Active summer in Kutrevo – part 2

The second part of Active summer in Kuterevo started with “open space” workshops where shared some of our knowledge and skills. We had discussion about EVS opportunities and what we can all do to be more sustainable in our daily lives. We also learnt how to make bracelets and decorated our clothes with some wildlife images. We also talked about the science behind climate change.

The rest of the time here in Kuterevo was dedicated to groups projects and finalizing ones from the previous youth exchanges. Our aim was to create projects and actions which would leave a mark. That’s why we divided into four groups with different tasks. Our painting team left a permanent footprint on Kuterevo bear refuge by making a mural to greet the visitors. Some benches also got a makeover and brought even more color to the place.

The key task we undertook was to come up with a follow up project. We made a commitment to organize different actions in our home countries on 16th of October – International food day. This group is also writing a new project connected with the topics that we already covered and at the same time building up the knowledge that we gained during all Mountains connecting people Youth exchanges. Because we wanted to spread the word about the project and get more people involved and active we set up a special website. There we shared all the information, photos and activities from the three exchanges. The idea is to maintain the blog with useful information and updates future exchanges and actions. The translation team made the Food and climate change exhibition available in a six different languages – Bulgarian, Serbian, Russian, Albanian, Croatian and German.

Our Friday evening was very special because we had a ceremony which made us friends of the bears and the refuge. We had s special ritual where we received a beautiful bear necklace representing the Kuterevo spirit. It symbolizes the selfless and sharing way of interacting with each other which means giving without necessarily receiving something in return.

On our last day we shared with the others the result of our hard work. We left also our totem which will be staying in the refuge along with others from previous volunteers, youth exchanges and workcamps.

Another amazing exchange now came to its end!

Ivan, Milena, Petya and Nelly

Youth Exchange “Active Summer in Kuterevo”

The third part of the project “Mountains connecting people” had a really promising beginning. 25 young people from Croatia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Russia and Serbia gathered at a really special place – Bear Refuge Kuterevo, on the outskirts of Velebit mountain.

Some of the people already knew each other from previous two exchanges in Kosovo and Bulgaria and were really happy to be reunited with their friends.

We marked the beginning of our project with games and activities that brought us even closer together as a team. The group agreed on some guidelines that would make our life as a community for the next 10 days easier. They also contributed to the idea of the project to live simple, sustainable and nature-friendly way of life. We also shared memories and experience from the previous projects. We were introduced to the bears and the bear refuge and got in touch with the spirit of Kuterevo. It’s a very special place in Croatia where people still live in harmony with nature and wilderness.

The local people introduced us to their way of living. They showed us how to make tamburica named kuterevka which is a typical local hand-made instrument and coklje which is a type of shoes which are only made in the village. After few discussions and workshops about volunteerism and activism, we wrote a letter to the future generation which provoked us to think few generations ahead. On Saturday we explored the surrounding area and wildlife by going on a short hike to Kopija – a special place where people from the village gather on holidays. It brought people together in the past and still does. We had a really challenging experience to prepare our lunch in silence. Without speaking we were able to understand each other even better.

On Sunday we had skype meeting with Maruska an activist from Young friends of the Earth Europe who shared her experience and motivated us on future actions on Balkans. Later that day we spend some time with local families where we cooked to gather, shared a common meal and stories.

The highlight of the first part of the exchange was the 15-kilometer – hike to Northern Velebit National Park where we connected with ourselves, others and nature. We were also lucky enough to encounter some bear footprints. For some people it was the first serious hike in their lives and some of us even overcame their fears. We enjoyed some spectacular view of Adriatic sea from one the top of the hill. On the next day and we visited the Velebit botanical garden and then we took the trails of the beast and we went down to Krasno where we learned about growing your own garden and how medicinal plants are useful.

Dinner was shared with friends from Bärenfreunde and Postaja volunteers (volunteers station). Although we felt physically tired, we were inspired and glad to finally start with the more practical work. Now we are facing the task of finalizing the “Mountains connecting people” project.

Ivan, Petya, Anamarija, Nelly

“Farewell to spring in Pirin” part 2

During the second half of our agricultural adventure, in the beautiful village of Stara Kresna, it was time to get dirty. Compared to the first exchange in Kosovo, where we focused more on intellectual learning, this time we had the possibility to put our new-gained knowledge to use. We grabbed the tools and we went to “play” in the hay. Some of us have never ever seen a fork, except the one on the kitchen table, so we were pretty excited. The happiness of one particular Russian fellow sitting on the hay pile was indescribable. It was really nice to do something helpful for the locals.

It wasn’t only field work that day, we also had many diverse workshops led by the participants during our “open space”. Some of them – such as “sharing economy” movements and vegetarianism, were connected to our topic, while others focused more on cultural exchange and sharing different skills and knowledge.

The next morning continued in a similar manner. This time, there was a garden involved. Our ability to make everything fun is amazing. By noon we planted potatoes, tied tomatoes and got rid off all the weeds, while throwing dirt and “natural fertilizers” at each other, having the time of our life.

Maybe we shouldn`t mention that there was no water that day so we polluted the pool a bit. The rest of the afternoon was connecting food production and climate change, which involved presentations and group workshops.

We watched the sunset through the smoke of burning cow eco excrements, after which the brave ones even milked a cow and/or were just slapped by her tail and run away.

The next couple of days we worked on our final projects divided into smaller groups. The aim was to get some output out of the knowledge we gained throughout our stay here. We had four teams consisting of participants from every nation.

The results of the work are amazing as you can see with the article. One of the groups wrote a project for an eco-camp for young people in Russia and created games for children. The other teams focused on creating something that we can also use in the next parts of the project “Mountains Connecting People” or for other events of the Create Climate for Peace campaign. We prepared an exhibition about industrial agriculture and its impact on climate change, everything will be translated in our own languages and it will be used for further projects and reactions.

Small preview (complete exhibition to download and share soon online):

 

The best part of our final project are the short movie “Bon Appetit” and a song about climate change “Polar bears felt it”. The garbage-group was really inspired, the short movie wasn’t enough for them – dumpster diving guide and an alternative menu will be also available online for you to see. Feel free to share our work!

The last evening was big and somehow sad, farewell to each other and the hosts of Debeli Dab. Everyone of us will keep this place in their heart and hopefully take something helpful back to their home-country.

At the same time we are already looking forward to the next part of “Mountains connecting people”, which will be in Kuterevo in August. Until then we’ll sing our polar bears song and hope you’ll do it too…

Lukas, Lea and Elitsa