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Smooth sailing for young crew - 31/10/2008

Young people scrubbing deck of a tall ship © EC

Young people from nine countries learn to sail and work together thanks to EU youth programme.

They came from nine different countries across Europe. With at least one thing in common – everyone knew how to swim.

This was no coincidence. The 52 young people had signed up for six days of service on a Portuguese naval ship, a unique venture to test not their seamanship, but their ability to get along.

The project was one of 33 projects competing for awards during European youth week (2-9 November). Part of the EU’s Youth in Action programme, the projects aim to promote appreciation and tolerance for different cultures.

And what better way to do that than to put people of different nationalities and backgrounds to work on a ship?

“Life on board a ship has unique characteristics, namely living with a group in a confined space where each person has an important role to play in the daily life of the group,” says Alexandre Jacinto of H2O, the Portuguese youth association that organised the voyage. Having served in the Portuguese navy, he speaks from experience.

Participants came from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. After five days of training on land, they set sail from Lisbon on 18 September 2007. Like any crew, they had to scrub the deck, prepare meals, tie knots and learn how to sail.

The projects are just one highlight of European youth week, an EU policy to foster civic spirit among the young. Cities and towns around Europe are hosting debates, lectures, concerts, festivals and exhibitions from 2 to 9 November.

The week also marks the 20th anniversary of the EU's youth programmes. More than 1.5m young people have already participated in programmes such as the European Voluntary Service, learning new skills and acquiring intercultural experience.

EU youth programmes - want to get involved?

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