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Greetings from Europe! My name is Hanna Koponen, I was working for Coeliac Youth of Europe (CYE) as part of the Youth Committee from 2008 till 2012 and decided to write this article in 2010: to introduce some of the great activities aimed for young coeliacs in Europe. If you find yourself interested in such things – don’t hesitate to contact CYE Youth Committee and ask more!

The first 100 % gluten-free café in Sweden
The coeliac youth organisation of Sweden, SCUF, has a long history, a lot of young members and a big organisation behind the several seminars, camps, meetings and other activities for young coeliacs annually. The next occupation will be the first 100 % gluten-free café in Sweden. The café, Scufferiet, will open it’s doors in March 2010 in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. The café will offer gluten-free cakes, but also the possibility to eat lunch and buy bread and cakes take-away. It will be a model for other cafés how to serve gluten-free customers well. It will be more than just a café; it will be a place for SCUF members to meet, once a month the member group of Stockholm will arrange activities in the café. Also the annual meeting of SCUF will be held nearby and SCUF will have a new office next to the café. More information about the SCUF website www.scuf.se.

Italy and more than football
Football is the for sure the most popular sport in Italy – we all know that. It’s more than just football also for coeliacs: it is a well coordinated AIC (Associazione Italiana Celiachia) project at a national level and the young coeliacs participate too. How does it work? A youth representative Francesco Valitutti from AIC explains: ”Well, almost each regional coeliac group has its own team. My coeliac football team trains once a week, sometimes playing against other non-professional teams, for example lawyers’ team or police football team at regional level.” And how do you promote coeliac through football? Francesco continues: ”When we play, we always have our shirt with our logo on, and everyone who doesn’t know who we are ( it still happens, unfortunately), just asks and we answer and explain. We also give leaflets about coeliac disease to the opposite team, in order to have more and more people correctly informed. Moreover, we often use to play against a small village football team, and I underline that especially in small villages there is less awareness about coeliac disease: having a coeliac team playing there rises up lots of curiosity…” ”Sometimes we play against other regional coeliac teams, spending all day together, having lunch and fun somewhere. And in June it’s time for the annual coeliac football cup: We meet other coeliac football teams somewhere across Italy and play, eat gluten-free and have good time together, catching also media attention. The winner, The Italian Coeliac Society Football Team represents coeliac society playing during charity football events against famous singers, actors and ex-football players; they also plays against foreign teams for charity. Maybe one day there will be an international event! ”

Sem espiga – the success blog from Portugal
The Portuguese coeliac organisation started to put up a youth group just a few years ago. Their blog ”Sem espiga” has become a success in a short time: it did reach 39 000 visits during it’s first year of existence, which is huge and tells, there is certainly a need for youth activities in Portugal. In street language ”Sem espiga” means ”without worries”, but it means also ”without spike”, the part of wheat. The blog is about coeliac news, the youth activities, recipes, stories from young coeliacs, information articles.. anything concerning young coeliacs. It’s a good example, that the beginning of coeliac youth activities doesn’t always need to be huge to be a success! Check the blog: http://sem-espiga.blogspot.com (in Portuguese).

Berlin rally and many more
Imagine 50 young coeliacs from 10 different countries gathering together for a week to have fun, eat gluten-free, get to know each other, enjoy the summer together… It did come true again in summer 2009, as already during the previous 10 years: The CYE Summer Camp 2009 was held in Berlin, Germany. The German coeliac youth group had done a good job and the week was full of parties, sightseeing, activities like Berlin Rally around the city, High Ropes -climbing, barbecue and pizza parties, beach volley… Pictures and more information: CYE website www.cyeweb.eu for information about the next CYE Summer Camp + pictures and stories from the previous camps.

Spanish summer
The very first Spanish coeliac youth summer camp was organised in 2009. Rosa Moya Gonzáles from Spanish coeliac youth organisation FACE Joven introduces the basic idea: ”We were 30 people and spent one week in Alicante (my home city), it´s at the coast so we could easily enjoy the sea..! We did some trips: we were to the island Tabarca, had a trip in a funny fast boat, went to a funfair ‘Terra Mitica’. We were also invited to the city hall of Alicante to drink a typical ‘horchata’ and to have lunch in Alicante´s castle. It was really important for us because we wanted the city hall to know more about coeliacs, about FACE Joven, and about our association.” ”It was not just hanging around, but we also had some discussions with a doctor about coeliac as a disease. Later we discussed also the role of young coeliac people in our association. On the fifth day of the camp we enjoyed the beach and the typical “moros y cristianos” party. On the last day we had a dinner in a gluten free restaurant in Altea, in a beautiful village. We also went out at night. The location of our hostel was in front of the beach, so we enjoyed the beach at day and at night!”

What is this Coeliac Youth of Europe actually?
Coeliac Youth of Europe (CYE) is an umbrella cooperation forum for the national coeliac youth groups and organisations. CYE is an international forum for raising awareness, exchanging knowledge and working together for a better future for young coeliacs. CYE aims to improve life conditions for young people with coeliac disease. The activities are carried out through projects, one of them is Finding missing countries. It aims to find contacts in countries, where no coeliac youth activities exist or the activities have just been started. We, representatives of coeliac youth groups and organisations around Europe, get together once a year in CYE conference. It’s two-three days full of program; discussions, lectures, changing ideas and best practices, doing some sightseeing, enjoying delicious gluten-free food and having fun.

”If I ever have children, I wish they’d have coeliac too”
Quite strong said, isn’t? Well, you don’t have to agree, but I tell you about Bjørn, who actually said so. He’s a 23 years old guy from Norway and has been active in NCFU, the Norwegian Coeliac Youth Organisation, already for 8 years. He’s been presenting their organisation in CYE conferences around Europe, organising camps in Norway, he has met a huge amount of people and got great experiences, which he’d have never reached without having the coeliac condition. I underline condition, as he doesn’t want coeliac to be called a disease. Coeliac can be a curse, but it might be also a blessing to bring a group of young people together and get them make friends! So why not to join the coeliac youth group in your country 🙂 ?

This article was written in 2010.