During 24 and 25 November 2023, a historical first was achieved for the CEE region, as for the first time young editors up to 26 from various countries attended the CEE Youth Group Meeting in Prague, Czechia, which was organised by the CEE Hub.
CEE Youth Group was founded officially in August 2023, while the second CEE Catch up was about young people in CEE in May. The group began working formally in August and began to expand rapidly. I joined it in August too, being the first member from Greece. There I am pretty active, and I have participated in all meetings onwards. In September 2023 the group was promoted to the CEE people, with a common article in CEE newsletter by me and Caner, and a presentation in CEE Meeting in Tbilisi with input by Caner, Valentyn, Mari, Deni and Jan, as well a brief presentation from me via video form in the end as I couldn’t attend due to university obligations.
In our hybrid meeting in 15 September it was announced that a in person meeting would take person in Prague in November. After a few days, CEE Hub opened the process for interested members to join the event and get a scholarship by the Hub for it. Wishing to participate in an international Wikimedia event and to travel abroad, I made a request and in 3rd of October I was informed that CEE Hub granted me a full scholarship with full coverage of expenses, much like the rest of the participants.
Thanks to the organising work by Barbara, Klára, Toni and Lucie, a smooth preparation began. In November 10th we had a last meeting to prepare some things and receive information about the meeting. Thus, we go straight forward to November 24th. Already the first participants had arrived in the morning. I arrived with a delay in Vienna at 3:20 pm from Athens, however that delay was enough to arrive in Prague in 23:00 rather than around 4 pm as scheduled. Thus, I missed the dinner in the restaurant at Friday, and the game that participants played to find the restaurant.
I arrived in the hostel around midnight. There I met Jan, and a few other Czech Wikimedians when I entered. Then I went to my room, meeting Elbek, a Kyrgyz Wikimedian and one of the key members of the growing community of Kyrgyzstan.
In Saturday I woke up shortly after 8 am. We went to the restaurant where all the rest of the members were, thus giving me the ability to see the rest of the group in person, and having a conversation. So after we completed our breakfast we concentrated in the entrance of the hostel in order to go the conference venue (Wikimedia CZ headquarters).
There, organisers introduced us to the meeting. We first played Icebreaker, where we everyone wrote short sentences about him/herself and then asked one of the other members if, for example, in my own case, had played a pivotal role in revitalising the youth element in Greek Wikipedia. If you hold a paper and your playmate said that something in the paper is true for him/her, you was eliminated, otherwise you exchanged the paper.
Then, we were asked to say what makes us confident to be a member of a discussion group. We collectively gave emphasis on around 20 points and agreed to a few rules, thus setting the first guidelines for CEE Youth Group.
After, we had a small session with Barbara and Klára (on the targets for 2024), Lucie (internships) and Toni (online contests). We had a freedom to chose, however it was the former session who had the most people. We brought up a lot of ideas, like working with refugees, Youth Wikimedian of the Year, CEE Youth Group social media, working with schools, youth exchange program, showing the insightfulness and thought of every member from each working group. I brought among others, the topics of incorporating minorities and working with schools, while we discussed the possibility of groups inside the group that will research the possibility of working with schools in their country.
We then discussed the realisticness of them and presented our proposals, for voting. The most voted ideas would become part of the official targets for 2024. Among the most voted were Youth Wikimedian of the Year (which, by my opinion, is a very important and applicable concept) and CEE Youth Group social media presence. Other ideas, like CEE Spring youth articles were also discussed, as well.
After we connected CEE Youth Group with our communities. Then, Jan Beránek, who is the main communications person in the group and member of the comms team in Wikimania 2024, interviewed us in order to make a promotional video for the group.
Then, the next point, after the lunch, was Wikimania. We were asked what we would like to see, and proposed then some ideas for CEE slot (between 4 and 6 pm where there is no session). We did it in working groups, for example in my own we brought forward a tour of Krakow’s main monuments, and an idea of a brainstorm session about many important things, such as the future of the movement. We presented them in groups of 3. Many ideas were brought forward from other colleagues, like a skill sharing, social networking events as well. After we set forth some ideas on how to improve the presence of the group in the internet, like making an account of CEE Youth Group in Instagram (where I and two other members offered to be admins) and other social media, roles of members in the group, and if we should have bimonthly or monthly meetings. It was reached out that we may have monthly meetings if we surpass 60 members, and also, to have local ambassadors of the group for every country. These ideas were presented by the groups of 2 people each. We will discuss them more in our January online meeting to take final decisions, so that everyone in the group (which has around to 30 members) has a say.
Then, Edwin, a Peruvian student in Austria and Wikimedian, came as our guest and told us about his work in Peruvian languages like Quechua Wikipedia and the problems they face. After that, we concluded our meeting, and went to the restaurant for a dinner where we had a very interesting discussion with the members, CEE Hub people and Edwin. Then, I, Nino, Mariam, Mari, Valentyn and Tadeáš left for a walk in the city, where we had a great time, and we returned at the hostel around 11 pm.
In Sunday I woke up in 8 am. We came with Elbek in the restaurant of the hostel, and then we met most of the group again. We departed for a group walk in 9.50 am, while earlier we hugged and greeted some of our shipmates in the group as a gesture of farewell. I toured the city together with Jan, Danny, Toni, Barbara, Elbek and Caner that day, passing from many monuments like the astronomical clock and the Prague castle. I then ate in a restaurant with Jan, Danny and Toni and then bidded farewell as the latter two left for the airport. I left for Frankfurt in 6.50 pm and after for Athens in 8.50, reaching Athens in 12.20 am.
During the meeting I learned about some very interesting programs in Armenia and Czechia to promote Wikipedia participation and awareness in the general populace, like the Wikicamps and the costs affiliated with it, the Armenian Wikiclubs, as well the Czech program to promote Wikimedia which includes regular meetings of people with the local staff and also, gatherings of volunteers with people in restaurants and other social places to promote Wikipedia. I learned about the work of Ukrainians in Poland to promote Ukrainian Wikipedia, and the Georgian wikiclubs, while I shared my experience from the first outreach activity in my university. These information are very useful, because these months I have been researching ideas for new projects to improve the presence of Greek Wikipedia and Wikimedia movement in Greece. Also, I expressed my interest to join the partnership between Turkish, Japanese and Malaysian editors as a fourth partner, which is a great idea.
It was an unforgettable experience as it is my first Wikimedia conference, and I met many new friends from around CEE region. Both the conference and Prague as a city leave me with positive impressions and I hope this will increase understanding and sense of unity between CEE communities. It is the first such youth meeting in CEE, and also that to inspire other regions to make Youth Groups. I am really grateful to Klára, Barbara, Lucie and Toni for making a great event and Jan for being our guide, but also because he helped with organising. I am sure that we will have a lot of such opportunities and CEE Youth Group will grow a lot next year! CEE all of you again!
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