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, 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!”

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

Goodbye EVS team!

One month of EVS in Kuterevo has gone so fast!

It’s now time to go home for all of us, and we’ll just share some of our best moments with some pictures 🙂

This project, gathering 11 volunteers from 5 different countries, was financed by Erasmus+.

EVS team – What is our purpose?

Apart from enjoying the beautiful natural sights of Kuterevo village and surrounding mid-Velebit area, with the landscapes so unrealistic that they look like heavily retouched photos used for bragging on Instagram, and breathing in the air of such good quality, that those of us who are smokers feel a bit ashamed for contaminating it, we actually have a few activities that are the main purpose of us being selected to come here.IMG_1515

Taking care of bears

Cute, furry, adorable, and over 100 kilograms each, bears like all the wild beasts when being put in enclosures like this, demand daily care and observation. Our tasks concerning the bears in the most direct manner are the following:

  • Collecting herbs and feeding it to the bears
  • Keeping the area around enclosures clean  
  • Monitoring and keeping track of the bears’ behaviour (especially Mirna, who came from Split Zoo last Spring)
  • Repairing fences and building new enclosures
  • Reading and learning about the bears, and from the bears

feeding bears

Guiding the visitors

One of the biggest demands and pressures that is put on any refuge is adequately dealing with visitors, who are arriving daily and in bigger numbers year after year, even though there are no promotional activities, nor the refuge was ever meant to be a typical tourist attraction. Besides three lovely local girls, Annamaria, Barbara, and Glorija, who are supporting refuge by welcoming and guiding visitors, the tour guide job is one of the most important tasks for EVS (European Voluntary Service) team to handle. That is why we need to learn fast and use the most of our narrative and foreign language skills, to be able to answer the various questions asked by visitors from all over the world and to give our best so they will understand the place and its values and ideas.honey pour

Permaculture gardening

The garden arranged and maintained by the principles of permaculture is another part of the Kuterevo Bear refuge. We use it to produce food for the needs of volunteers (and bears), so a pretty big span of vegetables and some fruits are being grown here, as tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, pumpkins, kale, broccoli, raspberries, strawberries All of it tastes delicious and is incomparable to the veggies that can be bought in city supermarkets.gardening2

Souvenir making

One of the ways of achieving self-financing of the refuge is with donations from visitors. For their support, visitors can get small souvenirs made by local craftsmen and women, or by volunteers. Sometimes, we just paint small wooden necklaces and key chains, but sometimes we carve in wood or create ornaments using the pyrography technique to create real art pieces to some extent. It is the way we express ourselves and add a personal touch to every piece of souvenir. Also, there is a lot of items produced by the locals and thus visitors of the refuge also support local lifestyle and traditions.Petra

Most importantly, whatever we do, we try to do it together, and function as a well -organised team. We divide our tasks weekly and daily, but also try to be flexible, hop in and help where we are needed the most at the exact moment. That kind of a lifestyle is typical for our host village and the surrounding areas, and it was through centuries and possibly still is the only way to make living. Whenever in labour, people here strongly rely on the help of their neighbors, and they are pretty much synchronized when it comes to choosing what kind of work are they gonna do. If the task is, for example, preparing wood for heating during the winter time, the whole village will do it simultaneously, moving from house to house, until everyone is set. Almost entirely opposite of the imposed lifestyle today, where individualism is strongly encouraged. Observing it, and being part of it, is definitely adding some extra values to our life experience. It is upon us how and where, are we gonna used in our future lives.

Written by Ilija Nanić

Photographs:Petra Lesjak, Ilija Nanić, Milica Knežević

Meeting the Kuterevo Spirit

All of my worries, problems and rushing thoughts started to melt away as the bus was climbing up into Velebit mountain, passing through the clouds (yes, bus, not a plane), with a sudden drop of temperature that gave me chills. Although I was completely unrested and sleepy, I was struggling to keep my eyes wide open, so I could catch as much of the beautiful Karst landscape , patiently carved by river Gacka as I could. The dominance of Nature power over the man made objects was completely undoubtable. Compared to Dinaric mountains, all the megalomaniac architectural “wonders” of mankind seem like a child’s play. My daydreaming was interrupted by a phone call from our EVS coordinator, Guacimara, who talked to me in a surprisingly good Croatian language, even though her native language is Spanish. She called to inform me that I will have to wait few hours in Otočac, where I will meet two other volunteers, and then we all will be picked up by someone from Kuterevo.

