in Poland and rapidly proved to be a big success. ESN thus decided to transfer this experience to other countries and it became an ESN International project in 2010. Since then, many ESN countries and ESN local sections have organised SocialErasmus activities.

The overall aim of the SocialErasmus project is to allow exchange students to benefit as much as possible from the local community and to enrich that community through their own international background. In addition, it promotes a social attitude among international students all over Europe.

Exchange students are invited to volunteer in the framework of the SocialErasmus project in three main areas: education, charity and the environment.

Best practices in the field of education include information sessions in schools under the heading “Europe at School”. For the environment, students planted trees to raise awareness through the “Erasmus Forest” project or the “fire prevention” project.

In the field of charity, activities such as “International Santa Claus” aim to help less favoured children by organising presents and a merry Christmas for them.

“Europe at school”, also called “European Lessons”, is one of the main activities of the SocialErasmus project. In order to present their home country and culture and to encourage young students to learn their native language and to get to know their culture, international exchange students go to primary or secondary schools where they talk to local students, play language games with them and teach them their language.

They also encourage them from an early age to become exchange students in the future. This project was carried out in Poland on a very regular basis. It also took place in Austria, Germany, Greece, Finland, Latvia and other countries.

“Erasmus forest” belongs to the environment pillar. Students are encouraged to go to the forest to plant trees and participate in its development. After Poland, where this activity is very popular among students, Austria also participated in this project.

“Fire prevention” is also a very important activity under the environment pillar: in the summer, students from all over Europe were invited to Valencia to be forest guards and prevent forest fires.

One key activity linked to the charity pillar is “International Santa Claus”: international students bring gifts to orphanages, spending some time with the children to make sure they also have a merry Christmas. ESN sections also organise charity events to raise money through different activities, donating it to hospitals, orphanages or local projects.

In October 2010, ESN organised an international charity drive and asked all of its sections to raise funds through their regular and special activities. As a result, EUR 54 000 were donated to UNICEF in order to support its projects in Bhutan.

Other activities include visits by exchange students to nursing homes or to children in hospitals to share a moment of their day. Blood donations have also been organised with large groups of exchange students going together to hospitals to donate blood in Italy, Austria and Spain.

ESN also encourages the integration of students with disabilities with international exchange students through its project ExchangeAbility. This project aims to offer those students the opportunity to join ESN activities and also promotes their participation in exchange programmes – as their rate of participation is currently extremely low (0.09%). The European Disability Forum (EDF) has been involved with ESN in this project.

Partnerships at all levels with different stakeholders were developed for this project at the local, regional and national level. At local level, partnerships are in place with the Red Cross for blood donation activities, with schools for “Erasmus at school”, with nursing homes for the elderly, with orphanages or hospitals, etc.

For more information, please visit http://www.esn.org/content/socialerasmus

 

European Alternatives

European Alternatives is a civil society organisation devoted to exploring and promoting transnational politics and culture by means of campaigns, conferences, publications, artistic projects, and the TRANSEUROPA Festival for which it has been awarded second prize.

In addition to the TRANSEUROPA Festival, European Alternatives' major activities include "People, Power, Participation", a transnational project in participatory democracy mobilising hundreds of organisations in six European countries to formulate bottom-up proposals for the improvement of fundamental rights in the European Union and to give the European institutions a stronger role in enforcing them.

Another project, the Transeuropa Network, aims to build a bottom-up network of individuals with a particular focus on young people from throughout Europe working transnationally to tackle key problems related to democratic participation and social justice at European level, and to create genuinely transnational European politics and culture.

The TRANSEUROPA Festival is both a cultural festival and a political event aiming to celebrate political integration, solidarity, social diversity, tolerance and exchange, over two weeks of free public events throughout Europe.

Among the objectives of the project is the promotion of the European motto "United in diversity" through innovative activities displaying the multifaceted nature of European identity, and the creation of a common political and cultural space for exchange, debate and action.

Using a wide array of media – from debates, lectures and conferences to art installations, projections and music – the Festival promotes innovation and experimentation both in its politics and in its cultural activities, and sees the visualising of a new community through the arts as an inalienable component of building a new society.

The TRANSEUROPA Festival 2011 took place between 5 and 15 May in 12 European cities simultaneously. It featured over 300 individual events, open to the public free of charge, and was prepared by a team of over 100 young activists, artists and intellectuals from throughout Europe who are part of the Transeuropa network. The Festival was funded by European grants, grants from foundations and many local fundraising activities.

The programme was structured around four key themes - migrants' rights, Roma rights, media pluralism, and representation of diversity, with particular focus on gender equality – which were discussed and explored in all 12 cities.

Over 400 speakers and 150 artists participated in the Festival, which was attended by over 25 000 people. The events included art exhibitions, poetry readings, art installations and conferences, debates, video screenings, public space activities, social markets, bike rides and city walks.

For more information, please visit http://www.euroalter.com/festival

 

The Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU)

The Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU) is a platform for cooperation between national school student unions active in general secondary and secondary vocational education in Europe. It was founded in April 1975 in Dublin (Ireland), and brings together member and observer organisations from more than 20 European countries.

OBESSU pursues the following objectives:

  • to convey the views of school students in Europe to the different educational institutions and platforms;
  • to uphold and improve the quality and accessibility of education and educational democracy in Europe in order to promote active citizenship in all forms;
  • to promote greater solidarity, cooperation and understanding among school students;
  • to put an end to discrimination and injustice where they exist within education systems in European countries.

Among its activities, OBESSU:

  • organises activities for its member organisations (seminars, training courses, conferences, conventions, study sessions, summer schools, etc.) to enable the exchange of experience and good practices;
  • acts as a resource and information centre for the different school student initiatives/ movements/ educational contacts in countries all over Europe;
  • publishes a monthly newsletter, a six-monthly magazine (“There to Share”) and different materials/manuals for school student organisations.

The "Light on the Rights" Bus Tour project, for which OBESSU has been awarded third prize, was part of a wider project aimed at supporting the European Declaration of School Students' Rights and the accompanying campaign "Light on the Rights".

This Declaration aims to be a common European framework considered by OBESSU to be fundamental for ensuring high quality education with equal rights for all students in Europe. The campaign was launched in October 2008 and since then OBESSU has been fighting for the recognition of the European Declaration of School Students' Rights.

The first results of the campaign to secure recognition of the Declaration at European level were achieved in the spring of 2009. On 4 March, the European Parliament's culture and education committee officially recognised the need for European students' rights in its report "Better Schools: an agenda for European Cooperation".

It states that the European Parliament "considers quality education a right of every child, and a first and important step to guaranteeing it would be a European charter on pupil rights".

In the spirit of this Declaration, OBESSU organised a "Light on the Rights" bus tour. From 9 September to 23 October 2010, OBESSU toured fifteen European countries in a bus to foster proactive participation by school students in working for their rights by campaigning at national and European level.

Together with its members, national school student unions, it organised various public activities in each city, including workshops, art performances, exhibitions, press conferences, public debates with stakeholders, etc. The Bus Tour carried the "Students’ rights light bulb" around all the participating countries as a symbol of spreading the spirit of joint European campaigning.

The synergies among the European students’ movement created during the tour helped increase the sense of European identity and active European citizenship among young people; and school students in particular. The campaign also reflected the need for a European students’ movement to achieve a more democratic and participatory society.

For more information, please visit http://www.obessu.org/category/lotr-bus-tour