We are proud to announce the winners of the European Citizenship Awards 2018! There were three categories: Active Citizens Initiative of the Year, Social Enterprise of the Year, and Volunteer of the Year. We had some very strong competition, with thousands of public online votes combined with the jury’s decisions to decide the final winners.

“This is the third year that we are organising the European Citizenship Awards together with the European Civic Forum. Many of our colleagues in Europe and beyond will remember that these Awards were preceded by nearly a decade of Volonteurope’s Active Citizenship – ACE – Awards. Thus, over the course of 12 years, we have celebrated the achievements of dozens of worthy winners – individuals, organisations, social enterprises, media campaigsn and grassroots citizen movements, recognising their outstanding contribution to promoting active citizenship and solidarity, at all levels, so that we all can enjoy living in a more socially just society. As a Co-Chair of this year’s Jury, I would like to thank my fellow Jury members, as well as the voting public, who helped us identify the 2018 winners. My congratulations go to the winners and I am very much looking forward to the Awards Gala on Sunday night, 2 December 2018, at the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk.”

Oonagh Aitken, President of Volonteurope and Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters.

Winner of the Social Enterprise of the Year Award: Floare de cires Ltd

Currently many young people in Moldova struggle to make the transition from full-time education to employment. Employees are sometimes hesitant to hire young people due to lack of experience or specialized training, and this unemployment in turn has led to a growing number of young people in Moldova struggling to integrate into society. Floare de cires (translated to English as ‘Cherry Blossom’) is a catering social enterprise, who offer extensive training and support to vulnerable young people to help them into employment. Trainees learn to grow, prepare and serve local and international food, and in this safe and supportive environment learn the skills fundamental to employment.

The percentage of young people who are NEET (not in employment, education or training) in the Republic of Moldova is 28.8%. Many of these young people have disabilities and live in rural areas, which can make it more difficult to contribute and feel part of society. Starting as a small group in 2012, Floare de cires now employ a number of people with disabilities as well as people who are long-term unemployed. They’ve gone on to cater for over 35 events per month, as well as providing lunches for older people in their homes, aiming to reduce social exclusion in the community even more.

Winners of the Active Citizens Initiative of the Year Award: Messages of diversity: Being open for the unknown/foreign cultures

We live in a diverse and multicultural society. To showcase these differences, people living in Passau (locals, Germans from other cities, migrants, and refugees) were photographed and asked about their intercultural experiences and relationships, the personal gain associated with them and the openness towards “strangers” in their lives. The resulting photo exhibition encourages the viewer to think about the advantages and benefits of living in a diversity society, and to reflect on their own attitudes and experiences.

Winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award: Donald Dervishi

Donald Dervishi, 32, got a new job as a teacher and school director in the rural mountain area of Southern Albania in 2017. When he went to visit one of the schools that he was responsible for, he was shocked at the conditions. The building was crumbling, rain poured through the roof and the only source of heat had no ventilation to the outside. Donald committed to building an entirely new school for the students and their teacher.

Donald applied with the school’s teacher, Borsion, to the national quiz show ‘Millionaire.’ They both were accepted onto the show, and they made it to the end finally winning 1800 EUR, which began the crowdfunding campaign to raise money to rebuild the school. In the months following tireless campaigning, he managed to raise 10,000 EUR.

After funds were raised the task of rebuilding was very difficult; they had to find equipment and workers willing to make the arduous climb up the mountain to begin with! Eventually the construction began in early August 2018, and when the new students began their ne school year it was held within these brand new walls.

Thousands around the country who have seen his work on news or read of his efforts on social media have thanked him for reminding them of the importance of civic responsibility and taking action on behalf of the disenfranchised, such as the people of rural mountain villages. Thousands more have responded positively to the news videos on YouTube, commenting that they are inspired by his dedication and pride in education. His belief that the education of only five mountain children is worth dedicating hours, even days, each week over the past year has led to others wanting him to continue with his efforts after this school is finished. To answer their calls, he has decided to quit his job as Director in the coming year, and instead dedicate himself fully to the renovation and reconstruction of more schools around the country.