Volunteering for Sustainability

Strawbale house in the Zajezka ecovillage

Ecovillagers and allies build capacity through an Erasmus+ training on the new European Solidarity Corps programme.

Learning never stops in GEN Europe, with members of the network regularly and energetically designing and hosting trainings to upskill ecovillagers. This time around, “Volunteering for Sustainability” took place between the 16th and 20th of November 2019, at the Vzdelávacie centrum Zaježová in Zajezka Ecovillage in Slovakia. It was a Youth Worker Mobility, financed by the EU under the Erasmus+ programme.

This event brought together a diverse community of 27 participants representing 12 organizations (eco-villages, intentional communities, youth networks, permaculture research institutes) from Turkey, Armenia, Poland, Spain, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine, Russia, Kosovo, Germany, Bulgaria and Slovakia. The training course offered a thorough grounding in the structure and possibilities of volunteering, including through the new EU program European Solidarity Corps. A large amount of information was presented in a dynamic and exciting way through very creative facilitation; with presentations, group work, games, walk and talk networking, reflection time and sharing circles.

We explored and experienced the deeper meaning of solidarity on a social, environmental and cultural level, and the group departed with a clear idea of how participants can use these opportunities in their organizations to further the vision and scope of projects and engage young people; developing their practical skills while promoting solidarity, social inclusion, active citizenship and employability. Participants Jacek and Bartek from Poland appreciated the real life stories shared: “We learned a lot from other people’s experiences.”

The beautiful hilltop ecovillage where the training was hosted has approximately 150 inhabitants spread across the area. Some members of the community are managing and maintaining the center, which offers, in addition to the educational venue, a tea house, an outdoor activity center, a sauna, a meditation room. We also had the opportunity for a study visit to a farming project where volunteers are hosted, learning from their practical example, as well as the community-run kindergarten and social centre, giving us the chance to see the positive results and experiences of real ESC projects in a growing community.

The group left with a feeling of inspiration, clarity and motivation. We now have new friends, collaborators and supporters across Europe and beyond. Like many of the participants, Sophie from Bulgaria especially appreciated the networking aspect: “It’s been so inspiring meeting such diverse, motivated people from around Europe. Our organisation now has many new contacts and possibilities for collaboration arising from the feeling of openness and support in the training.”

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