Empowering young people through ESC projects

We are here at Cloughjordan ecovillage in Ireland. An inspiring ecovillage with many apple-trees and crows, inside a cute little town. It’s a place that breathes space, with many fields and forests around. The Irish people are so social and lovely, always willing to help and eager for a talk.

We’re following an ERASMUS+ training around the ESC programme, which stands for ‘European Solidarity Corps’. A program funded by the EU to invite young people, between 18 and 30 years old, as a volunteer in your ecovillage, community or project for an activity that is offering different kinds of solidarity-work. The training is developed by different eco-villages in Ireland, Germany (Sieben Linden), Sweden and Denmark, to exchange together their experience and information about the ESC programme that they’re already running for different years.

The training is inspiring and it teaches us all there is to know about the programme and how to apply for a quality label (which is obliged to apply for the funds). The facilitators, who are young but skilled, empathic and experienced, are answering all our questions about hosting young volunteers, and how to deal with difficulties or challenges. 

It just feels like such a treat that all this information, collected by years of experience; taking a lot of time to figure it all out, often by people doing this by themselves, is just offered to us so easy on a plate. 

And even more precious than this useful information and shared resources, is the wonderful group from different countries (Spain, Ukraine, Israel, Slovakia, Germany and Belgium) with whom we’re here. I don’t know what it is exactly that makes me feel so at ease, so ‘at home’. I enjoy coming in contact with differences of culture and background, especially in combination with so much respect and openness for one another. Although this feels natural, I also see how unique it is to reach such a familiar atmosphere in so little time.

Many activities support our connection: from the sharings (morning check-in’s and daily sharings in a little group, in which we were able to share really deep and authentic), to silly games we’re playing together as energizers, to an evening of singing together with the locals in the church. All of this is a lot of fun, and feels nourishing for heart and soul. We laughed a lot together, but even more meaningful to me was to also express our sadness, grief or fear together. 

We spend a week in a special kind of bubble with these very openhearted people. Sometimes this was in strong contrast to different life-situations that were feelable outside this bubble, like the suffering and pain of the war-situations, where different people from Ukraine and Israel came from. But to also carry this together from time to time, not to close our eyes and heart for it but to be compassionate and sensitive, feels very precious. This is putting solidarity already in action, in the first place to just be openhearted for each other, even when it hurts. 

Many deep and long conversations about all kinds of topics: daily life, politics, community-life, war, all different ways of living, was so inspiring and/or opening my mind. We addressed quite some topics that I knew very little about before, so it definitely broadened my life view.

Who definitely also added to the value of this training, was Veronica, the daughter of one of the participants, who came along. 

Veronica, the girl from whom happiness exudes and innocence blossoms. This amazing girl has wonderfully improved our entire learning process. The endless smile and the laughter that penetrates walls have created a perfect harmony and balance between serious adults and the childlike nature that we lose over the years. Her endless beauty operates on two parallel lines, both externally and internally. The joy of life she brought is irreplaceable, a marvelous reminder of the pure joy that we lose with the adoption of responsibility and seriousness. Veronica taught us all that children are not an option at our social events in life, but a necessity, as a reminder of the beautiful side of humanity. The wholeness of a person, the purity of his heart, and the unbounded existential joy. Do yourself a favor, and the next time you think about forgoing bringing your children with you, think again, children are our beautiful side, children are the beautiful side of humanity. Do not distance them from society, bring them closer to it. For our sake, for the sake of humanity. 

I’m so grateful that she was there, to remind us of this irreplaceable lesson, for restoring my longing for connection with the child within me.

I feel super grateful for this week. I made connections and friendships for life here. I hope it will be possible in the future to go visit some of each other’s projects and keep being able to support each other.

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