Looking at that photo I am thinking about fancy and trendy term of 'personal empowerment' and what it actually means.
Just a few days ago our beloved interns came back from a training with interns from other places. Our 1-year program is to build up a long-list of their competences and skills – including meta-competences such as leadership, creativity, critical and system thinking, etc, and that sophisticated 'personal empowerment'. In formal applications for grants we describe it as 'young people learning to be active agents of their own life and of local and global society'. But in fact we do not speak about it much on a daily basis. We "just" live, work and build the community in a way that young people are encouraged to take the responsibility, to initiate, to feel accepted and loved as they are, to unfold in their qualities –
the qualities which have been often pressed down by the society's boxes. Unlike in other places, it is not residents telling volunteers what to do, but us together walking the path. We might be doing mistakes on that path, but it will be our collective mistakes – bringing us closer. We might slow down the development of the place – but on the way discover so many new things, our weaknesses and strengths, and learn how to accept them and bring to the world around. This is what for me 'personal empowerment' is.
Young people come to us from so many different countries, under different programs, scholarship and personal initiatives. Many come through financed by Erasmus+ program EVS – European Voluntary Service, which is worth to explore for all under 30. In Sweden it is supported and managed by Myndigheten för ungdoms- och civilsamhällesfrågor, MUCF. This year the EVS training where our interns went was especially cool as, besides our EVSs, even two of volunteers in other places also firstly have walked "Suderbyn path". Big extended family, taking responsibility for their life.
After Robert and me arrived at Tbilisi Airport in the afternoon on the 4th of January, we went to the International Scout Centre Rustavi (ISCR). First thing that impressed us positively were the number of solar panels that have been planted right in front of the airport’s entrance. Secondly, a bit more disappointing was that the traffic was quite a bit more interactive from what we were used to, as in a less clear division of driving lanes causing us the shivers. After we were assigned to our room, we went to the main building where the Contact Making Session was kicked off with information about Georgian Youth for Europe (GYE) and the ISCR, name games and getting to know each other.
The International Scout Centre Rustavi (ISCR)
Friday it was presentation day! Presenting Relearn and Suderbyn was fun and it was challenging to put it all on one paper. But even more challenging, the candidates had to present themselves and their municipalities in a pitch. Within the Kvemo Kartli province, there are 7 municipalities that the candidates represent. Next to Rustavi, there is Bolnisi, Marneuli, Gardabani, Dmanisi, Tsalka and Tetri Tskaro. Such diversity! Similarly, in the organizations. For example there was the Latvian organization Radi Vidi Pats that takes initiatives to make bicycling more attractive by making so called FreakBikes. The other organizations Bison, from Latvia, Sende from Spain, Grüner Grasshalm and Trial&Error from Germany all had an interesting story and a clear connection to sustainability aswell.
Friday night, there was the Tasty Quiz! In this quiz, a couple consisting of a Georgian and a foreigner could taste typical food and guess what and wherefrom the food was. The evaluation showed us the difference and similarities in food culture. For example, the interesting discussion whether Apple juice is typical German or that it could be considered typical Georgian too. To our delight, the Swedish foodstuff was popular too. The Finnerödja Tranbär juice, Salto Råg Knäckebröd, home-made äppelmos and hazelnut-cacao paste were all received very well.
Lars and Robert presenting Relearn & Suderbyn
Saturday, we started off with the matchmaking interviews. The first interview was with Baiko and Pati. Although we had some other pleasant matchmaking interviews afterwards, we were happy that Baiko and Pati chose NGO Relearn & Suderbyn! During the evening out in Tbilisi we enjoyed a Christmas dinner in a restaurant with a singing and dancing show included. After dinner, we went up to the top of a hill and had a stunning view of Tbilisi by night.
To celebrate the matchmaking, the following morning, we went to the municipality of Tetri Tskaro and were treated with a tour in and around the area. We went to see some projects that Baiko and Pati had been working on, such as painting their bus stops and planting trees. Furthermore, we went to the history museum of Tetri Tskaro, took a jumping picture by the Algeti reservoir nearby the Trialeti National Park and had a delicious lunch at Baiko’s home, with home grown veggies and Jon Jolie! When we got back to the ISCR, we got some more information about the Erasmus+ program and non-formal education. Also, we were introduced to challenges and basics in conflict resolution. The day was closed with a nice game called Sustainability Passion in Action. Guessing what passion goes with who, was a fun way to test just how good we know the other teams.
