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+.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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:
PRAKTIČNI UVJETI ZA SUDIONIKE
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 email@example.com do 08.07.2016.
Srbija: Volonterski Centar Vojvodine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bosna i Hercegovina: Terra Dinarica (email@example.com)
Kosovo: GAIA SCI Kosovo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
From 15th till 26th of August this year,
30 young people coming from Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Greece, Macedonia and Bulgaria, will gather in the magical mountain of Sharr in the south of Kosovo
During these 10 days, we will:
…learn and share about nature conservation
…explore the meaning and practise of coexistence with nature in rural areas,
…get to know the local community, customs, tradition and lifestyle, and living with seasons,
… explore biodiversity of Sharr mountain and benefits of cultural and natural diversity
… visit inspiring and protected natural and cultural places (monasteries, mosques, roman sites)
… learn about and from wilderness (herbs, other pants, animals, relations, fungi, human impact etc.)
…reflect on our role in this world (lifestyle, activism, ignorance…)
… experience living in a big diverse group in the mountains,
…enjoy, have fun and much more
PROGRAM & LIFESTYLE
Program will be diverse, intensive and very much up to participants and we will be having sessions in the morning and afternoon, but also evening activities.
Frame of the program will be prepared by the group leaders, but participants are expected to contribute with their own ideas, skills, questions, suggestions, games, movies etc.
The main topic of the YE will be wilderness and our relation with it… It will be explored in different ways. At the end, we will work in small groups, which will be organized according to interest and ideas, ideally creating something very concrete for the end (a short video, exhibition, installation, blog…). We are expected to be as sustainable as possible, so food will be vegan with vegetarian option and mostly from local and seasonal products.
The Youth Exchange will take place high in the mountains, in a motel situated in ski resort Brezovica, at 1750m above the sea level.
The village of Brezovica (Municipality of Strpce) is a small, with around 400 inhabitants, and is situated in the north-eastern part of the Sharr Mountains.
Sharr Mountains is oldest National park in Kosovo, and provides habitat for the lynx, bear, chamois, wolf, roe deer, wild boar, vultures and many plant species among which many are endemic and relict.
REQUIREMENTS FOR PARTICIPANTS
Each partner organisation will choose 5 participants, among which one will be a group leader (which can be older than 30). Previous experience in international youth gatherings (exchanges, seminars, workcamps…) is not required nor advantage, but here are several points which will be taken into account:
PRACTICAL CONDITIONS OF PARTICIPATION
If you are interested in taking part in this Youth exchange send your application to email@example.com before the 5th of July 2016
Application form can be found here.
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
Here we are again, at Kopija, with the international group of Friends of the bears 🙂
As usual, we are there to learn from the forest and its incredible and sometimes mystical natural phenomenon. During our stay in the bear forest of Kopija, the place in Velebit where Kuterevo, Krasno and Kosinj meet, we will celebrate life and diversity of wilderness and people. Together with the full Moon, we will mark the arrival of Summer and Solstice. Moreover, we will be improving the camp site and the path (also known as Brussels road) which has been built by many volunteers in the past years…
Finally, after our workcamp, this place will be open for visitors of the Refuge, for those who would like to experience the forest in which bears are at home. These forests are precious, they are complex systems in which many living and non-living beings exist together and thus present our common heritage which we should preserve, but also understand and embrace.
At the beginning, we would like to share about basic survivals shelters and fire in the forest. Kuterevo friend of the bears, Rudi Oškera, whose roots from mother’s side are connected to Kuterevo, came back to Kopija to share a bit of his knowledge about shelters and fire.
Altogether, we learned by doing who to build A-format and lean-on shelter, with the heart reflector. And here you can see how it was…
… beginning of the workcamp
to be continued…