The past week has seen the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) host the 2016 Rural Youth Europe, European rally. The event attracted almost 100 delegates, representing 17 individual organisations from 15 different countries.
The over-arching theme of the event was: “Bridging Diversity: Growing Diversity”.
Current Rural Youth Europe chairman Lukas Heifenstein, from Switzerland, said that the six days of activities, centred at CAFRE Greenmount, would provide all of those taking part with an opportunity to learn more about the need to respect other people’s values, culture and beliefs.
“I believe that our membership from across Europe can learn a lot from the experiences gleaned here in Northern Ireland over many years,” he said.
“Our theme is particularly relevant at the present time, given the challenges associated with migration in many European countries.”
Heifenstein explained that Rural Youth Europe is not a farming organisation per se.
“We were conceived to help improve the knowledge and skills’ base of young people living in rural areas: providing them with the wherewithal to make the best of their talents and abilities, while living in a rural setting.”
His successor as chairman, Russell Carrington – from Herefordshire – explained that Rural Youth Europe was established in 1957.
“We are funded by the European Union. However, we draw our membership from countries outside the EU.
“For example, Switzerland has long been represented within our organisation and last year saw Norwegian Rural Youth joining our ranks.
“We also work closely with compatible organisations in Russia and a number of other countries in Eastern Europe.”
The rally comprised a series of skills and learning-based workshops, dealing with issues that go to the very heart of the challenges facing young people today. But it wasn’t all hard work. Delegates, also had the opportunity of staying on farms throughout Northern Ireland and visiting Belfast during their stay. The culmination of the event was a closing dinner, held in Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
Organising the rally has been a two-year commitment for the project team set up by the YFCU to make it happen.
“But the effort has been worth it,” confirmed YFCU president Roberta Simmons.
“It is a great honour for the YFCU to host such a wide ranging group of rally participants to Northern Ireland. I hope they have learnt something from their visit to Northern Ireland. Without doubt, we in the YFCU have learnt a lot from them.
“I would particularly like to thank all of the YFCU members who have put in such a Trojan effort in making this year’s rally such an outstanding success.”
One of the invited speakers to the rally was Heather Keanie, from the City of Derry and Strabane District Council.
She spoke of her confidence that the Maiden City would get the nod later this year, when the decision is made to select the Youth Capital of Europe for 2019.
“There are four other cities in the running for the accolade,” she added.
“The final decision will be made on November 11th this year.”