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“Sustainability Youth Exchanges”: a training course to share  knowledge about youth exchanges, held in Estonia from 1st to  5th September 2020 

Written by Holly Tammik and Peter Hagerrot, 8th September 2020

Väike Jalajälg Ökokeskus (Small Footprint ecovillage) in Estonia is a dream come  true. It started 6 years ago as an outcome of the Gaia programme in Estonia,  which educates children and adults about sustainability. It also felt a bit like a  dream to finally meet 25 participants from different corners of Europe after  months of lockdown for most. 

Vegetable garden at Small Footprint ecovillage, Estonia 

“Sustainability Youth Exchanges” consisted of training for youth workers, focusing  on creating new youth exchange projects. It was held by Ulrike Schimmel and  Dario Ferraro, and was funded by the EU Erasmus+ program that also funds youth  exchanges. The training course mixed theory and lectures about the relevant parts  of the Erasmus+ program with some group work on project design. 

However, the most important component for many was probably the networking: getting to know other people and sustainable projects and being able to share and  contribute to others’ dreams. It was wonderful to see new partnerships and  groups forming, how people were helping each other to make ideas for project  applications into a reality. 

Some of the ecovillages that were represented in the training course: 

Yes to Sustainability is an initiative to motivate youth to be leaders and actors for  community building. Through Erasmus+ applications in different countries, Yes to Sustainability has  held several youth exchanges. Attracting young people is an important aspect for  ecovillages, as many of them have an older demographic due to the aging of  original inhabitants.  

El Calabacino is a member of RIE, the Iberian Ecovillage Movement. Cali from El  Calabacino found five other engaged people to organise a youth exchange in the  middle of Andalucía. The YE will be based on the five pillars of sustainability  (cultural, ecological, economic, social and transformational) to raise awareness of  a holistic view on sustainability. 

This is especially important to motivate and give hope to the future generation – to be the answer to the current global crisis! 

From Bulgaria, Misha from Green School Village built on her plan to create a  permaculture course, where they will concentrate on learning  traditional building techniques in an ancient village. The course will also be carried  out in cooperation with a Greek NGO where the focus will be on sustainable living. 

Tamera in Portugal is another life-transforming dream that has been realised. Aida Shibli has been living there for two decades. She came as a Palestinian  activist, surprised to find Tamera working with the peace process through love  and healing of deep traumas. Now she is cooperating with the first ecovillage in Palestine (called Farkha) on knowledge exchange and empowerment of youth. She has also helped to arrange a learning festival for over 200 youths, building  community and practical skills as an act of resistance.  

Other ecovillages that were represented were Cloughjordan (Ireland), Suderbyn and Charlottendal (Sweden), and Ananda Gaori, a spiritual community from Denmark. The facilitator Ulrike Schimmel comes from Sieben Linden, one of Germany’s larger ecovillages, and has been a long-term coordinator for sustainability projects. 

What all projects have in common is that they were not born out of normal  economic models. Instead, they resulted from the need to make change in a  challenging situation, for the environment, people and the Earth. They grew out of  the vision to find local solutions to the global challenges, believing that they can  be replicated and spread by inspiration. Each and every one has its challenges, but  bringing them together helps to create support and hope that another world is  possible.