In Baltinava Youth Matters
Due to various economic and demographic reasons as well as the high divorce rate the activists trying to solve the everyday life problems in Latvia are mainly female. Prevalently middle-aged women organize themselves, call together people of all ages and "worry" the local government people in order to make life better. Hence the only young, judicious and assured man, who participates in the grassroots activities of local, regional and national level, attracts interest. Rolands Keišs (RK) sees nothing strange in the situation, to be more exact, it's natural to him that men are the most active members of the local society, as he comes from a very small village at the Eastern border of the EU – Baltinava. When speaking to Rolands we tried to understand what makes people from Baltinava so thrillingly different and… normal.
- When visiting Baltinava a stranger might presume that there are no problems for the young ones there…
RK: - The young people are active in Baltinava, they take part in various sports and culture activities. There are certainly also passive people, but little by little they start joining us and showing their interest.
- Who is the most passive?
RK: - The other half is made up of people, who want nothing and are not going to participate. They are mainly the unemployed, who like their status and do not want to find a job. At present I've no idea, how to make them do something.
- I hear the Baltinava grassroots have lifted the level of their demands lately…
RK: - Yes, that's right. Our youth grassroots took part in the local elections this year with a separate youth list, and two people from our grassroots group were elected as deputies of the local government. It's me and my brother.
- That's kind of a family-owned enterprise…
RK: - Kind of… (Laughs.) We hope it will make the life of the young people better in Baltinava. Who can understand the young people better than young people? We are young and are in contact with the youngsters.
- Do you feel more important now?
RK: - Our friends and schoolmates openly tell us about their needs and we in our turn inform the local government about the problems. That's how the voice of the young is heard in Baltinava.
- You represent grassroots – a small NGO from a small distant village. Do you think it's possible for the grassroots to change the life of a whole nation?
RK: - Openly speaking, few things can be done on the national level, but in small municipalities grassroots can have great influence. By organizing activities for the
handicapped, for other people… we make their everyday life happier.
- Could you mention some examples?
RK: - At the end of July there was the annual festivity in the Baltinava district where the members of our grassroots organization joined two other local NGOs who deal with culture and women matters and helped to organize the activity. The result was awesome, and lots of people participated. It seemed to me that they were all happy to be present.
- Did your local amateur drama give its performance there? During the last couple of years it has become extremely popular all around Latvia…
RK: - Yes, by the way, I'm also a member of the drama unit, too.
- Let's talk about your plans for the future. What about cooperation with other grassroots organizations in Latvia? This was one of the main aims of the "Grassroots for the Wellbeing of Europe" activity…
RK: - Our equals from Brocēni came to visit us, and we plan to make a return visit in order to exchange our experience and carry out a shared activity already as partners. They have a fountain of new and brilliant ideas as well as our people, so we might reach good results.
- They say that in contrast to the major part of Latvia and even your closest neighbour rural districts, not so many young people leave Baltinava for ever… I was even told a joke that the Russian border-guards (Baltinava is situated near the Russian border) have asked their Latvian colleagues: - Is it kind of sabotage that the fields on the Latvian side of the border near Baltinava are all freshly cultivated?...
RK: - It's very important to develop the rural districts in Latvia, as there are lots of talented people who cannot go to the town and find a job there. By remaining in their farms they do not just say: - There is nothing to do in the countryside, especially for the young people… - Those who stay and work here develop all Latvia.
- Don't you feel kind of strange or uneasy being one of the very few young people and the only man in this activity? Your life has been a bit different up to now – even among the teachers and administration of the Baltinava highschool men make up more than pone third…
RK: - First and foremost, I've learned to work together with women here, as this is my first time as the only man among ladies in this activity. That's most interesting, as ladies older than me carry richer life experience. And this experience could come in handy in my future life.