Bear Art Workcamp #3

For some people 20th of August was just another ordinary day but for us, 9 volunteers
who had the opportunity to be a part of Bear Art 3 Work-camp, that day was the beginning ofnew experiences, adventures and friendships.

Our work was a lot different from the work of other volunteers because it was focused
on art connected with bears. We came as “artists” so everyone had different ideas about what we should do, but we managed to make a compromise surprisingly easy. Instead of one big project we decided to do a few smaller ones depending on each person’s interest and we helped each other out.

For example, we made a few signs that were not yet there and a wooden book about
Kuterevo village and bears in the refuge. Photo-place was a real success because people were intrigued by colorful bears even when the project was not even finished yet! And prints of bear paws on the road turned out to be really helpful; both for tourists, who didn’t know where to go and for volunteers working at info-station, because their work became a lot easier with saying “just follow the bear steps” to visitors.

But we weren’t just drawing and painting, we also had a chance to feed the bears,
explore the village and for example meet a lady who makes special traditional shoes typical for Kuterevo, we also had a little tour through the village and learn a lot of information about nature in that part of Croatia. We also learned stories of bears and some of them are really touching. We tried to spend as much time as we could admiring and observing these magnificent animals and we were having fun guessing which bear is which.

For one day we also went to camping place Kopija where we proudly became
Kuterevo volunteers and had a little party for ourselves, baking potatoes, exchanging funny
stories, making fun of our accents and there were a lot of failed attempts of singing but
even the youngest among our group was enjoying himself.

We also quickly adapted to the simple living conditions and realized that you really
don’t need much to be happy – we probably did break a few records in taking the quickest
showers ever because of the cold water and every day was full of surprises, especially when it came to cooking. Gordon Ramsay probably wouldn’t be impressed, but hey, we are artists, not cooks 😉

And then came that day of goodbye’s, handshakes, hugs and even some tears. We
were all a little sad because it was already over and it seems that time really flies when you are enjoying yourself. So, we were people of different ages coming from different parts of the world, we had different backgrounds, spoke different languages (thank you Google translate), and had different personalities, but nevertheless, we all came with the same purpose to volunteer and at the end we left Kuterevo as friends with beautiful memories.

Bear Art team

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Moving Feet Opening Minds summer project

From 24th of July to 8th of August, 13 students from Askham Bryan College and Newton Rigg College, UK, came to volunteer in Kuterevo Bear Refuge thanks to the Moving Feet Opening Minds project.

For these students in animal management, it was a beautiful opportunity to discover the project, learn about bears and other wild animals in Croatia, experience simple way of life and enjoy volunteering with many other international volunteers.

For our organisation, it was a great help since we always need new motivated people to give a hand in our daily tasks!

Together with Maja, one of our EVS volunteers from Serbia, and Dora, from Croatia, students gave a lot of energy working for the needs of the bear refuge. Among many tasks, they helped with renovating the enclosure for the youngest bears, prepared enrichments for them, built a new bench for visitors… Carrying rocks and heavy rotten trunks was not always easy, but altogether and with good mood and good will, everything was done!

But volunteering in Kuterevo Bear Refuge is not only about hard physical work. During their stay, English students discovered Kuterevo traditional lifestyle, visited local families, learnt how to bake bread… They also met with Teta Dragica, our dear grandma maestor in making „Coklje“ (handmade Kuterevo shoes) and always willing to share life lessons with volunteers.

As part of the educational activities of this project, Professor Vedran Slijepcevic, from the University of game-keeping and environmental protection, was invited to give a lecture about signs of animal presence in the wild. Students and other volunteers learnt how to recognize footprints, feces, signs of feeding… of ungulates, small carnivores and large carnivores.

And after the theoritical part, spending time in our forest camp Kopija was perfect to enjoy natural wild animals’ habitat and to reconnect with nature!

 

Last of the EVS team 2017

So, the end is here, our fellow reader.

Two months have passed and we don’t really know how to feel about that. In one hand we are relived to go home and see our friends and family again, to go back to our old lives. But, in other hand we feel really sad and depressed to leave Kuterevo, to leave this small piece of Paradise, to leave the bears, to leave Postaja (our Volunteers Station), to leave all the domestic people, all the friends we made here.

