“To reach out to all, every initiative counts”, Cristina’s internship with YEN

My name is Cristina Zelenac and I belong to German Minority in Romania. Since July 2016 I am a part of the YOU.PA -Young Potentials Academy- Program, which offers professional chances and perspectives to young people, who engage themselves for the minority rights. The program aims to support and to strengthening the work of the German Minority Organisations in the Central and Eastern Europe.

Within the third training module as an education manager I wanted to do an internship with the organisation working in the field of non-formal education, youth and minorities. For that the Youth of European Nationalities seemed to be ideal. Therefore, I have had a chance to accompany the work of YEN in their Berlin office for two weeks.

My workday at YEN was a great varied mix and the time was tight. Mostly, I was involved in the field of communication and planning of the educational part of the seminars. Also writing and editing of contributions on the subject of minority and youth policies belonged to my tasks.

Cristina did her internship with YEN in November 2018

Besides the winning the insights of the daily office life, I had a chance to meet the partners and the network of YEN. Together with the Secretary General I visited the German Youth in Europe (djo). The DJO is active in many aspects of the youth work such as extracurricular educational work, recreational activities, as well as cultural activities and integration work. As an umbrella organisation they gather compatriot groups and self-organised migrant youth groups. It was very interesting to hear how the organisation transformed over the years and how it is organised nowadays.

One of my personal highlights was a visit to the Minority Secretariat for the four autochthonous national minorities of Germany, which has an office at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community. Even though I have already known the head of the secretariat and their office, this time the conversation and exchange were much more valuable for me as we discussed explicitly transregional youth work of the minorities and the future cooperation with YEN. Especially in the context of youth and its support being a priority for the current Federal Government Commissioner for German Resettlers and National Minorities. Later on, we also visited the Working Group of the German Minorities (of the Federal Union of European Nationalities), which was very important for me as a member of the German minority myself.

Another interesting meeting, I had, was with the coordinator of the Minority Changemaker Program, Wienke Reimer. This initiative of the border region organisation Grænseforeningen, aims in training engaged young people in the subject of minorities and the future of Europe. The course will be a 13 weeks program offering education and accommodation to the European students, who even though mainly working with the methods of non-formal education, can still gain academic credits. As the launch of the program is planned for 2020, this year there will be so called Minority Labs organised, where young people can bring their ideas and contribute to the design of the program.

On one day, YEN was also visited by Mr. Johannes Callsen, the Minority Commissioner of Land Schleswig-Holstein. That way I have also gained an insight on how the current minority policy on the regional level looks like and that directly from the Best-Practice-Example: Schleswig-Holstein is the only State in Germany, which has such a post of the Minority Commissioner (already for 30 years!).

Furthermore, I had a chance to take part in the yearly meeting of the Non-Kin-State Working Group of FUEN, which took place in the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma in Berlin. Not only the urgent topic of media and digitalisation was engaging, but also to experience how the rights and the situation of different minorities without kin-state can differ. About some of the minorities, I have learnt only at this meeting. What was especially great, was to hear about the particular challenges and successes of the last years and how aim-oriented and active these minorities are.

Also, the meeting and discussions with the colleagues from FUEN on the Minority Safepack Initiative brought me a lot. That way I was updated on what the current situation is and I have understood the particular aspects of the initiative much better. Especially that often it is the significant details that get lost in the hectic media coverage.

It is important to create and support the possibilities for the exchange and discussion, in which we can learn from one another, search for solutions and ways to overcome the challenges. Very often I was concerned with how through parallel structures so much resources, energy and potential get wasted. With my time at YEN it became however clear, that in the field of minorities and youth, the target groups are very diverse and with different needs. In order to reach out to all of them, every initiative counts. In particular the cooperation between different actors from the regional, national and European level must be enhanced, to achieve a detectable change in the society. And as every seventh European citizen is a member of the ethnic or national minority, it does relate to us all. In that context the work of YEN is a magnificent link supporting that change.

I enjoyed the work and time spent with the small, but very engaged and powerful team of YEN. In that time, I gained a lot of background knowledge, know-how which helps me understand the context and various actors, who I had a chance to meet. That has only made me even more ambitious, to be active in that filed and follow my interests and heart.


From YEN-Office & Board: We want to thank Cristina very much, for the time and engagement she brought to us. It was great to have you as a team-member!

For those, who are interested in intership in our Berlin Office, write us: office@yeni.org!