Programme & action: ERASMUS+, Key Action 1: Youth exchange
Venue: Bajari, Latvia
YE dates: 9—18 September 2022
Participants: Adéla Krejčí, Lucie Večerníková, Jitka Punčochářová, Daniela Paličková
Host organisation: Mindful Journeys
Participating countries: Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, Latvia
Camping in the Latvian nature and meeting as an international group to build a small “Cuddlenation”, in order to then spread its message to our local communities, that’s what we did for 9 days this September. All that made possible by ‘Mindful Journeys’, a Latvian NGO.
Sleeping in tents in Latvia in September made many of us worry but once we combined the equipment brought by us with the one of the hosting organisation, we managed to sleep calmly during nights without feeling cold. In spite of the outdoor environment, we certainly didn’t need to lower our eating standards! Our cook prepared rich and delicious meals, which were all vegan and without added sugars. Everyone was delighted!
In the first days we meditated, danced, shared our intentions, and tried various activities on consent, intimacy, and connection. From the beginning, the facilitators did their very best to create a safe space for us. One which enhanced the sense of belonging, vulnerability and even healing. The power of the group made it all possible. However, the hardest work had to be done on our own. For each of us, some stimuli for personal reflection emerged.
But why the name Cuddlenation? It was hard to imagine that we would just come and cuddle but after 2,5 days of getting to know each other and of building trust, we formed our first cuddle pile. This non-sexual consensual touch that cuddling is, was not unusual for some of the participants, but completely new for others. We ended up loving cuddling, however, cuddling was not the main goal. It was much more important that we found our personal boundaries and communicated them. Also, we listened to the needs of others. In case someone didn’t want to participate in cuddling or in any other activity, everyone else respected that.
We agreed that we would love to live in a world where people respect these principles and after the first few days, it was time for us to share our boosted enthusiasm with other people. That’s when we became our own creators, first facilitating activities for each other for two days and then preparing a workshop for teenage school students. We decided to focus on consent and self-love and we put together the workshop accordingly. Not everything went exactly as planned because a group can never work exactly as we imagine in prior but all in all we were proud of showing up and delivering our best. Based on the reflection after the workshop we know that the 1,5hours ignited something in at least part of the students. What more could we hope for? The workshop was a nice practice for our follow-up activities which we will organise in our home countries in the following weeks.
And so it was. A time not to be forgotten! Made possible by the people we shared the days with but, even more essentially, our openness to personal growth and the work we put in it. The ideas of consent, mindfulness, respect and so many more are not ones we will abandon after our follow-up activity, but ones that will stay with us throughout our lives and ones which we will keep sharing with the world.
Photography by: Flóki Hansteen (instagram: f_hansteen)