“From I to the We: Yes to Sustainability!”

From the 3rd to the 13th of May, six young Italians left for eco-village Hallingelille in Denmark, with the purpose of “tasting” some bites of community life.

Since three years, RIVE’s International Team researches and creates inter-cultural and educational opportunities for young people and adults through the funding of the Erasmus + Program of the European Union. “From the I to the We” is the latest project that has come to life in Denmark, where thirty young people, aged between 18 and 30 and coming from Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Germany and Denmark, spent nine days immersed in the eco-village daily life and in the community dimension.

Different from many other formative proposals, this project stands out for the amount of themes touched during the experience and for the diversity of the activities: this is inevitable, since it has been chosen an eco-village as a training venue! By its very nature, life in an ecological community presents a large number of facets regarding the application of ecology to everyday life, both at a practical and intellectual level. It is a very rich, dynamic and varied environment. As Nicoletta Benfatti, Project Manager, Youth Leader and Reference Youth Exchange Director of the International RIVE Group, explains “We built furnitures out of pallets, we organized dumpster diving teams, we took care of the animals and of the green spaces, we prepared meals and kept the common spaces clean. Moreover, we had time for collective reflections and for sharing of knowledge. In these moments, strategies for group building, awareness-raising exercises and deep ecology tools have been used to help boys and girls to increase their self-consciousness. Filippo Ceschi, 27 years old from Padova and assistant Youth Leader, describes it as a dense experience: “I contributed to the management of the logistics an to the facilitation of different activities. I also participated to other tasks like feeding the horses, cleaning, weeding and building a compost toilet with raw earth bricks. Sometimes tiring but really valuable experience”. Paolo Pani, 28, originally from Bergamo, shares the participant’s point of view: “I found myself spending the whole day with the group, from preparing breakfast to playing music around the fire in the evening. I really liked also the time I collaborated with Hallingelille inhabitants. When I came home I felt a great pride to remember how each participant shared her/his energy with the the rest of the group and how many things I have learned on sustainability, facilitation, permaculture, sociocracy, wild herbs and much more! “.

An experience of life and work in the community, therefore, but also of personal and relational growth.

In the testimonies of participants strongly emerges how this experience led them to explore themselves: “I participated in this exchange because I was seeking for a shaking experience that could allow me to grow and also because I am deeply interested in eco-villages. I found what I was looking for. The cozy atmosphere allowed me to openly exchange speeches, emotions and dreams with other young European people. All together, and under the leadership of the youth leaders, we have created strong connections among us: a group characterized by authenticity, empathy, sharing and many laughter. I had a significant taste of what a community life could be. I have rediscovered the humanity that unites people of different nationalities, especially when we walked in silence in nature … or when, around a bright fire, we played and sang “(Stefano Provenzi, 19, Bergamo).

“The thing I liked most,” confidently says Filippo Ceschi, “was the contact with people. I will bring home so many beautiful relationships and connections. I think I’ve learned to open myself more and, as a result, I also opened up more to others and I built stronger relations. I experienced a role of responsibility where I learned a lot. ” “For me, the space given to individual and collective emotion was very important”, says Paolo Pani’, “since the very beginning I breathed a pleasantly familiar and safe atmosphere, where weaknesses could be shared and overcome together. Every difficulty was experienced could become a constructive lesson. I came home with many ideas to reflect on, with the awareness of having created a small network of people that I can count on during my life.

“I have undertaken this unprecedented journey, with my mind totally open and free,” says Maria Vittoria Tenci, 24 years from Verona. “I have come into contact with heterogeneous people and that has been an enrichment to me; we created a circle of friendship in which I have strongly felt the sense of belonging to my generation, seeking for a change and looking at the synergy between relationships, human activities and Mother Earth. This experience deeply increased my hope for the future because I feel great support for my ideas and full of new perspectives!”. “I bring with me great positive energy and hope for a better future” echoes Cecilia Netto, 24 years from Latina. “I am happy to discover how many wonderful souls exist in this part of the world (the West). Thanks to this project I could meet them and we could contaminate each other, dream and grow together and then return to our land and sow ideas and opportunities”. The enrichment received from this experience has also profoundly worked on the organizers who after months of coordinating and compiling modules could enjoy “a magical atmosphere of sharing, openness, support, and collaboration where everything took place in total harmony and serenity” says Nicoletta Benfatti. “Considering my 45 years old, I could be the mother of at least half of the participants. Despite this, I felt comfortable in the group and the age did not absolutely affect the beautiful relationship born with each one of them. I watched them with admiration, confidence and interest. We danced, played and laughed a lot. In those days I felt really free, I lived the present and accepted the group and myself”.

In conclusion, an extremely positive balance: an unforgettable experience and a wealth of knowledge with which to return home and positively contaminate the futures and the world.

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