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Stefan Lorenz, Director of Rural Youth Organisation Upper Austria

By Iana Perevoshchikova and Johanna GysinStefan Lorenz, 28 from Austria learnt a lot of new methods of presenting and teambuilding from the Leadership Seminar for Rural Youth in Herrsching. These methods will be helpful for him in his job at the Rural Youth Organisation of Upper Austria.  Stefan told us more about his organization emphasizing the power and support the organization has in rural regions of Austria.The Rural Youth Organisation’s objective is to support and promote youth in rural areas. It is split in different levels. There are 15 districts in Upper Austria based on 217 working groups. 20000 volunteers work for the Rural Youth Organisation Upper Austria, 90000 in total all over Austria. The age of the volunteers is between 14 to 35 years, only five people in total work full-time. The organisation is financed by different funding sources, such as the state of Austria, local programs and programs of the European Union. The organization also cooperates with different companies and receives funds by them.It was not apparent from the beginning on, that Stefan’s career would lead him to the Rural Youth Organization. He studied economics and business for non-profitable organizations. After his studies he saw the job at the Rural Youth Organization and took it as an interesting challenge. Stefan’s daily work is lively and involves not only realizing action on the base of rural youth but also lobbying for the rural youth in policy making when it is necessary.  The tasks of Stefan and his peers are very divers; with their work they try to catch different aspects of rural youth and their needs. Rural Youth staff organizes cultural events, festivals and get together activities for the rural youth. They promote competitions for youth, e.g. speech holding, ploughing and so on. They are as well involved in different projects, in which e.g. playgrounds for kids or a beach volleyball area were built. For the members of the Rural Youth Organization Stefan and his staff organize workshops, seminars and congresses. Additionally they often organize farm visits to show the diversity of agriculture to young people.“In Austria many young people are very proud to work in agriculture and they want to stay in rural areas!” says Stefan and emphasizes the important role of the Rural Youth Organization. “We give them possibilities to meet and discuss about new development of agriculture and society. Like this we keep the rural areas worth living areas, providing young people with opportunities and a strong social net!” Stefan’s aim for his work in the Rural Youth Organization is that people should stay in their villages since the environment and infrastructure there are in very good conditions.For him the message he wants to pass on to the young people in rural Austria is clear: “We have to show young people that they can do projects in their villages to make it a better place to live. We need to tell them, that they can create their own future in rural areas and also in agriculture. As long as young people know and feel this, they will stay in rural areas.”