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


Call for participants – Youth Exchange in Sharr Mountain (Kosovo)

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 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.


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:

  • be interested in topics and willing to get prepared before the youth exchange
  • be willing to disconnected virtually, but connected naturally
  • be willing to live sustainably and in an international community in a remote place in the mountains for 10 days
  • be ready for active participation and contribution
  • be in the age between 18 and 30 (few exceptions possible for young people under 18; group leaders can be older than 30)


  • accommodation and food will be covered through the project
  • travel costs (only environmentally friendly means of transport) will be reimbursed after ALL ORIGINAL tickets are received
  • visa costs will be fully covered
  • internet will not be available, except for urgent (really urgent and important cases), so if you are supposed to write your thesis or cannot survive without Facebook, please do not consider applying 🙂

If you are interested in taking part in this Youth exchange send your application to before the 5th of July 2016

Application form can be found here.

Nature that (re)connects us…

Sharr mountain, November 2015

Once again, the peaceful village of Brezovica welcomed a number of enthusiastic young people, this time as the extension of the project Mountains Connecting People – Nature that (re)connects us. Last time it was winter, but now we were honoured by beautiful sunny weather.

Some of us knew each other from previous exchanges, some of us were already here. 25 of us, mostly from the Dinaric mountain region (Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, and for the first time, Bosnia and Herzegovina), while a few were volunteers from Germany and a student from India. Together, we discovered the magic of Sharr mountain, local tradition, but also threats this refuge of wilderness is facing.

After some usual ice-breaking and getting to know each other, talk about previous exchanges, the second day we went outdoors for a little hike to explore the untouched parts of the resort. We were all amazed and touched by the beauty, only to stumble upon a very unpleasant sight – garbage dumps, all over the place. This contrast really made us feel conflicted – how can such a beautiful place mean so little to some people? That’s when ideas started simmering about doing something to change the situation. During the hike, we also had a little concert a couple of participants made with improvised parts of the ski-lift house. The music was for the mountain, but us humans also enjoyed it. During the whole exchange, people were inspired to share their favourite music with others.

In the evening, the participants from each country shared some important info about the Dinaric mountain region which is common for all of us, and what kind of life forms and customs are present, as well as challenges in nature conservation.

The next day we also explored nature, but with one difference – we were in complete silence. No verbal communication, no words, just exploring with your senses and emotions. This was obviously very intense for a lot of participants, but we all enjoyed it an it helped us connect to nature, each others and ourselves even more.

A whole day was dedicated to explore the villages of Brezovica and Štrpce, as well as the magical forest we had to walk through to get to the village. We collected information about local community, customs, proverbs, songs and relation with the mountain. We were so suspicious that some of us ended up in the police station, but just for a short while.

We had a visit from the National Park Sharr director, who talked about the state of things in administration and conservation (including the planned building of a new ski center) which aren’t that great and it inspired us to write this position paper. During the same day we heard a presentation about management of protected areas with the example of NP triglav, by Martin Šolar from WWF Adria and had a little conversation.

The day after discsussion on nature and religion, we visited the monastery Visoki Dečani and Sinan-Pasha Mosque and spent the afternoon in Prizren. Our visit took place in days when media were creating much of attention around Kosovo’s nomination to UNESCO, so it was actually interesting to see how much Kosovo or Serbian Orthodox Church do care about cutural heritage in practice. Some of us visited the church of Bogorodica Ljeviška, and we were astonished that such a beauty can be closed, fenced and abandoned by all.
On the other side, we were honored to meet čika Boža who plays kaval (old instrument) and who taught us the song of Sharr Mountain (Navali se Šar planina). Local cultural groups also visited us and presented traditional dances from the district/region.

We were also guests of a local Kosovo television, they had a story about our exchange and how a bunch of young people from the Balkans lived, worked, explored together for 10 days without any tension about our nationalities, customs, religions… just a lot of jokes on that part 🙂

Somehow, everyday we would end up discusssion about the new masterplan and future plans for the mountain. Even though Kosovo went too far with the plan, we felt like all that is being done in a wrong, unsustainable and destructive way. Therefore, last 2 days we spent thinking and discussing about what should we do to contribute to preservation of the untouched wilderness in Brezovica. We want to stay involved and active, thus we are planing to:

  • distribute postcards which address current issues which has not been solved (waste management and pollution in the National Park)
  • organize voluntary workcamps and youth exchanges in order to support local community, share knowledge and bring more young people closer to this magical mountain
  • support local community in their efforts

If you are interested to join, get in contacts with us and for information, stayed tuned

Sharr Mountain is expecting you…

Ivana & Helena