How did you come up with the idea of the Organization? And how does it work?
I discovered French Naturefriends in 2014, when I arrived in Haute-Savoie. I was hiking alone in the mountains and I looked for an association that offered hiking and nature outings. In April 2018, I was one of the delegates of the Thonon association at the Pradet congress. During this event, a very particular place had been left to the young people so that they could express themselves because the members of the French associations had realized that they attracted almost no young people and that the movement lost more members than it recruited. I was the spokesperson of the working group and elected to the board of the federation. That is how I got the Young Naturefriends France group going again.
Which is the biggest challenge you’ve faced (or you are facing) since setting up this no-profit organization?
Our biggest challenge has been to get this youth association accepted as a full-fledged association and not as dependent on the federation and the adults. To this day, we still have not succeeded. However, in 1967, a youth group had already been created: The youth resort. It developed until the 80s before disappearing. We still managed to recover our voting rights at the IYNF on June 29, 2019 during the Penestin congress.
Which kind of reactions/feedback does the Organization receive?
For the past 3 years, the local conservative associations have not made our work easy. We have had difficulties with some members of the governing bodies that have not allowed us to create an independent association, but we hope that this will change in time. We have also had great difficulty in communicating with the young members because many association leaders did not allow us to communicate directly with the young members. They preferred to receive the information and choose whether to distribute it. This is a real shame.
In your opinion, which role does the Organization play in local society and the life of young people?
Our organization is trying to mobilize youth and inform them about the environment, climate change and climate justice. For the moment it is quite difficult because we are very few in the team.
Can you talk about the activities of the Organization during these years?
We have organized 3 youth meetings: 2 in summer in Alsace in 2018 and in Normandy in 2019 as well as a ski weekend in Alsace in 2019. We mainly focused our stays on outdoor sports activities (tree climbing, swimming, climbing, hiking, Tyrolean traverse, skiing…). We tried to organize exchanges with other European and African associations but again, the adults did not support us enough. We persist in this direction and hope to succeed in organizing a Franco-German stay this summer with the NFJD.
Can you share with us experiences and motivation, highlights or something cool or inspiring you experienced during activities?
We exchanged a lot with different people and saw that we often have the same vision for the future of the movement. It is always very interesting to discover other cultures and to open up to others!
Looking back at when you started the movement, is there something you would do differently?
If I could do things differently, I would keep the planned stay at Schnepfenried and do my best to make it open to members and non-members and to allow young people from Europe and Africa to participate.
What’s next for the Organization?
The next step for our organization is the videoconference congress scheduled for May 22, 2021 and the Evian congress in 2022. We need to survive and grow, reach more young people and hand over to a new young and dynamic team. We must at all costs keep our voting right in the IYNF.
AssoConnect Project Manager,
Youth Project Manager