by Xosé L. Garza (Chair of Communication)

Good morning Pilar, thank you very much for joining us today, we are doing a series of inspiring interviews for the youth and we believe that your experience will be good for them. Tell us a bit how you are!

I am Pilar del Oro Sáez, galega, I studied Romance Philology in Santiago de Compostela and I complemented my studies with training in the field of the European Union and Foreign Trade. I alternated these with training periods in European institutions and public administrations. I work as a coordinator in the field of the Euroxuventude at the Galicia Europa Foundation.

Among my hobbies an open sea or a peaceful estuary, as well as a lofty mountain, without missing a good read. Enjoy the historical-artistic-cultural heritage and get to know new and emblematic places.

One day at work is usually intense. Varied. Updating of ongoing projects; collaborations with both public and private entities; advice, monitoring, support of / to young people, entrepreneurs, entities, associations,…. with which we have started programs; a lot of email; phone calls; meetings, committees, reports … and now with this COVID19 situation a lot of video conference.

Pilar with young people from Galicia and Portugal

Young people often see Europe as something very distant, and especially Galicians, can you explain to us what the Fundación Galicia Europa is?

The Fundación Galicia Europa* is a non-profit entity and an instrumental entity of the Galician autonomous public sector. The work of the FGE revolves around two main objectives: a better communication of community activity in Galicia and the defense of Galician positions in the European context. Promotes the rapprochement between Galicia and Europe

And how can the Fundación Galicia Europa help Galician youth?

The Foundation provides Galician youth with various online tools that allow them to explore all the opportunities that exist in the European Union, promote active citizenship and their participation in the community building process. Through the virtual platform that we have on the web, we provide updated information on the different opportunities that the European Union offers for young people. In addition, with the European projects that we carry out, we promote their training and support those initiatives that they themselves design and want to implement.

We already know that you have participated in different projects where you seek the involvement of youth in entrepreneurship, how do you reach young people? And what is more important, how do you maintain them?

The social networks of the FGE and our partners in European projects, as well as collaborating entities, are being a good platform to publicize the initiatives we are launching. The transmission that young people themselves make is also important. We “don’t support the youth”, “we chase it” and later “we let it fly”: we train young people on European Union issues (policies, programmes,…) through courses in which we get involved and make a strong follow-up, we talk with them to see which way they want to go, and we continue with a more personalized advice, we put them in contact with entities or people who can also advise them, “we tire them” so that they do not stop fighting for their goals and ideals; when they reach them they no longer need us, and they pilot their own life. While they always remember us.

There are many projects that are executed from the Foundation, but in reality we could know how many or which are focused more on youth than on other population sectors? Or those that you remember with the most affection, tell us a little…

The vast majority of the projects carried out by the Foundation have been aimed at young people, there are many if we take into account that the Foundation was born in 1988. You remember almost all of them with fondness, because the technicians who direct them have also learned from all of them. In order not to pigeonhole ourselves in a specific programme, I am going to mention three:

  • PARTICIPATE was a pilot project of the European Commission with which we achieved that many young people of different origins and academic level in Galicia could train and debate on the policies of the European Union, they were received and presented their conclusions in the Galician Parliament and finally in Brussels with the European Commissioner for Education and Culture (Viviane Reding), who of the 10 minutes that she had reserved for them by agenda, stayed to talk with them for almost two hours.
  • NONEETS, project of the Action Programme in the field of lifelong learning. Where I met and worked with young Galician companies with which I still collaborate today. It was a project aimed at NEETs, on which no one was betting and in which we learned that, by listening to NEETs with patience, tenacity, and speaking they could go very far. Young people in whom few believed, are today exceptional entrepreneurs and workers. With this project I learned that we need a lot of time to implement a good idea and be able to execute it, and that even who you think will not get very far shows you that with determination you can achieve “impossible”.
  • And the last one: LIDERA, a project underway under the Interreg VA Spain-Portugal 2014-2020 program (POCTEP). Its title sums up its objective: Catalyst for cross-border youth entrepreneurship and employment opportunities”. Promote cross-border economic development through the enhancement of the labour and entrepreneurial skills of young people in the territory, stimulate the cross-border business fabric, promote the launch of new business initiatives and achieve the employment of young people in the territory cross-border is the great purpose of this project and one of the illusions of my day-to-day work. We could say that LIDERA is synonymous with Pilar del Oro on a professional and personal level. It joins two paths that I have always opted for: cross-border cooperation Galicia – North of Portugal and opportunities for those who need them most.