The bus arrived to Otočac, and, I decided to spend my free time sightseeing (and taking a nap in a park) around this cute little city. Previously mentioned power of nature was strongly present and respected here as well. The whole city was patiently placed in a valley, surrounded by the mountains that look like they could swallow the city, just if they felt like it.

I had a prejudice that people who are coming to work in Kuterevo Bear refuge must be a little bit “crazy”, or just different, taken from the perspective of a common, modern society. And my prejudice was not far from the truth: Dejvi from Catalonia, and Irene from Spain had that “special vibe”, so it wasn’t that hard to recognize them among all the other people who came out of the bus. Those two cuties were the two EVS volunteers that I was waiting for, I guessed it from a first try. And talking about that “special vibe”, there are no words that could describe the next person entering our lives, few minutes later. The old dude approaching us, putting his hands in a gesture as he is taking picture of us with non existing camera, speaking in riddles, with the wisdom falling out of the pockets of his pullover. It was Ivan, the “pappa smurf”, one of the founders of Kuterevo Bear sanctuary. The ride from Otočac to Kuterevo was completely overwhelming. It was a struggle between enjoying the breathtaking view, and listening to Ivan’s stories and jokes”

We made one short stop for a welcoming rakija shot, and in a brief moment we found ourselves in the Kuterevo village. Apart from the fact that there are a lot of signs with drawn bears, and things named after bears (e.g. “Medo Bar”), Kuterevo seems like a typical mountain village of this area; Not overly exploited by tourism, even though the potential for making significant profit out of incoming tourists is not in doubt, it seems like here in Kuterevo they found a perfect balance between opening themselves to the world, and keeping the area as wild and original as it is.

As soon as we came to Postaja (the central station of Bear sanctuary), more of the people carrying that “special vibe” started appearing. Joela from Germany and Tea and Marketa, from Czech republic, were collecting grass for the bear’s dinner, and even though it can be hard and boring kind of work, they were doing it with ease and passion. So impatient to see the bears, we needed to wait a little bit more, because the young ones, who are situated closest to Postaja were hiding themselves from the Sun and high temperature. We used that time to get to know each other playing some team building games in wonderful environment around the Postaja.

During the game session few stars showed their brightness. Firstly, Tamara, from Macedonia, broke all the layers of ice with her charisma and energy, than two silent and humble slovenian girls, Sabina and Petra dominated the small competition we made among ourselves, while Alper from Turkey put the right jokes at the right place. With a little bit more of unconditional good mood brought by Juan from Catalonia, filled with constant laughter from Basque Ilaskina and Laura from Spain, so needed manpower from Viktor from Macedonia, and little bit more of a girl power, spiced up with a little sarcasm from Milica and Ivana, from Serbia, we started feeling like a team ready to answer to all the challenges that will be put on our one month long path.

Finishing our team building games just in time of feeding of the bears transformed the atmosphere from euphoric laughter filled rhapsody, to completely silent more than one hour long meditation, while observing three youngest bears, Mlada Gora, Mladi Dol, and the star of the refuge, Marko Kralj carelessly playing and eating their dinner at the same time. That “strange vibe” started kicking in again, but this time i knew how to explain it. That vibe is called “Kuterevo Spirit”, and it is what makes us feel that we are just in the right place to be. It is what makes us feel needed and useful. It is the reason why we smile and even laugh out loud every now and then. And it is just a beginning.

Written by Ilija Nanić, Kuterevo Bear Refuge ,August 2016.
Photo credits: Milica Knežević, Sabina Šajher

 

 

 

Ilija, Tamara, Viktor, Ivana, Milica, Alper, Petra, Sabina, Juan, Irene and Deyvi are participating in an short-term EVS project in Kuterevo. They will volunteer with Velebit Association Kuterevo for 1 month thanks to the Erasmus+ program.

Razmjena mladih: Priroda nas ponovno povezuje

PRIRODA ZOVE

Razmjena mladih: Priroda nas PONOVNO povezuje

Kuterevo, Utočište za medvjede i ljude, od 01. do 11.08.2016.

Priroda zove 24 mladih ljudi iz Hrvatske, Srbije, Kosova i Bosne i Hercegovine (po 6 osoba iz svake zemlje), koji su zainteresirani za desetodnevnu razmjenu mladih koja će se održavati u Kuterevu, selu na sjeveroistočnim obroncima planine Velebit.

Glavna ideja ove razmjene mladih je ponovno povezivanje s prirodom u nama i oko nas. Kuterevsko utočiše je odlično mjesto za ponovno uspostavljanje veze između ljudi i prirode jer nam medvjedi mogu pomoći povezati se s prirodom. U isto vrijeme, pokušavamo raditi na prekidanju prakse socijalne otuđenosti i nepovezanosti, i želimo potaknuti jedni druge na izgradnju drugačijeg svijeta.

