“Dreamers may not have a plan, But realists have no vision”
These words are written on a postcard which is pinned to the wall in the small Eka office in Jalon. EKA (European Kids Association) was set up by a small group of parents who had become disillusioned with the growing climate of negativity that was surrounding their teenage children and their futures. Lauren, Wendy and their team knew that they had to take control of the situation and turn things around.
“The media talked about a lost generation, and the topic of conversation was expat families leaving Spain to find better opportunities for their kids. For some families, the prospects of up-rooting their families whilst their children are in the middle of an education was just not an option. They had already overcome cultural and language difficulties and were not ready to give up the dream of a better life here…. Whilst at the same time being painfully aware that some of our kids are missing out on opportunities that are more freely available in the UK”
EKA firmly believes that the opportunities are there for the next generation, and we have to find them or even in some circumstances, create them. “Finding opportunities is what the organisation has set out to do but getting information and matching opportunities and candidates is no simple task. EKA is a non profit organisation and relies on fundraising and volunteers. Our mission is clear and that is our work is to inspire the next generation in any way we can.
“We see the social problems that develop amongst the youth and our aim is to find activities and opportunities that will steer them away from depression, drugs and alcohol related problems. There are no quick fixes, and prevention is so much better than a costly cure. To do this we have to build relationships with employers, teachers group leaders and parents. More importantly we need to find ways of getting a positive message in to the minds of young people that they have the power to create the kind of future that they dream about.”
For EKA, social media has opened up potential for communication that in ways that astonished everyone:
“On the first week that we launched on Facebook, we had over 500 people join. At first we were aiming at kids, but parents and businesses were joining. We were hooked by the possibilities of finding ways of getting our message across. At first we jumped in maybe a little too heartily, thinking that every post we made was like a small advert and it was being read by so many people. It soon became apparent that this was not how it worked. Facebook rightly describes itself as a community and that is exactly what it is. We needed to find ways of getting people talking to each other. Friends talking to friends. This is how we reach the kids and get them interested in looking for opportunities”
EKA use Facebook more than twitter because they believe the kids find it more user-friendly. They have a website too but it is not so interactive yet. With more help from volunteers they will be able to develop this. There are special-interest Facebook groups with the most popular so far being JobsEka, DramatEka and SportEka, as well as group organizing specific projects – Facebook is the perfect platform for bringing these interest groups together, because the young people are already there – it’s a way to meet them on their turf, without feeling intrusive. Yet get literally right into their conversations, into their pockets, as they’ve all got Facebook on their phones. EKA uses groups to organize events, such as their contribution to the hugely successful recent ‘Grant a Wish’ day – asking people to ‘like’ to acknowledge seeing a message or that they are coming to a meeting. It’s an approach that gets results.
Facebook also helps to overcome geographical boundaries, and link people together in ways that create new opportunities. Earlier this year EKA were able to introduce a drama group in La Nucia to UK cameraman Michael Hobdell, they came together to produce a short film. Local boy band SFM heard about it through Facebook and produced a soundtrack for the movie, this meant they were able to get into a studio to record two songs. “We love it when things come together and work and this all stemmed from social networking.”
“There are still many parents and teachers who view social media with suspicion, regard it as invasive. People tend to be wary of change when they do not understand it. The next generation see things with wider eyes and use it as part of what the Internet can give them as a learning tool. It is in their hands through their iPads and mobile phones.
“Twenty years ago our only teachers were our parents and those who stood in front of a blackboard. Today there is an educational revolution going on before our eyes, the Internet is buzzing with opportunities and we need to embrace it – especially parents who should be guiding their kids through the networks of information. Young people are embracing new technology with ease, it’s an exciting time for them. Getting them to believe it is the first step. With encouragement and assistance we can get them to seek out opportunities that will give them hope and inspiration for the future.”
For more information about Eka please visit www.europeankidsassociation.com.
Published in Costa Blanca News, 2nd November 2012