A chance to forgive and to make up: youth mediation
Who hasn’t made a mistake in their life? Growing up is a journey often marked with tough decisions on education, hobbies, friends, social environment etc. It is easy to make a few wrong choices and get into some disputes along the way. Left unresolved, these choices and disputes can get out of control and have much harder consequences for the young people involved. What can be done to limit this potential damage?
The Mediation in Progress project, funded by the Karelia ENPI CBC Programme, developed mediation, especially on criminal and minor dispute cases concerning young people. The aim was to institutionalise mediation services for youth in the Republic of Karelia (Russia) thanks to cooperation and exchanges of experience with institutions in the field over the border in Finland. This work together also increased the accessibility of the service by establishing new mediation offices in Karelia.
How does mediation work? When youth are involved in a conflict with a peer, teacher, parent or other member of their community, mediation can help resolve the conflict at hand while also building skills in conflict resolution, moral reasoning, and anger control. Commonly mediated conflicts include physical fights, verbal disagreements, interpersonal conflicts, hurt feelings, property damage, parent/teen conflict, teacher/teen conflict, theft and friendship problems.
Through the Mediation in Progress project, a premises in Sortavala (Karelia, Russia) was renovated and the volunteers needed for providing mediation services were recruited and trained. Two other mediation centres were established in Petrozavodsk and Pryazha in Karelia. The Sortavala mediation office is now part of the Centre of Psycho-Medical-Social Support for Children. “Nobody even knew about this kind of service before the project” underlines Sofia Chadrantseva, the director of the centre. The Finnish partners in the project from the University of Eastern Finland and a Mediation Office from North Karelia, had more experience in mediation than the Russian partners and Ms Chadrantseva considers sharing those experiences through workshops and study visits extremely valuable in institutionalising mediation services in her region. “It was very useful to see in the trainings how mediation actually works. Acted cases gave a good understanding of mediation.”
15 cases had been handled two years after mediation was launched in Sortavala. Most of the cases were handed to the office by schools, parents or by the court but Sofia also remembers a case where children themselves came to the office to ask for help concerning a dispute. Feedback from those involved in mediation has been positive. For Ms Chadrantseva it is clear that the work continues: “A child is not bad or evil. We can help and prevent renewal of crimes.”
Beneficiaries: University of Eastern Finland, Mannerheim League for Child Welfare North Karelia Mediation Office, NGO Youth Union Doroga, Children and youth centre of Petrozavodsk, Ministry of Education of the Republic of Karelia
Project budget: €450,000
Programme website: http://www.kareliacbc.fi