One of the main issues with tackling environmental challenges is a lack of connection between people and the environment. These days, society is concentrated in urban environments, where people spend most of their time indoors and don’t get to appreciate much of the natural world. As a result, humans have become increasingly disconnected from nature which leads them to be less concerned about it.
With the intention of tackling this particular problem, the “Live Sustainable, Live Outdoors” project was created. We wanted young people to engage in sustainability topics through non-formal education while reconnecting by spending time outside. The youth exchange in Scala, Amalfi coast hosted the perfect setting to achieve this. In partnership with the Comune di Scala and ACARBIO 36 young people from 6 different countries met during the 15-25th July.
As with all Erasmus+ projects, there was also a focus on intercultural exchange which, this time, was created between several mediterranean countries; Italy, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Lebanon and Tunisia. By bringing these cultures together, with many differences but also some similarities, was a chance to expose the young people to unfamiliar aspects of new cultures; language, music, food, expressions etc. It was especially interesting to unite this mediterranean countries to get in touch with their neighbours and work together to help solve some of the challenges that the region faces.
In order to explore the topic of “live outdoors” we encouraged each country group to present a traditional outdoor game from their country. We thought this would be a fun and diverse way to bring young people together and for them to enjoy their time in the nature. In this sense, each country also shared some of their heritage through a diverse way.
To really exemplify the ideology of living outdoors, we went for an overnight hiking trip to the mountains. The hike, led by a group of participants from the area, went from Scala to “Torre dele Zorro”, where we established a base camp. Everyone was assigned a tent which they were responsible for pitching and creating their own little home. For some participants, this was an absolute breeze as they were used to such types of activities. However for others they stepped totally out of their comfort zone, pushing themselves into a completely new situation. The group were particularly challenged when faced with an unexpected downpour during a trip to the local nature reserve which left everyone soaked and their spirits also a little down. In the evening we gathered around a campfire and played games and shared stories between the group which elevated the morale and brought the young people closer together.
Another main focus of the project was to show the group how they can use volunteering as a way to give back to their local community, especially regarding environmental issues. There was a clean-up activity organised in the centre of Scala where the group met with some locals to collect any trash that was on the streets. Luckily, Scala is very well-kept town and their wasn’t much to pick up, they noticed that it was mostly cigarette butts which are a threat to wildlife. The event was successful in promoting community action and raising awareness of the issue of trash pollution in the streets.
To further the education process about the main topics, the group were asked to make presentations regarding sustainability issues in their regions. It was insightful to see similar issues become prominent throughout the discussions and also to learn about some unique responses or initiatives. The groups talked about examples of social initiatives which were working towards creating more sustainable options. Many people expressed how this project had opened their eyes to some of the issues regarding sustainability, and said that they had become curious in the topic with intention of exploring it in the future.
In the World Café task the participants reflected on their understanding of the current situation of sustainability issues; plastic pollution, food waste and agriculture, responsible travel, the ecological footprint, littering and entrepreneurship and initiative. The group assessed how they can lessen their personal impact on the planet. For example, flying less and using public transport, travelling through volunteering, buying local food within season and reducing animal products, consuming less energy in home and being responsible with water use, using less plastic and avoiding single-use items, aiming for a zero-waste lifestyle, becoming involved in clean-up activities and raising awareness about waste pollution.
On a personal level, it was inspiring to witness how each person grew as an individual. We saw them develop their confidence in English whilst also learning new skills in other foreign languages. There was a general positive feeling towards the different cultures that the participants were exposed to which shows how they embraced each other respectfully.
As with every Youth Exchange, one of the most heartwarming aspects was the connections developed within the group. Genuine friendships were formed and tears were shed on the final day as they all gave their hugs goodbye and promised to visit one another in their respective countries.
By Lydia Gaskell
Some results from the project;
The video, created by the participants:
The overall “Making-of” video of the project:
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