Programme & action: ERASMUS+, Key Action 1: youth exchange
Youth exchange venue: Novoli (Lecce), Italy
APV (advance planning visit) dates: 20-22 May 2016
APV venue: Capurso (Bari), Italy
Youth exchange dates: 2 – 11 August 2016
Participants: Monika Jakubčíková, Adam Kvítek, Viktorie Reichová, Tereza Prokešová
Group leader: Kristian Tomala
Participating countries: Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, Spain, Estonia, Bulgaria
Hosting organisation: Green Rope
Thirty young people from Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and Romania met in searing heat on August 2nd in Novoli, a small, typical southern Italian town, for the project EcoTravellers. Everybody only had a hazy idea of what to expect: hopefully a fun ten days spent playing outdoor sports and tanning on beaches while discussing various environmental topics. Nobody could have known that what lay ahead for us was an extraordinary, life-changing adventure filled with breath-taking nature, lots of new information, and wonderful, passionate people that would become our close friends.
We had four day-long excursions to various locations in Puglia: a stunning beach with crystal-clear waters in Porto Selvaggio, the charming town of Otranto, a sport club in Marina di Pulsano, and the WWF Oasi of Policoro, a wildlife care centre that helps rehabilitate sea turtles and other marine creatures. During these excursions, we got to experience canoeing, sailing, stand-up paddle-boarding, biking through a nature reserve, yoga and meditation, and many more fun activities. We also learned about the environment: what we, humans, are doing to damage it, and the steps that we can take to protect it for future generations.
On the days that we remained in the accommodation, we participated in activities and workshops that educated us about various issues, such as Fair Trade products, the slow-food movement, the damage that plastic is doing to our environment and what we can do to minimise our own plastic consumption. We learned about the difference between being a tourist and a traveller, and gained valuable bushcraft skills, such as how to start a fire or build a tent out of thermal blankets. Each country also took turns hosting an Intercultural Evening, which was filled with information, music, dances, and food that each country prepared to show off its culture. The warm nights were spent playing games, laughing together, dancing, and sharing our life stories around a fire.
This project and all of the participants filled me with renewed passion and a desire to really make a change in the world. We all learned from each other, not only about the environment and travelling, but also about life in different countries and everyone’s unique experiences, and we made many, hopefully life-long international friendships.
Without EYCB, I would not have had this amazing experience, and I thank everyone in EYCB for working tirelessly to make this project, and many others, available for young people!