Polish and Lithuanian cities team up to help at-risk youth

Working with and supporting at-risk youth is never an easy task. Doing so across borders is even more challenging. But thanks to the cooperation and coordinated programming facilitated by the EU-funded Time is Now for Change project, the Polish-Lithuanian cross-border region has succeeded in doing exactly that.

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The Time is Now for Change project helped at-risk children and young adults by providing them with a social network and support. ©Time is Now for Change The Time is Now for Change project helped at-risk children and young adults by providing them with a social network and support. ©Time is Now for Change

" Never stop trying to help. The results will surprise you. It’s always the right time for change! "

Sonata Dumbliauskienė, project manager

The cities of Alytus, Lithuania and Elk, Poland share more than a common border. They also share such socio-economic challenges as increasing unemployment, poverty, violent crime, homelessness, and drug use – particularly among the younger generations.

But instead of ignoring the issue, these cities decided to take a proactive, coordinated approach. With the Time is Now for Change project, the cities launched an ambitious initiative to support the cross-border region’s most vulnerable population.

Getting street workers off the street

One of the project’s key actions was the Street Workers Initiative, a joint social programme that brought together NGOs, police departments, educational organisations, probation offices, and social support centres – among others.

Together, they engaged with at-risk children, their families, and other street workers to provide them with the social network and support they need to improve their lives.

For example, while organising such events as sporting activities, painting public murals, or creating movies, the project was able to interact with the youth and provide them with support and services. They also organised a week-long survival camp where young people could develop social bonds while learning essential life skills.

This project uses the lessons learned from Elk, which was one of the first cities in Poland to implement such a programme. Based on this experience, they trained their Lithuanian counterparts by sharing best practices and experiences. For example, experts from Elk organised practical training on how to deal with difficult youth.  

Improving lives

As a result of these actions, many young people in both cities have enrolled in school, started volunteering in the community, or joined the local community centre – all positive steps towards advancing their quality of life. The cities have seen a decrease in crime and drug use. In total, over 100 youths participated in the programming.

Building on the programme’s success, the project presented the Street Workers initiative for consideration by other cities. Lithuania has applied for additional funding which, if granted, will be used to ensure the programme’s continuation.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Time is now for change” is EUR  747 714, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 635 557 through the “Interreg V-A - Lithuania-Poland” for the 2014-2020 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and elimination of all forms of discrimination”.

Data do projecto