We are in a very difficult moment where many young people see no way out, or if they see it as very far away, after this pandemic, how can we encourage or motivate young people, even from institutions?

The pandemic will, without a doubt, mark a before and after at all levels of life. I am convinced that the day to day will mark us which way to take to live up to what is expected of us as people, as companies, as institutions, as associations… It is essential to listen to young people and convey confidence and support to them. We must encourage them to dive into their illusions, we must support them in their initiatives and above all we will have to work together and find solutions to their problems in the shortest possible time. We will also have to stop and analyze in depth what lines of incentives, financing, we can launch NOW.

On the other hand, we are seeing many young people who are also at a point of nonconformity or rejection of everything that is offered to them, where have we done it wrong, if you think we have done it that way? And how can we support them?

Sure we have done things wrong, we are not perfect, and neither are they. I do believe that it is a turbulent moment, very different from what was expected, for which no one has prepared us. We will come out stronger, history is like that, and you always learn. It is essential that the whole society calm down, that we calm down, the hubbub and tension does not lead anywhere. We will have to listen to each other and listen to them, we will have to work together and show them that there is a way out and that they will be the executors of their future. We will have to understand each other and accept ourselves will be the best way of support. Respect each other.

If you look back and see where you are now, would the fifteen-year-old Pilar be satisfied with the Pilar now? Or in any case, would you do something differently?

I think so, the young Pilar would be satisfied with my achievements and with my failures, it was already like that at 15 years old. Rebel, fighter, nonconformist. There are many things that she would do in another way, the years brings you perspective and some good sense, but you also learn to accept and love you despite your defects. If I had to start over at fifteen, it would change my professional future, I would like to be able to innovate more, be more professionally independent, there are fields that I am passionate about where my daily work has not left me time, such as rural and local development. And if she came back again at fifteen, then another field; there are so many things to do that the important thing is to feel alive, venture out and above all learn.

I know that you have participated in Aych’s book, for which we thank you, but according to your point of view, as a professional who has worked for so many years with youth and entrepreneurship, what practical advice could you give to young people who have an idea or project, what could they do?

That they believe in them, in their idea, in their project, that they mature it, that they sit down and analyze it in depth; to fight for it. Let them work on it, seek advice. Coworking, nurseries, hub, specialized entities can help them develop their initiative, even other young people with the same ideas. Work and ask for advice, advice is important. These steps would be for me, the preliminaries to carry out your business future.

In our project we have a body of ambassadors and we always ask them to ask a question for you, and this is yours: “A good part of entrepreneurship has always been a boy thing, how has a woman like you developed in this world? And what do you think should be improved regarding the role of women in the company? “

When I started working I moved in a more masculine environment, I am from another generation! I have tried to be me, I have had difficulties, but I have fought against them. Today it is easier, the woman has her place, the one she wants. My environment, which is the same, is more feminine.

If it is true that in certain environments or certain people undermine the role of women, this for me is inconceivable. It cannot be, nor should it be allowed and for this there are legal instruments that protect us and with which we can fight, always from equality and legality. Those who do not perceive it should not have a relevant role in our society. Respect is paramount in a democratic society like ours.

Thank you very much, I hope this interview is inspiring for our young people, it has been a pleasure. Once again, thank you for your work and all the love you have had with our project.

(*) link Fundación Galicia Europa website