Youth for nature, volunteering and inclusion

The project Youth for nature, volunteering & inclusion is, actually, follow up idea from Mountains connecting people project which was initially consisted of 3 youth exchanges in mountains in Kuterevo, Bulgaria and Kosovo, but continued to generate more youth projects afterwards.

While organizing those youth exchanges, we realized that they bring great potential, ideas and energy to local communities and that we should include long-term strategic approach which will integrate other youth and voluntary activities into local programs for nature conservation. The concept is mainly focused on SCI approach and methods, but we are not limited with that, and we want to explore other methods and ways of thinking and planning.

Velebit assocation Kuterevo became again partner for this new project and sent participants to the different activities:

The first activity within the project was Training Course on Qualitative volunatary programs in rural and remote areas, which took place in Peja, town surrounded by the Coursed Mountains.

In general, the training course was focused on 3 main topics:

  • nature conservation
  • history, sectors, stakeholders and challenges
  • grass-root youth and voluntary programs in nature conservation, with focus on Erasmus+

Second activity was the Youth Exchange (YE), which took place in Brezovica , National Park Sharr, situated on the south of Kosovo, from 15th till 26th of August 2016. Partner organizations were VCV Serbia, SCI Hellas, CID Macedonia, CVS Bulgaria, VUK Croatia, GAIA Kosovo and in total we had 30 participants who:

…learnt and shared knowledge about nature conservation

…explored the meaning and practise of coexistence with nature in rural areas,

… explored biodiversity of Sharr mountain and benefits of cultural and natural diversity

… visited inspiring and protected natural and cultural places such as Visoki Decani Monastery, Sinan Pasha Mosque, Prizren and Peja

… learnt about and from wilderness (herbs, other pants, animals, relations, fungi, human impact etc.)

…reflect on our role in this world (lifestyle, activism, ignorance…)

…and reacetd on it by: clean up action, murals, building up a compost place and benches and creation of a video about the mountain.

Partnership Building Activity (PBA) took place in Banja e Pejes from 25th of November till 5th of December 2016.

PBA gathered 32 representatives of 19 organizations which are involved in volunteering and youth programs for nature, but also those who are more focused on other topics, such as refugee work, inclusion and so forth.

The aim of the PBA was to provide space for developing new and strengthening existing strategic partnerships for nature protection projects through youth and voluntary work, to give opportunity to the participants to share good and bad practices in their work on the topics, to give an overview and details on the possibilities of the Erasmus+ programme. In addition to that, the aim was to improve and deepen participants skills in stakeholder analysis, inclusion and strategic and systems thinking.

More information about the project and results are available HERE.

this project is supported by Erasmus+ program of the European Union

 

“Farewell to spring in Pirin” part 2

During the second half of our agricultural adventure, in the beautiful village of Stara Kresna, it was time to get dirty. Compared to the first exchange in Kosovo, where we focused more on intellectual learning, this time we had the possibility to put our new-gained knowledge to use. We grabbed the tools and we went to “play” in the hay. Some of us have never ever seen a fork, except the one on the kitchen table, so we were pretty excited. The happiness of one particular Russian fellow sitting on the hay pile was indescribable. It was really nice to do something helpful for the locals.

It wasn’t only field work that day, we also had many diverse workshops led by the participants during our “open space”. Some of them – such as “sharing economy” movements and vegetarianism, were connected to our topic, while others focused more on cultural exchange and sharing different skills and knowledge.

The next morning continued in a similar manner. This time, there was a garden involved. Our ability to make everything fun is amazing. By noon we planted potatoes, tied tomatoes and got rid off all the weeds, while throwing dirt and “natural fertilizers” at each other, having the time of our life.

Maybe we shouldn`t mention that there was no water that day so we polluted the pool a bit. The rest of the afternoon was connecting food production and climate change, which involved presentations and group workshops.

We watched the sunset through the smoke of burning cow eco excrements, after which the brave ones even milked a cow and/or were just slapped by her tail and run away.