No matter how we twist it, that is reality. And to cheer up the sad part of the story , here we present you some bloopers, funny photos or just us doing… something!

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Farewell Kuterevo, farewell bears, ponies, Misho, Kiki, Ivan, Barbara, Glorija, Josipa, domestic people and other volunteers! We shall come back, but for now here are our faces in case you star forgetting how we look like.

Goodbye, for now!

Lots of bear hugs and wishes to meet again soon,

The EVS team 2017
Written by: Tamara Gjuroska

The Golden EVS Middle

Yes, our dearest reader, believe it or not we’ve come to the more than a middle of our EVS stay! A lot of laughing, tears, sweat, friendships and more has filled our month and so. In our previous post we talked and talked about all the things we’ve done so far. So, now, we wanted to justify our words and offer you pictures as a proof! But, first, bears!

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So as you can see on the pictures above, our Lithuanian girl Laura repaired our Meditation Spot and even though we don’t have pictures from before she laid a hand on it, we assure you that she did a great job. She cleaned it up, repaired the fence and gate, put new gravel on the floor and even made motivational quotes.

Next one, we have Martin, our French man, who besides reviving the German Garden worked on another personal project which involved creating a Greenhouse. Below you can see the almost finished product and how Martin and Teodor enjoyed it :’D We will also show you pictures when it gets painted, but for now we just wanted to show you our EVS human plants!

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And the last finished personal project belongs to our youngest EVS volunteer, Aleksandra from Serbia, who repainted the old bear signs we have, so we could replace the ones we have on the roads as directions to the refuge that were too old to be easily noticed by our visitors.

And here you have the chance to see Luke working on his personal project, but because it’s still not finished, we’re not going to tell you what it will be!

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Besides all of this, we were special guests to Hrvatski Radio Otočac twice and will be one more time by the end of our stay here. We also had a Skype talk with the volunteers in Brezovica, Kosovo, where the second part of this EVS project is taking place. It was really nice to meet these people and to share our experiences so far, to give them advice considering that we started our EVS one and a half month earlier and to hear what their plans are! We found out they were working on organizing an eco-friendly festival, BreFest on Sharr Mountain, Brezovica, a project that was initiated by GAIA Kosovo, our sister organization. They were working on a music program, capoeira workshop, vegan cuisine, sustainability education for visitors etc… but all with consideration and respecting the mountain. They were at the beginning of their project, and the first thing they did was to remove a very large garbage dump from the place! (Good job, guys and girls!)

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Both volunteer groups on both mountains (Sharr and Velebit) had a similar motivation to join these projects, experiencing an eco-friendly lifestyle and paying respect to nature and its creatures and living in harmony with them. Of course, one of the biggest topics of the skype meeting was bears 🙂 and the volunteers were especially interested to know how they should act in case one visits them. (reminder – act calm, don’t run, give the bear space to go away)

We built a new fence around the volunteer accommodation, we learned how to cook and eat vegetarian food ONLY (a challenge most people survived surprisingly easy) and how to make an amazing homemade bread! How to play chess, to take care of a garden and not to kill it, how to make limestone mixture and paint fences with it, (we are preparing planks to extend the fence for the Shetland ponies we rescued from a zoo this year).

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But also how to have fun every night and use our days off to the maximum as the next few pictures can show.

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This is all we can tell you for now. We hope you enjoyed the pictures and you will stay here till our last post!

Lots of love and bear hugs,

The EVS Team 2017

Written by: Tamara Gjuroska

New EVS team

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, Martin 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 how quick time actually passes. We realized here that time passes quickly, especially if you are surrounded by people that have become your family in only few days or weeks time.

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! A plus tard! Τα λεμε συντομα! Iki pasimatymo! Се виждаме скоро!”

Bear hugs,

The EVS team

Written by:

Tamara Gjuroska

Moving Feet Opening Minds project

Last year, Velebit association Kuterevo got the chance to start a new partnership with an organisation from the UK, Everything is possible, which was searching for host organisations for Askham Bryan College students in animal management.

We agreed to be part of their project Moving Feet Opening Minds, which is an international Vocational Educational Training (VET) funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union. This project gathers several international partners and offers learners from the UK the opportunity to take part in a unique experience abroad and gain confidence, life and work skills (methodology and tools), but also develop wider horizons and open their minds to new opportunities.

