Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine has not stopped Ukrainian youth from developing their competencies and broadening their horizons, because we are well aware that despite all the horrors of war, such an existential crisis can also forge change, acting as a catalyst to modernise the country in every way. That’s why it’s important for us as young people to use the various educational opportunities offered by the European Union’s programmes to make sure we have the knowledge and skills in place to help us build the kind of country in which we want to live: free, democratic, and green.
Together with my colleague Khrystyna Ivantsiv, Young European Ambassador in Ukraine, on 12-24 August 2022, we took part in the Erasmus+ Training Course ‘Echo Rencontre 2022’ in Savudrija, Croatia. The main aim of the project was to deepen young people’s knowledge about human impact on the environment through theoretical and practical workshops. The project goals included:
Khrystyna and I had wanted to take part in an international project for a long time, so when we found out about this opportunity from the National Coordinator of the ‘Young European Ambassadors’ initiative in the general chat of the Ukrainian YEAs team, we didn’t hesitate to apply. I am 17 years old and Khrystyna is 19. For both of us, this was our first Erasmus+ experience.
First of all, thanks to our participation in the project, we got to know more than 40 active young people from France, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Ukraine, and Croatia.
Each day of the project started with a general morning meeting with interesting team-building activities, followed by theoretical classes on various aspects of ecology, then circus activities (for instance, participants could practice juggling or walk on stilts), and after that, we still had enough energy, we were able to play volleyball, badminton or swim in the sea before the next set of ecological activities.
During theoretical workshops in international groups, we exchanged information on our countries’ environmental policies, methods to minimise the use of fossil fuels, and informative national policies to build environmental awareness. We learned that the best results in becoming more climate-neutral are achieved by those countries that devote a lot of time in schools to environmental issues and teach children how to sort properly. It became clear that as young people we need to share our experiences and skills in the fight against climate change, because only by working together can we make a positive impact.
The most valuable thing was that together we were able to form a list of things (such as using public transport, buying local products, using energy-saving devices, giving new life to old things, etc.) that we can change in our daily lives to become more eco-friendly, to reduce our carbon footprint, because all changes start with ourselves, and as active and aware young people it is important for us to encourage others to go green by our own example. For instance, together with the organisers of the project, we made detergents, shampoos, and even hair dye from natural ingredients that are not harmful to flora and fauna, unlike the products of the type we are used to seeing on shop shelves.
Speaking a lot about people’s impact on the environment, our Ukrainian team shared how military action is damaging Ukraine’s environment and accelerating climate change because no war is local when it comes to the environment. Ecosystems cannot be delimited by arbitrary boundaries, simply by drawing them on a map. If the natural equilibrium in one geolocation collapses, another is bound to feel it.
As Young European Ambassadors, we also presented our initiative and the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ programme, talked about the projects we implement in Ukraine, particularly on the topic of ecology, and how fellow Young European Ambassadors in Ukraine are bringing our Victory Day closer by volunteering or working on the information front.
During the project, we had three cultural evenings where we were able to learn more about the culture, traditions, songs, languages, and peculiarities of other countries and to present Ukraine. Thanks to this, our new international friends found out more about traditional Ukrainian clothes – vyshyvanka – heard legendary Ukrainian songs such as ‘Chervona Ruta’ by Volodymyr Ivasyuk and ‘Stefania’ by Kalush Orchestra, watched a video about the natural beauties of our country, and tasted the object of UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list – ‘Borsch’.
As mentioned above, in addition to theoretical workshops, we had the opportunity to take part in various sports activities: volleyball, football, swimming, circus, and dancing. This way of spending time has improved our well-being, helped us build better relationships with the other participants and… reduced our energy consumption (!), as we decreased the time we used our gadgets to a minimum.
In general, the experience of participating in this Erasmus+ Training Course made us realise that in order to solve global problems, we have to unite together, as an international community, around common values and move step by step, from changing our consciousness to changing our families, communities and countries. To do this, we must constantly evolve, unite with like-minded people and remember that we are stronger together.
If you are a young person aged between 13 and 30 years old, then don’t hesitate, to find out more about the opportunities offered by the programme at https://erasmus-plus.ec.europa.eu/, apply and open up new perspectives for yourself.
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