Zavod Veles YE, Slovenia

“From I to the We: Yes to Sustainability!”

(8th-16th of August, Svinijsko, Slovenia

In August, six young Italians started off to the Zavod Veles eco-village in Slovenia. Together with other young people from the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain they experienced 8 days of community life with the main objective of learning more about ecological sustainability.

All together they explored the challenges and the opportunities that the community of Zavod Veles is putting into practice in order to live in a simple and sustainable way.

In the morning the young people, divided in teams, helped out the community with some practical activities while in the afternoon, led by the Youth Leaders, they went through workshops, open spaces, reflections and sharing activities.

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Filippo Ceschi, 27 years old from Padova (Youth Leader)

A rich life experience of community work and of personal and relational growth.

The settlement is very interesting and located in a beautiful landscape: green hills and forests all around. The way the old houses have been restructured through natural building techniques and the whole permacultural design of the farm has inspired me and interested me. The group was great, varied and participative, and it has created a nice atmosphere of conviviality, support and sharing. I am very pleased and glad to have been able to lead the Italian group, it was great to know them and to experience this experience together. The activities were all fun, interesting and enriching. It was amazing how we managed to differentiate places and activities, indoor or outdoor, alone or in groups, big groups and small groups, mountain walks, solo-moments, etc. I’m grateful at RIVE for giving me the opportunity to participate and I want to continue to cooperate with this beautiful association.

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Pietro Levi, 25 years old from Turin

I am very pleased with this experience that has surely exceeded my expectations. Within a few days, all of us have been able to feel part of a big family. I found the moments of sharing experiences, feelings and personal concerns very useful because they allowed us to open up and unite as a group in a very deep way.

I particularly appreciated both theoretical and practical knowledge about permaculture, natural building and how a community works.

The Slovenian hosts have been able to welcome us perfectly and to organize the whole event efficiently and effectively. Even when some little organizational contrasts happened, we discussed all together emphasizing how, on some occasions, decisions taken in community could take a lot of time and energy.

I have found all Youth Leaders well-prepared and careful, especially Filippo who, with his sympathy, has been able to support and mediate very well between us and the host.

Simone Gronda, 22 years old from Biella

An unforgettable adventure, of great importance to me.

I think that I have grown a lot and that I have learned many things on various topics. It was a pleasure to share these days with people from different countries but nevertheless connected with common interests on sustainability and degrowth.

Thanks to the group dynamics, to a good degree of seriousness from everyone and to the excellent preparation of the Youth Leaders, we managed to build great connection between all the participants within a few days. This allowed us to build a safe environment where every weakness or difficult moment could be shared without fear, accepted and solved.

Having Filippo as a youth leader, so young and with many volunteering experiences in communities, has been a source of security. Petra of Zavod Veles, with its calmness and strength, has been very hospitable. Jost, the Slovenian Youth Leader, managed to give the right weight and the right depth to all activities.

The practical work in the community was little but interesting. The open spaces were many, with so many proposals that we could not do everything.

I was really inspired by the open and fun atmosphere and by the many interesting people, all this within a landscaping context which I felt in love with.

In short, I have to say that my expectations have been more than surpassed, and certainly for the best.

Gaia Tarani, 26 years of Terni

It was a unique experience: I understood that the lessons I received were also far deeper than I expected, they had a great influence on the security of my convictions, in strengthening my own ideals of life and on personal growth. I have filled my life from what every person I met has left me and this will help to build my path. I am thankful to the people who shared with me this experience.

Now I feel powerful, I believe in myself, I am not disturbed by fears and I feel that I have new tools to communicate, to express and to be free. I will do everything to spread this to people close to me.

I know that taking care of myself, of others and of nature around us means to be on the right track!

Petra was wonderful, I’m grateful for all the time she has been able to dedicate to the participants. It made us feeling at home from the first minute, even when responsibilities and emotions were more present. She could not have chosen any better topic for the exchange: to let us understand the challenges and the opportunities of community life.

The Youth Leaders have passed us all their passion and motivation. I feel that I have learned a lot from their teachings because they were keen to show us the value and the sense of every activity and dynamic we took part.

Nicoletta of RIVE, who followed us behind the scenes, has always been present, giving us all the information needed, during and after the exchange.

Manuel Berto, 28 years old from Verona

It was not the first time for me in a Youth Exchange but I have not always seen such a “focus” on the main topic. It was not an experience appositely created for the participants. What we did at Zavod Veles was to live within the community, bringing our experiences, curiosity and desire to touch some concrete situations. The place, the people and their lifestyle were there to give us the opportunity to meet and know them.

Most of the participants shared some common ideas about global warming advancing, stressed lifestyles, healthy nutrition and so on. Everyone had a clear reason to be there in addition to the genuine desire to confront peers from other countries.

Personally, I wanted to see “if it is true”. If it is true that one can really create a more responsible and creative life model. I was satisfied. I acknowledged that sustainable communities are more widespread than I thought and that many of the smart solutions adopted by Veles are quietly transportable in urban contexts, such as green roofs, compost toilet and dry dish washing.

For me the experienced consisted on watching around and inside myself. I liked waking up with the sounds of nature and having meals with the food harvested from the garden the same morning.

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