The next couple of days we worked on our final projects divided into smaller groups. The aim was to get some output out of the knowledge we gained throughout our stay here. We had four teams consisting of participants from every nation.

The results of the work are amazing as you can see with the article. One of the groups wrote a project for an eco-camp for young people in Russia and created games for children. The other teams focused on creating something that we can also use in the next parts of the project “Mountains Connecting People” or for other events of the Create Climate for Peace campaign. We prepared an exhibition about industrial agriculture and its impact on climate change, everything will be translated in our own languages and it will be used for further projects and reactions.

Small preview (complete exhibition to download and share soon online):

 

The best part of our final project are the short movie “Bon Appetit” and a song about climate change “Polar bears felt it”. The garbage-group was really inspired, the short movie wasn’t enough for them – dumpster diving guide and an alternative menu will be also available online for you to see. Feel free to share our work!

The last evening was big and somehow sad, farewell to each other and the hosts of Debeli Dab. Everyone of us will keep this place in their heart and hopefully take something helpful back to their home-country.

At the same time we are already looking forward to the next part of “Mountains connecting people”, which will be in Kuterevo in August. Until then we’ll sing our polar bears song and hope you’ll do it too…

Lukas, Lea and Elitsa

Youth Exchange “Farewell to spring in Pirin”

As a second part of the project “Mountains connecting people” youngsters from Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo and Russia (Republic of Mari El) are gathering in the Bulgarian “eco-village” Debeli Dab, in Stara Kresna village, close to the mountains of Pirin.

After the intensive work connected with Climate change and climate justice from the first part of the project now we go one step further. The topic of this exchange is sustainable agriculture. We want to inform ourselves about how to cut the supply chain of conventionally produced food and how to grow our own fruits and vegetables.

During the first half of the youth exchange we had many activities related to the main reason why we are here. To become more familiar with the topic and the current situation in every participating country we started with presentations about what is really happening in our motherlands and we also showed real existing examples for sustainable agriculture. Besides the theoretical part we also had an agro exchange, where every country presented typical, local produced food such as homemade cheese, different jams and of course traditional drinks.

On Friday, the 12th of June, we went altogether for a very interesting and inspiring excursion to a small village in the heart of Pirin called Vlahi. It’s really interesting how in small mountain village with population 10 people there are 4 environmental NGOs.
One of them is Vlahi Nature school – a project started by CVS Bulgaria in 2008. There we saw the permaculture garden and an artificial lake for frogs and other species that contribute to the natural growth of the garden. Besides gardening and permaculture they also organize different initiatives and events – for volunteers and school groups and this year there will be a long term EVS volunteer there for a first time.

We also visited the stables that belong to the NGO Centra Viva. They breed a rare local sheep. Also we saw the bears and the wolves that are under the guardianship of Balkan Wild Life Association, another NGO based in Vlahi. After this interesting walk around the village and the talks with the locals, the half our group decided to hike from Vlahi to Debeli Dab. It was a bit challenging to hike for 4 hours under the hot sun, but we did it.

On 13th we had an amazing guest lecturer – Gabriela Petkova, she is volunteer coordinator for Greenpeace Bulgaria. She talked about Permaculture and Urban gardening. She shared with us her personal experience and explained us the basics and principles of permaculture. And divided into teams we developed our own small projects for permaculture garden. It was really inspiring to see someone who really loves what she does. She said something I will never forget: Your garden is your teacher.

It’s not possible to skip the movie night, we watched “Taste the waste”. A movie that makes you rethink your lifestyle and what you really cause to our planet. It’s not a cheery one, but it’s worth to watch it.

On Monday we had another interesting visit, we had the chance to meet a couple of Petar Dunov’s followers. They presented to us their philosophy of living in harmony with nature. And we practiced paneurhythmy.

Don’t think that we work all the time. Even during the first days, when we were in process of getting to know each other. We had a very interesting Treasure hunt, speed dating and we also visited the thermal baths near the village of Stara Kresna.

Elitsa, Lukas and Lea

Pictures: Dennis Todorov