Flying by the Algeti reservoir
The next day was all about sharing ideas on the exchange and planning the coming weeks before the exchange would take place. In the evening, interesting videos and clips were shared, such as clips by young Ukrainians taking sustainable action by the initiative Active YouKraine!
The last day was about sharing best practices and tools for easy communication and online sharing. After the final closing circle, it was time for the farewell! To conclude, I would say that it was a rather intense 6-day visit. It was just enough time to get an impression of Georgian culture, see some of Tbilisi, Rustavi and the Tetri Tskaro region. And of course, make plans for the three weeks exchange to Suderbyn in the first three weeks of March, which we are looking forward to a lot!
To be continued...
By Lars van Dorsselaer
A nice finishing touch in the end of the year. A small article in Hela Gotland reports about our application for building Tiny Houses and a new common house, submitted in the last days of 2017.
The article talks about the building of 9 Tiny Houses and one slightly larger accommodation. The Tiny Houses are drawn by the same architect and show several different models.
Tiny House has become a well-known concept in the U.S. where the Tiny House Movement was founded. And, slowly but surely this phenomenon is gaining momentum on this side of the Atlantic. Let's hope the application will be approved and the building can start soon!
Read the full Swedish news article here
GOTLAND - From 17 to 20 August Suderbyn hosted the No More War Festival. The Swedish newspaper Landets Fria Tidningen wrote an article on the festival.
Read the full article here
THE NETHERLANDS - Life in Suderbyn was captured in an article of the well-known Dutch Newspaper Trouw. Anne, who was volunteering with us has written and published her experiences at Suderbyn Ecovillage.
Please read more about it in Dutch here
How can we build more social inclusion in the Baltic Region? How can we deal with challenges and struggles the society faces and how can we help each other?
SIBREC project funded by Swedish Institute and led by non-profit organisation Relearn Suderbyn brings together practitioners and researchers, community-builders and universities from Baltic Sea Region in order to explore together models and methods of social inclusion in communities and ecovillages. We bring closer to each other the community life and academic research, we collect information of needs and opportunities in the region, we connect people and facilitate the birth of further initiatives. Our question is how various communities can help marginalised groups to become an active part of the society and how we can mainstream methods from ecovillages to the broader society. We believe that the eco-communities have an immense potential to help socially-excluded groups, those who are often left aside. Our focus areas are wide: people with physical and mental disabilities, immigrants and refugees, children with learning difficulties, rural youth, burnt-out employees and other groups whose voices are often not heard.
We do not try to protect marginalised people from the society by building shelters.
A few of us from Suderbyn went for "winter holidays" as volunteers to the Greek island of Lesvos to help refugees and support other volunteers and NGOs working for that mission day and night.
We were part of RefuGEN -- the project of Global Ecovillage Network -- volunteering at two different camps: Pikpa (or All Together village) and Moria.
We share with you Leila Dregger's article as an example of why people move and how difficult their way is.
Two people from Suderbyn recently took a part in the UN Climate Change Conference, so-called COP21, the main global climate event of 2015 and perhaps of the decade. This post will not tell you about COP negotiations and the final agreement between the countries, as there is a lot in the media already — from twitter to BBC. This post will tell about our experience at COP21 and alternative COP which warmed our ecovillagish hearts.
>> The demonstration on 29.12: Police and Environmentalist
They stayed for the first week, setting up the ECOLISE stand, networking in Le Bourget and participating in a range of events: from demonstration at Republique to presentations by indigenous people in Climate Generation Area. Beyond official negotiations and unnecessary noise and crowd of COP21, Paris was hosting many wonderful guests and initiatives.
<< Suderbynians at COP21
What's happening in the ecovillage? What projects are we running at the moment? Here you can follow our work and find out about exciting news and events!
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