On the 20th of March, the International Day of Happiness takes place which recognizes happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings worldwide and the importance of its recognition in public policy objectives.

Happiness can be found in various aspects of life, including hobbies, social connections, and employment. However, discovering the meaning of happiness can be challenging, particularly for young people who may face multiple challenges in their lives. Challenges can lead to dropping out of school or struggling with loneliness, mental health problems, financial concerns, or substance abuse. Youngsters who face these struggles are commonly referred to as NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), and they often can feel left behind in society.

Erhan Daler, a young person who had experienced such obstacles, shared his experience of feeling like he could not progress in life. Daler was bullied for years, and it caused him to drop out of school. “I thought I wouldn’t go anywhere because I couldn’t go to school or work. All people went and lived a normal life, but I didn’t get there. I just wanted to stay home and rot away,” says Erhan Daler.

However, he has found individual support and coaching through the support and guidance provided by the Deaconess Institute’s VAMOS program in Finland. The VAMOS program aims to reach out to young individuals aged 16-29 without employment, education, or training and provide them with the necessary assistance to transition back into society. After participating in the program, almost half of the young individuals who enrol in VAMOS have secured employment or further education.

Terhi Laine, the director of VAMOS, emphasizes that young individuals need individual coaching and peer support to overcome their challenges. Programmes like VAMOS enable young people like Erhan Daler to take control of their lives, break free from the vicious cycle of being stuck at home and find their path to happiness and fulfilment. “At Vamos, a real person talked to me normally, looked me in the eyes and didn’t just take notes with a blank face”, explains Daler.

Erhan Daler has now become an advocate for marginalized youth, sharing his experiences and giving a voice to those who may feel left behind. He participated in Eurodiaconia’s “Roundtable on Youth Unemployment” event and brought his story to the European Parliament. He has also joined VAMOS as an experienced specialist, using his experiences to help others in similar situations.