ERASMUS+ Youth Exchange at Sieben Linden, a German ecovillage
How can I live sustainably? What does sustainability mean? Are there any other people that think like me and want to take care of themselves and our planet?
To explore sustainable lifestyles and different methods on sustainability 24 young people from France, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Germany dove into community living from the 18th to 27th of August 2022 at Ecovillage Sieben Linden in Germany. We had the camping site as our base where we slept, cooked, ate and got together for energizers and check-ins.
As we didn’t know each other well the group leader Melissa started with some group building activities on the first day of the youth exchange. The last game mixed the participants into animal groups, each one taking care of energizers and time keeping of two days during the youth exchange. It supported that we didn’t just stay in our national teams as we also had reflection time in the evening alternating national teams and animal groups.
The first two days were filled with getting an overview of the programme, background information on ERASMUS+ and the network “Yes to Sustainability” as well as structural tasks that each of us needed to support to make the youth exchange work. In addition we had a workshop on the ecological footprint and to reflect on our own, a long guided tour around the ecovillage and fun evening activities like movie night and impro theater.
As the youth exchange also had the aim to empower young people in sharing their skills the programme left slots open to give workshops i.e. non-violent communication, dragon dreaming or nervous system based self-regulation. The first chance was on Saturday afternoon as the morning had been filled with hands-on work in the garden and food preparation.
On Sunday the group splitted into different teams to take care of the main activity planned for the day: Pizza party in the evening. The ecovillage community was invited to join for “Pizza und Plausch” (pizza and chatting) from the clay oven. It was a nice group effort as many different pieces needed to come together to make the pizza party work. It was a great activity and also the free day afterwards was good to regenerate.
The participants had gotten different pointers on how to spend their free day. Some stayed in the ecovillage, swimming in the pond or taking a walk around the forest. Others took the opportunity of the 9-€-ticket and went outside to places like Zichtau and Klötze to get a feeling for the local area outside the ecovillage.
The group started back together with the mid-term evaluation on day 6, walking around on a scale with different questions and giving open feedback on what’s already great and what could be improved. We also gave space for anonymous feedback on flipcharts. The following three mornings were filled with hands-on activities with community members like working with horses on the field, potato harvest and food preservations. Workshops in the afternoon gave insight into topics of community building, permaculture, dynamic agroforestry and clay building. Playfight, circle dancing and the cultural nights complemented the programme.
The last day of the 10-day youth exchange was dedicated to evaluation, packing up and preparing the farewell party in the evening. The evaluation was nicely balanced between personal highlights and growth as well as points to be improved.
As a personal memento each participant had an envelope which could be filled with personal notes. Furthermore we ended the session with a “warm back” as everyone had a piece of paper on their back and others could write appreciations on it.
As a personal impression a participant wrote this description of Sieben Linden from the youth exchange experience:
Another Place, Another way to build, Another way to live. It feels like a Village from the future, the buildings could stand similar in some suburban regions, but normally Streets, concrete and cars would flood the surrounding. Sieben Linden is an Utopia.
It was truly great to meet so many likeminded people. All the other participants were wonderful human beings – seriously, I’ve never seen so many colourful, kind and compassionate people in one place.
It was really great to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. For example at home, you are part of the problem every time you go to the toilet, because you use huge amounts of drinking water to flush the toilet.
In the ecovillage you are surrounded by like-minded people who share the same mission – to live in a more nature-friendly way so the atmosphere is quite inspiring. And above all, in a community you discover more about relationships and how to live with other people. Also you learn the importance of an individual in a community.