YTS meeting and training in Serbia

Finally, after months of online meetings, a colourful bunch of young people and youth workers from ecovillages and sustainable projects in Italy, Germany, Serbia, Netherlands, Spain and Slovenia, all members of the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership “Yes To Sustainability”, met between the 7th and the 15th of June at the beautiful retreat and seminar center Jandala, on the hills overseeing the River Danube in Northern Serbia.

The first three days, a reduced group of people worked in a Transnational Project Meeting to draft a sustainable structure to support young people who want to organise a sustainable youth exchange, connect & strengthen the network of ‘Yes To Sustainability’ and create strategies to involve more young people as leaders and mentors in our networks. The sessions were always led by different people to give everybody the chance to experiment and improve their facilitation skills, and it was a great moment to connect personally and strengthen our friendships.

At the end of the meeting, more people joined for the peer learning training for “Good Practice in Youth Exchanges”: former organisers, youth leaders and participants of previous youth exchanges came together to share their experiences and evaluate outcomes, collect best practices and brainstorm content for a brochure about how to create sustainable youth exchanges that will be created by the project.

After days of intense activities and exchanges, the final sharing circle harvested insights and “aha” moments that the group will bring back home. Maybe you remember this magical atmosphere that is created in the group when people start to share from their hearts. Tears, laughter, feelings, emotions, gratitude… being transparent about that creates so much trust and love amongst each other. “Thank you for all the connections, inspirations and teamwork we experienced in the last days. I feel very touched and thankful”, says Steffi from GEN Germany, “This training helped us to feel very more connected to the YTS tribe and network that we are all part of!”.

We would like to point out and celebrate with you our host organisation for this training, the Serbian partner Zeleno Doba (Green Age). After a Yes To Sustainability training in Sieben Linden in Germany in 2017 the first YTS baby was born in 2018: the organization Zeleno Doba. They see themselves as an incubator of Yes To Sustainability in Balkan countries. They do a real pioneer work and we want to give thanks for their love and all the hard work that they put into this project. This was the first training that they were hosting in Serbia and it was a big growing step for them and for the whole YTS network. Thank you beautiful souls!

Yes to Sustainability

Yes to Sustainability is an international project that aims to bring together young people from different regions of Europe by organizing different Youth Exchanges in different european ecovillages funded by Erasmus+.

Participants can participate in one or more Youth Exchange and are  fully funded by the Erasmus+ Program.


Our vision is to encourage young people to have a fun experience in community life, where they can slow down, hear the silence, grow awareness, be in balance and giving them a place where they can start to trust themselves.

With this encouragement, young people can reconnect with nature, learn to accept others and learn about sustainable and low impact ways of living in ecovillages and rural settings. On this path of transformation, they can get all the support they need and in turn be able to support others and find ways to take care of the planet in their daily life.


We are a group of people interested in sustainability willing to share ecovillage lifestyle and low impact ways of living. We are working by young people, with young people and for young people. We come from different countries and from different backgrounds.

Lakabe Youth Exchange 2017

From the 1st to the 9th of October, we had our thrid Youth Exchange of the year in Lakabe community, one of the oldest ecovillage in Europe. Lakabe was an abandoned village squatted 37 years ago in 1980. During 9 days young people from Italy, The Nethelands, Germany, Basque Country and Spain were doing different activities and sharing time together; learning about ecovillage lifestyle and community living.

Here is a short written narration by Lars the dutch youth leader and an audiovisual resume filmed and edited by Belen one of the the spanish participants supported by Dembha and Nira, some kids from the ecovillage.

Youth Exchange Lakabe 1 to 9 October

The youth leaders had been preparing and enjoying the sun, on September 30 the story began.

The arrival day was full of questions, in particular two main:

Did the Dutch survive their trip through Belgian, France and Spain?

And did the Germans catch their final train?

In the end, they made it and the week could finally start, introduced by Clara with love, from the heart. A trip in the highlands to a fresh water stream, is were unfolded the magnificent dream: A group of young learning about water and sustainability, coming down with increased agility, having fun along the way, all made it back home okay to see a documentary on the history of Lakabe.

In the morning everyone was well fed, due to the breakfast prepared by Alfred.

At ten, everyone ready to get some work done, such as cutting vegetables for lunch in the sun, distributing pine wood logs from A to B and reaching for almonds up in the tree.

After work there was a good lunch break to enjoy salad, soup, some bread and cake.

In the afternoon the founders gave us an inspiring speech. They were willing to teach about hurdles to overcome such as how to manage water, electricity and a collective income.

In the evenings there was time to play music, or take care, of a cultural dinner to share,

Playing “piedra, papel tijeras”, or “snik snak snook”, the right hand sign to skip cleaning dishes line, was all that it took.

