Once upon a time, a bear refuge in the far away mountain village Kuterevo was formed. It started small, one bear at the time, but now it is a place with a family of nine scarily cute beasts, Ivan and around 300 volunteers a year. Some of these people are here every year, some are here for the first time. We, the EVS team, are here for the very first time and this is our story up until now.
But, before we start, we would like to introduce you to the term EVS. EVS or European Voluntary Service is project funded by the European Union, through Erasmus + program and organized together with the National Agency of Croatia with partnership of the Erasmus+ Programme countries and Neighboring Partner countries. Our stay in Kuterevo lasts for two months, but in general one EVS project can last from two weeks to 12 months. Right now, for the Kuterevo EVS project present are people from the following countries: Anja from Slovenia, Aleksandra and Maja from Serbia, Laura from Lithuania, Marting from France, Teodor from Bulgaria, Allem and Asmir from Kosovo, Ivan from Bosnia, Luke from the UK and Marios from Cypros. And our days here looked something like this:
The first few days of our arrival we were met by tasks like chopping wood for the winter and for cooking on the stove, cleaning up the house were other volunteers were supposed to sleep and cutting branches and clearing up bushes, so we could prevent and protect ourselves and visitors from snakes, or more likely to protect the snakes from us 🙂
But then, we had a week long Camp Leadership training where we covered topics such as volunteering, group dynamics, intercultural learning, different leadership/coordination styles, conflict management, peace in work camps, and eco-leadership, all that in the companion of 10 other people from different countries and cultures.
After taking this short break we were back on track with our hardworking selves. The bears needed some help, so they asked us if we can help them. Mostly, they asked for:
- Food: a lot of fruits and veggies, grass, grains, seeds, ice-cream (actually huge ice-cubes filled with fruit and seeds, great for cooling off and hydration!), and meat (but only once or twice a month, because as they put it – they are only 10% carnivores and 90% vegetarians)
- Water for their pools, a lot of water, so they could cool themselves on the very hot days
- Tree branches, so they could play with them, especially when we throw seeds in them, so they can mush around trying to find them
- Clean area around their enclosure, so the visitors could enjoy clear view
Besides being the bear’s little helpers, we also fixed the geese house, even though they don’t really like us, we take care of all the other animals we have in the refuge, making sure that they are fed, happy, safe and sound all the time. We have to make sure that we are doing a good job in maintaining the facilities we have and to coordinate all the work camps and scouts groups that come and go all the time. And our artists in the group are also responsible for painting and decorating the souvenirs for our respected visitors, as a way of self-financing the refuge.
Other big thing that our EVS team is responsible of is guiding visitors, who come to this refuge more and more, day by day, year by year. And for that reason, it was really important for us to learn as much as we can about bears in general, their biology, mythology and lifestyle, but also to gather as many information we can for our bears. By now, we know so many things about bears, we sometimes talk only about them when we call our family back home.
Alongside this, we found time to be part of the local festivals and holidays, Barkanijada, Karmenica and Eko Etno Fest Otočac. Working on a different field than the Kuterevo refuge was a breath of fresh air that we all appreciated, even though we wouldn’t replace it for anything in the world.
And probably the most interesting thing for us was the information that we can use our creativity for a personal project, that would still contribute to the refuge. Until now, three of our boys, Allem from Kosovo, Ivan from Bosnia and Teodor from Bulgaria made trashbins, enough to cover the whole territory of the refuge. Anja from Slovenia is repairing our Herb garden, and at the brim of it being finished, we can assure you that it looks awesome! Our French man Martin, and the Serbian girl Maja, and our Anja are all together in reviving our German Garden, trying to put some order in it, so we don’t actually eat plain weed as a salad :D! The British Luke and the Serbian Aleksandra are at the beginning of their personal projects, so we will fill you in about them in our next post, but for now it’s a surprise! Psst!
But, in general, even though we are a bit unorganized and sometime we have no idea what is happening around us, we are really content and happy with our stay here and we can’t believe that we only have two more weeks left. Time passes quickly, especially if you are surrounded by people that have become your family during this month and a half.
So, for that cause, we would like to thank all the individual volunteers that came in Kuterevo, so thank you Tadej, Pierre, Gaelle, Lili, Mathias, Thalia, Matheu, Martyna, Lois, Aurelien, and all the others that came for a day or two. Thank you to all the scouts, Pihos 42e Floral, Pionniers of Lamberont, Pionniers du Precieux-Sang 69, Caravelles and Les Compact. Thank you work camps, thank you Alex Club, thank you Red Cross Germany. Thank you for making our stay here precious and memorable, thank you for all the laughs, tears, joy, clumsy stories, nights spent by the bonfire!
And we will give ourselves the right to keep the “..And they lived happily ever after. The End” for our goodbye post. For now, we will stick to “Talk to you soon! Vidimo se uskoro! До скоро! Je te parle plus tard! Τα λεμε συντομα! Iki pasimatymo! Се виждаме скоро!”
The EVS team