In October, Glorija and Annamaria, volunteers from Kuterevo and professor Vedran from the University of gamekeeping and environmental protection participated in the start-up seminar in the UK, met our new partners and partners who corporating with Everything is Possible for many years, to hear how they are doing that and how much students helping them, and also discus about time and activities for 2017.

It was decided that Velebit association Kuterevo will host students and their tutors this summer, as volunteers for Kuterevo Bear Refuge. We are expecting a group to join us for 2 weeks and half in mid-summer, to support us in our building activities (we always need to improve facilities for the animals) and help with refuge daily activities.

Their stay in Kuterevo will also be the opportunity to share and learn from each other. We will organised educational sessions for the UK students and other local and international volunteers present at that time.
We are very excited to host these new volunteers and introduce them to the bear refuge and Kuterevo village and lifestyle, but also very curious to meet them and eager to learn from their different experiences in animal care.
We hope that this new experience will be a great learning opportunity for all of us, and that is will bring new energy to speak about/for bears 🙂

Annamaria, Kuterevo volunteers’ station

Speak for the bears – 2 month long EVS in Kuterevo refuge

Velebit Association Kuterevo from Croatia is looking for  12 volunteers, between 17 and 30 years of age, coming from ERASMUS+ programme countries and partner countries from the Western Balkans, who are willing to join Kuterevo Bear Refuge, and “Speak for the bears”, as a part of an EVS project (European Voluntary Service), for 2 months, during summer 2017, from  15th of June till 15th of August.

The EVS volunteers group will be an important part of a big volunteers family, since there will be a few other volunteering programs (workcamps and scouts) undergoing in Kuterevo at the same period. Some of the main tasks that will be expected of EVS volunteers to fulfil include:

  • being Bear’s advocates / messangers who will spread the story of the bears in the refugee and bears in the wild
  • welcoming and informing visitors, including groups
  • support coordination of other voluntary groups (scouts and international SCI workcamps)

Apart from the primary tasks, volunteers will also support the refuge and Volunteers’ Station in some of the following activities:

  • construction work: digging and building new enclosures for animals
  • maintaining existing facilities
  • gardening and collecting food for the bears
  • prepare program and exhibitions for village feasts
  • documenting events and life in the village as well as cultural and natural heritage

The volunteers are expected to learn in non formal and experiential way:

  • basic Croatian
  • how to coordinate intenrational groups of youngsters (training will be provided)
  • sustainable and simple living in an international community of volunteers
  • about bear biology, ecology, mythology, conservation aspects
  • about deep interconnectedness among all living beings and role of bears in the web of life
  • living with limited Internet connectivity and in connection with nature
  • living with other people with very diverse backgrounds
  • how to deal with problems and solutions

Living conditions:

  • volunteers will be accommodated in the houses of local families, in the rooms shared with other volunteers,, but sometimes it will be needed to stay in a forest camp;
  • food (vegetarian, local, seasonal) will be prepared together with other volunteers in the Volunteers’ Station
  • food, accommodation, travel costs, insurance and pocket money covered through EVS program

Expectations from volunteers:

  • It is more than welcome, but not obligatory, that the volunteer has some previous experience in coordination of groups or workcamps and different types of outdoor work and activities.
  • volunteers should be ready for simple and communal way of living with dozen of other volunteers, interested in nature/bear conservation and coexistence with wilderness.
  • volunteers should be ready for a very intensive summer,
  • should be able to take over responsibilities and tasks agreed on and is flexible towards needs and priorities of the project,
  • should have a Sending organization with valid EVS accreditation.

For more information about volunteering in Kutervo and previous EVS projects, you can check volunteers’ blog kuterevo.wordpress.com.

If you are interested in spending 2 months in Kuterevo Refuge for bears and people send us your CV and motivation letter by 15th of January 2017 to kuterevo.evs@gmail.com. Motivation letter should answer the following questions:

  • why Kuterevo?
  • what do you expect to learn, to experience, to change?
  • what is your previous experience with nature?
  • why should we choose you?

We are looking forward to your applications!

Kuterevo bears & people