A broad impression of what the exchange was like. Although expressing it with words might not fully strike the memories made, which shall not fade, but stay in the minds and in the hearts of the beautiful souls that lived together and as a part of this community for 8 days in October, In Lakabe for a youth exchange, staying over.

Lars van Dorsselaer

Next Exchange at Lakabe Community in October 2017


Mornings: Hands on practical activities on low impact ways of living such as: construction, landscape management, permaculture gardening, picking wild plants with community members. Some of these activities will be done with locals.

Afternoons: Exploration time, workshops and intercultural activities between the group and community members and self-development exploration time in groups.

Lakabe is a small village located in the Arce-Artzibar valley in Navarra.
It was abandoned during the 60s and squatted in 1980 by a group of young people from the conscientious objection movement. They dreamt to build a communitarian, alternative and transformative space to adapt to the rhythms of nature.

Today, this project continues with the same essence: enable and experiment utopia. Around 40 people give life to this village; building and confirming a life project in community, sharing economy, labour, resources and making decisions through assemblies. Cultivating the gardens, taking care of the animals, facing life from a communitarian space, human and gender relations, making ecological bread, managing our own electric energy with an isolated system that works only through renewable energies, reforesting the forests and managing the forest in a respectful way, working to create a sustainable world, also at a human level.

Zavod Veles Youth Exchange 7- 17 August

By Lars van Dorsselaer

Arrival and first day

On Monday, after a warm welcome by a long term volunteer at the station of Sevnica, we drove towards the Ecofarm Zavod Veles in Svinjsko, Slovenia. Arrived there at 23h00, I got introduced to other participants and the owners hanging out by the campfire. Shortly after, I was guided to my tent and tired from the trip I fell asleep straight away.


The next morning, the rooster woke me up with some Cook-A-Loo-Dooing and I was feeling fit and ready for a day of getting to know the others and the place. It was also the first time that I could see the amazing view of the nature and highlands by daylight: Truly fascinating for a Dutchy used to flatlands. After a delicious vegan breakfast, the group of 20 volunteer students were divided in groups of four. The diversity in the group was remarkable. To have a clue: a Spanish PhD Student, a Syrian-Dutch student biotechnology, an Italian recent graduate in Political Sciences and a Slovenian musician and recent tourism management graduate formed a team. We did many games with an educational twist. For example, the aspects of daily life which could be improved in a more sustainable way was a true quest. When a hint led to the stones to be found, an explanation of the sustainable concept was presented at the spot. For instance, the eco toilet or “composting toilet.” Whereas traditional toilets use lots of water and treat our poop and pee as useless, this sustainable version actually treats it to what it really is: compost! And on a side note, the smell is countered by using charcoal and sawdust and bums can be wiped with eco-paper. Quite the sustainable impact right?! Other sustainable concepts encountered during the quest: a straw-bale house, a solar-shower, a garden plot and washing dishes sustainably.


Right after the tasty vegan lunch break, the owners of the Ecofarm presented their story. They revealed the barricades and successes from the beginning to where they are right now. It showed me that it takes a lot of courage and persistence to fulfill a dream of living sustainably on an Ecofarm. Furthermore, it became clear that through the struggles, reminding oneself of the beauty of nature surrounding the place was a lot easier with a group of student volunteers staying over: each with their own background, skills and interests complementing each other. The evening of this thrilling first day was closed with a gathering at the fireplace enjoying songs by the musicians from The Vasque Country (Spain) and Slovenia!

Day 2: Wednesday Community work and Team building games

Wednesday was time to get our hands out and get practical. We had the choice of helping with altering the roof of the Eco-toilet into a green roof, finishing a wall of the straw bale house, or helping with gardening or cooking. I chose the green roof of the Eco toilet. In a group of 6 we got the job done in just 2 hours. In the afternoon, I joined with the literal finishing touch of a straw bale wall.

Day 3: Thursday Adventure challenge, Storm and Cultural dinner

Thursday an adventure was planned with creative tasks to get to know the surroundings of the Ecofarm. The adventure was somewhat like a hike through the highlands of Svinjsko and with the many challenges it was a lot of fun!

After we got back at the Ecofarm, we were surprised by a storm and we had to take down our tents! After this storm challenge, we had the first cultural evening. After each adventure group presented their expedition, including a team song and photo’s and video’s, we were treated with tasty Spanish Tortillas and the best Gazpacho Soup I have ever tried!


Day 4: Friday: Open space and Community work

On Friday, we had community work in the morning. This meant first and foremost cleaning up some mess that was caused by the storm and re-building the tents!

In the afternoon there was room for own initiatives during Open Space. I took the chance to present a book that I had been reading since last year: Jin Shin Jyutsu. It is a Japanese Art for self-healing. The Open space was a good opportunity for all to share knowledge and be creative.

Again, in the evening, another delicious vegetarian dinner was served. This time by the Slovenian team.

Day Saturday 5: Open Space & Sweatlodge

Saturday was a day for the Sweatlodge. This is much like a steamhouse experience and not being the greatest fan of that, I skipped this opportunity. Instead, I enjoyed some Slovenian/Syrian Dancing session in the common room instead.

Day Sunday 6: Going to Church and hiking back

On Sunday, a Slovenian participant from the group had proposed a visit to a Sunday church gathering. After the Church gathering, we were discussing some of the paintings of Jesus I was surprised to see that the Muslim and the Christian had so much in common and were really interested to learn more about one another. Among other things, I learned that the story of Jesus plays an important role in the Koran and Muslims have great respect for Jesus.

After Church, we found that there was actually a pilgrim route and we were inspired to walk the 15-kilometer road back to Svinjsko through the highlands. One of the participants had just finished the Camino Santiago a couple of months ago and it was great to learn about his experience.

Day Monday 7: Community work, Slovenian National Television and Dutch Dinner

Gathering the grass in the morning, while singing songs on the sunny field felt more like holiday than doing community work. The sphere in the group is very good and because of the many games that stimulate personal and sincere contact in the group everyone feels comfortable. This shows in the clip that was shot by the Slovenian National Television. For a couple of hours, the Ecofarm was more like a movie shooting scene with all those journalists and cameras around! The result can be found here: <LINKTOVIDEO>

In the evening the Dutch team treated others with a typical Dutch meal: Stamppot!

Day Tuesday 8: Italian Dinner & Dragon Dreaming

Tuesday it was Italian Dinner time, meaning Self Made Pizza! During the day there was an open space about Dragon Dreaming, a concept from Australia and applied in the realization of many Ecofarms. It really highlighted the fact that celebration is an important part of the process which is often forgotten in today’s society. A group of scientists led by John Croft came to this conclusion and found that dreaming and celebrating are equally important as planning and doing. After all these new experiences and friends made, all were delighted to eat pizza made by the Italians in the wood-fired brick furnace!


Wednesday 9: Farewell and swimming in the river Mirna

Wednesday it was already time to say farewell and reflect on the Youth Exchange From I to WE. After packing and cleaning up, we took some musical instruments and swimming gear and left for a swim in the Mirna river. After a refreshing swim, we were treated with a musical ensemble and the Slovenian Polka as well as the Basque dance, that had been practiced during open space, were danced.

A Slovenian participant and myself were the first to leave. Just before leaving, we recorded a song titled “Yes to sustainability, ti ti, From I to WE, We built this community”. A great closing of an amazing experience.

Many thanks and best wishes to all that made the Youth Exchange in Zavod Veles an unforgettable experience.

In retrospect, I could say that sharing music, knowledge, food, culture and a common vision for a sustainable world have been strong building elements for this Youth Exchange.

Dreaming Game

One day during the exchange we were doing a dreaming game and writing down our dreams in a collective process. Each person had to write one dream in a paper and after some minutes pass the paper to the next person. These are some of the dreams that came up:

“We are a group of people respecting each and willing to bring peaces in the world. We travel around the world visiting communities and cities. We exchange tools and knowledge about how to conect deeply with ourselves, planting trees, building natural houses, healing about our deep pains and understand how harmonic life is possible. We are also connected to the animals and the plants, we feel like part of this huge ecosystem called ‘The Earth’.”

” I would like to live in harmony with my environment, my culture, my community and myself. I want to live in nature, in a simple structure, being carefully of my waste, buying ecological products. I will have some emotional sharing with my communnity and animalss/ trees/ plants. I’d love having some sports-moments during the week, with healthy people. We would come together to play and create a space where we can be like children again. Afterwards, we go home together and cook and eat and discuss our dreams and ideas for tomorrow.”




I found about it via facebook.


I wanted to find out how an ecovillage functions, see in practice what it is.


The zebra that lives here.


Sometimes it could be a little bit difficult because there were so many interesting activities all the time and I wanted to participate in them but a t the same time I wanted to have some time for myself.


I learned about the Law of Jante (a pattern of group behaviours towards individuals) which I would like to apply in my own life.


Yes, I would also like to someday realise a project like this in Germany in Berlin.





Clear sky with a little breeze in the sunset.


I wanted to explore alternatives in community living, ecological and economical possibilities. I also wanted to learn new things about myself, about others, have new experiences and grow as a person.


A lotus flower.


I learned how to build a fence from tree branches, how to prepare a garden bed, how to build a compost toilet…I also learned some cooking techniques and gained new social skills.


Yes, definitely.