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

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 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


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.


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…


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.


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)


  • 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

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

Prijavni formular

Kontakti partnera:

Srbija: Volonterski Centar Vojvodine (

Bosna i Hercegovina: Terra Dinarica (

Kosovo: GAIA SCI Kosovo (

Spring at Kuterevo 2016

Hey you! Here are the new long term volunteers for 2016 in Kuterevo Bear Refuge! Unfortunately, we all are from France, but we will deal with it.

We are Keyvan, Lucine, and Florian.  Keyvan and Lucine who are Service Civique volunteers send by SCI France came on 18th of April. And Florian who stay here for an intership, came 2 days later.

Keyvan wanted to travel in the Balkan, living in community and in a natural place which he already knows a lot. Lucine can here to have a break with her study and cities, also learn about nature, and of course about bears. Florian is studying agronomy in an engineering school in Dijon (France). He has to do a 5-month internship and decided to come here to discover a new country and a new way to live sustainably.

This year, we are working with a all new organisation since Amelie left kuterevo the last winter. Annamaria is now handling the visitors and coordinating the volunteers while studying. A big challenge which doesn’t afray her. And we will do as much as possible to back her.

Since we arrived, we already met planty of other volunteers, staying from a few days to few months. And because without them nothing would have been possible we want to thanks all of them a lot ! They are Nicola Ivano, Anna, Mathis, YanYan, Jean, Ivana, Siniča, Marko, Aurelie, Magali… And of course our Barbara and Gloria from Kuterevo !

All together, moreover than guiding visitors who are already a lot, we work on giving back his youngness to American House with a new roof and second floor (that means a lot of plancks to move).


Few weeks ago Helena from Serbia and Jean an ex french volunteer in Kuterevo decided to bring back all the garden to life, and they did a lot ! Thanks to them we will have more and more vegetables to eat (don’t forget potatoes and cabbage)

Also finishing the place for shetlands poneys, coming from the closing Split zoo, who should arrive soon (that also mean moving a lot of planks).

Then, the grass season came, so we are collecting a lot of it from our neighbour’s fields. It’s a lot of works, but such a pleasure to look at the bears having fun in all this grass.

The workcamp : Into the bear forest 4 took care of Kopija, so the place is ready to welcome any of you and all inhabitants, as fairy and forest spirit (more informations about it in this article).

Of course, for those who love digging more than anything else, there is planty of work on old or news enclosure waiting for you!

For those who speak french , you can find a radio report made by Anna in April here.

Lucine, Keyvan and Florian