Background In 2013, young rheumatics organised a two-stage project in Estonia – a 3-day seminar in September had 17 participants and a follow-up 1-day seminar in December 23 participants, including both patients and family members from all over the country. The project title “The Hidden Side” refers to rheumatic diseases as hidden disabilities as well as to the youth’s abilities and will to do things that are hidden behind fear and lack of self-confidence. And as the youth association is coming to a turning point, which occasions a need for new leaders, this was the perfect timing to try and boost confidence!
Objectives The main objective for the project was to involve and encourage young people with fewer opportunities to take action as youth leaders, project coordinators and organisational leaders. Another idea was to find out whether there is a need for such an association at all. In addition, the goal was to support the youth becoming more independent and decisive through new experiences in different fields as well as share their experiences and knowledge.
Methods The 3-day seminar was organised in a small guesthouse in the middle of large forests and beautiful nature, the follow-up in a cosy hall where everyone could feel comfortable regardless of their disabilities. This all inspired a relaxed, safe and encouraging environment. The seminars were conducted by implementing methods of informal study (e.g. simulation games, group work, creative tasks, discussion groups and workshops). Team work and taking the lead was promoted for example by a canoe trip on a river.
Results The project was very successful, which could already be seen during the follow-up seminar, where several young people already lead discussion groups on various subjects as well as workshops of different skills. The association acquired some new members and most importantly, 3 new board member candidates. The newly encouraged young people have already been active in several events.
Conclusions Young people with fewer opportunities have the abilities and will to take up different tasks and participate in social life. However, they are often discouraged and shy, much due to their disabilities and the fact that they are restricted in their ventures. The seminars showed that there is a need for support from someone who has similar experiences, a mentor, as well as from family members.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared