Let us share what the EEA & Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment is also about: When we felt part of those amongst us that fall through the cracks of the system

On 28/06/23 in Larissa Prison a training course was completed with the participation of 15 imprisoned NEETs in the process of being released in the coming period. The thematic of Social and Solidarity Economy and Entrepreneurship was chosen, amongst a number of offers presented to them, by the trainees themselves. A warm heat wave to our hearts by their choice…still not the first or only one in our interaction with the colleagues working closely with our NEETs and the NEETs themselves. The course was implemented in the framework of YES! Project by the Development Agency of Karditsa (AN.KA. S.A.) in cooperation with the University of Social Solidarity Economy (UnivSSE Co-op).

Instead of any description from the NEETs’ side, allow us to share their evaluation comments hereunder:

 “We have never experienced such a course before”, “It meant a lot to us”, “A good experience!”, “We’ve learnt a lot”, “We feel strong and will exert efforts to make things work after our release”, “We hope to do something jointly together (meaning other prisoners)in the future”.

Besides the feedback shared by participants, the Director of the 2nd Chance School of the Prison and the work consultant working at the School, also engaged deeply in this initiative, multiply expressed their gratitude for the highly qualified lecturers and the quality of the educational material. They testified that they were impressed by the well-designed training course and the overall cooperation with the implementing partners (AN.KA. S.A., UnivSSE Co-op) referring to the whole collaborative experience and the willingness and openness of the partners to further support, if need be, attendees in the future and find a way to expand the alliance beyond the said course.

“To us, this is hopefully the promising start of a collaboration and not just one go”, they said. They stated moved and honored by the attention they attracted though the seminar, which is not common when it comes to the most deprived and looked-under part of society, that is prisoners. They confessed that prisoners are the very definition of vulnerable as, apart from being prisoners, they usually fall under other categories of vulnerable social groups, indicatively ROMA, migrants, refugees, addicted, just to name a few.

As far as the lecturers of UnivSSE Co-op are concerned, they confided that this tutoring experience was a very special one. They stated amazed by the active participation and genuine interest of participants. The force of a better life after release seems to be driving for most of the participants, some of which are considering working together and starting a social enterprise consisting of ex-prisoners. At the beginning of the course prisoners could not even imagine that similar examples have been recorded in other countries while as the availability and eagerness of the tutors to further support such a potential venture ignited the hope of real re-integration. The latter is certainly something that the specific Prison Staff are to be thanked for as they pave the way towards re-integration while someone is still in prison. The rich curriculum and variety of activities being implemented under the 2nd Chance School is remarkable considering the standards we have in mind when thinking of the imprisonment system.

It goes without saying that, YES! partners, AN.KA. S.A. and AUA foremostly, declare ready to contribute through other YES! services as well (coaching, mentoring) and support prisoners with their expertise and know-how if need be. We also feel grateful for the impeccable cooperation with the entities involved in this action, proving in practice the value of the Trust-based Partnership Model. Grateful for the delicate approach maintained by the Prison’s colleagues, as even the language used when reference to the prisoners was being made, implies the respectful attitude towards them.

Grateful, we are, for the quick reflexes of UnivSSE Co-op, which had to respond to this challenge in a short notice and for their level of professionalism and flexibility to support prisoners in the case of a future social economy venture, which is of course not deriving from any contractual commitment. Last but certainly not least, we wish to convey a big “Thank you” and “Congratulations” to the protagonists of this course, the attendees, who despite being perceived as outcasts, seem to work their way to a better life where giving back to the society and be valued as a member, raises hopes in all of us for a better way of being…

If we were not in a pre-election period, in GR, which obliged us to stay below the radar, we are pretty sure that the work of ANKA and our colleagues would be highlighted as an innovative and pioneer work with this specific sub-group of NEETs. We do promise, though, that our lessons learned will feed and hopefully guide the policy discussions when it comes to the rehabilitation of youth inmates.

Thank you, ‘Fund for Youth Employment”!!!!

Eleni Bletsa (ANKA), Yiorgos Alexopoulos (AUA)


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