Tijekom ovog susreta ćemo…

… istraživati značenje i praksu suživota prirode i ruralnog područja,

… upoznavati lokalnu zajednicu, njihove običaje, tradiciju i način života, te život u skladu s godišnjim dobima,

… učiti o i od divljine (orijentacija, jestive i ljekovite biljke, tragovi…),

… otkrivati plemenske običaje i glazbu prirode,

… produbljivati svijest o bogatstvu i različitosti života oko nas,

… baviti se ekološkom dimenzijom svog vlastitog identiteta

… uživati, zabavljati se i još ponešto 🙂

Program će biti raznolik i intenzivan jer ćemo imati radionice od jutra do popodnevnih sati, a uz to i večernje aktivnosti.

ŠTO JE RAZMJENA MLADIH

Razmjena mladih je dio projekta Erazmus+ Programa, koji okuplja grupe mladih ljudi iz dvije ili više zemalja i omogućuje im razmjenu mišljenja i diskusije na razne teme, uz koje uče o zemljama drugih sudionika, njihovim stanovnicima i kulturama. Razmjene mladih mladim ljudima daju priliku postati aktivni sudionici, kreativni i kritični, omogućavaju im da nešto nauče jedni od drugih, da nauče nešto novo o sebi i sami sebi postave izazove, da pogriješe i nauče nešto iz tih grešaka, da iskuse raznolikost u malom…

LOKACIJA I UVJETI

Kuterevo je malo selo s otprilike 550 stanovnika na Velebitu. Udaljeno je 30 km od Senja, prekrasnog gradića na morskoj obali, 60 km od Nacionalnog parka Plitvička jezera i samo 10 km od Nacionalnog parka Sjeverni Velebit. Kuterevo se proteže u dolini dugoj 6 km.

Grupa će biti smještena u drvenoj kući koja se nalazi u Utočištu za medvjede i ljude. Nekada je to bio sjenik a danas se koristi za smještaj grupa. Postoje samo dva veća prostora za spavanje i nema mjesta za privatnost. Kuha se zajednički uz pomoć jedne Kuterevke. Svi obroci biti će veganski uz pokoju vegetarijansku opciju.

UVJETI ZA SUDIONIKE

Svaka od partnerskih organizacija izabrat će 6 sudionika, od kojih će jedan biti vođa grupe. Prethodno iskustvo na internacionalnim aktivnostima mladih (razmjene, seminar, radni kampovi…) nisu obavezni niti nose prednost. Ovdje su navedene neke od točaka koje će se uzimati u obzir pri odabiru:

  • Zanimanje za teme i voljnost pripremiti se za njih prije same razmjene
  • Voljnost isključiti se virtualno a uključiti prirodno
  • Spremnost živjeti samoodrživo u internacionalnoj zajednici, u udaljenom mjestu, na period od 10 dana
  • Biti spreman aktivno sudjelovati i pridonijeti radu skupine
  • Imati između 18 i 30 godina (moguće su iznimke za osobe mlađe od 18 godina)

PRAKTIČNI UVJETI ZA SUDIONIKE

  • Smještaj i hrana su organizirani, također i grupni izleti tijekom programa
  • Putni troškovi (isključivo ekološki prihvatljivim prijevoznim sredstvima) bit će refundirani nakon što organizatoru budu predane SVE ORIGINALNE putne karte.
  • Internet neće biti dostupan, osim u hitnom (zaista hitnom i važnom) slučaju, pa ako trebate pisati diplomski rad ili ne možete preživjeti bez Facebooka, molimo vas da se prijavite neki drugi put.

Ova je razmjena dio projekta Priroda nas (ponovno) povezuje, čiji je prvi dio već održan an Šar planini (Kosovo) u studenome prošle godine. Više informacija o ovoj i drugim razmjenama koje su organizirane uz podršku Erasmus+ mogu se pronaći na našem blogu mountainsconnectingpeople.wordpress.com

Ako ste zainteresirani za sudjelovanje na razmjeni mladih Priroda nas (ponovno) povezuje, pošaljite svoje prijave na kuterevo.volunteers@gmail.com do 08.07.2016.

Prijavni formular

Kontakti partnera:

Srbija: Volonterski Centar Vojvodine (office@volontiraj.rs)

Bosna i Hercegovina: Terra Dinarica (terradinarica@gmail.com)

Kosovo: GAIA SCI Kosovo (gaia.kosovo@gmail.com)