Native Spirit Youth Exchange

“Life, Empowerment and Youth. From Nature to Local Actions”.

Yes to Sustainability.

ERASMUS+ YOUTH EXCHANGE at Native Spirit Camp, Tyrol, Austria

“Life and Nature Youth Camp” was the seventh project of “Yes to Sustainability” international project from NEXT-GEN Europe that aims to bring together young people from different regions of Europe by organizing Youth Exchanges in different ecovillages and rural projects, funded by Erasmus+ and supported by GEN-Eu ( Global Ecovillage Network). Participants from RIE ( Spain), Germany ( Ecobasa), Finland ( SKEY) and Sunspirit ( Austria) join for 10 days to learn together about wilderness education and indigineous worldviews.

The aim of this Youth Exchange was to support people in remembering people to their own vision, helping them to strengthen their trust in themselves, encouraging people to follow their heart, their intuition, their wisdom and their spiritual self, helping to rekindle the connection to nature, teaching knowledge and skills that help everybody to fully use their own potential.

Activities included  the wisdom of the wilderness, the ancient knowledge of indigenous people, the millenniums-old techniques of survival: making fire, making a shelter in the woods…the direct contact to nature and it’s powers, the medicine wheel as a map, the universal, shamanic knowledge, cleaning and earth-connecting ceremonies.

Wilderness and Survival: This exchange was for people who want to learn more about living and surviving in nature. By learning the basic techniques of survival, we gain confidence and security in situations where we are confronted with nature and all forms of life. We experience that nature is our home and provides us with everything we need to survive. No fight for survival, but a gentle introduction into new dimensions of experiencing nature and yourself.

Medicine Wheel: With the principals of the holy directions the medicine wheel gives us a tool to find our middle and keep ourselves and our surroundings in balance. It contains the millennium old knowledge of indigenous people. On the one side it can give us support, orientation and answers to personal questions about life; on the other side it strengthens us in a really practical way: by working with the medicine wheel we can find new qualities in ourselves and gain trust in our own power.

Can we learn to navigate our lives and find our hidden strengths, when connecting with nature in a very special setting? In July 2018, seven young people travelled from Finland to a remote valley in the Tyrolean Alps in Austria to find answers to this, and other, questions. SKEY ry (GEN Finland) co-organised this youth exchange between Finland, Germany, Austria and Spain. It was hosted by the wilderness and survival school Native Spirit and supported by the Erasmus+ programme.

Native Spirit school building stands in a lush alpine valley overlooked by sheer cliffs. As you wake up in one of the wooden teepees, you can hear the magnificent Inn river, “grandmother Inn”, coursing by. The courses are largely based on native, indigenous and aboriginal skills and world view. Participants learn how to navigate, find food and shelter in the wild nature. Connecting with nature furthermore helps people in getting in touch with their inner self and spirituality, whichever culture or religion they arrive from.

During ten days we practised both practical wilderness and survival skills as well as meditative nature connection methods, which supported us to gain confidence and clarify our vision in life. The practical and the spiritual were oftentimes weaved together. For instance, one morning we would make fire without using modern tools, a deep experience as such. In the afternoon we would talk about fire in a symbolic sense, what it means to nourish “the fire in ourselves”. We learned how to use an ancient tool called the Medicine wheel, a concept originating from various Native American cultures. It a tool used to recognize when something is out of balance and to work on our inner peace. During the week, each of us meditated daily in one self-chosen spot in nature.

Tuomas Lilleberg (28), teacher from Helsinki, discovered a new awareness of his life situation. “Using the medicine wheel from Native Americans, I learned how to figure out my dreams more clearly and ways to get there. This realisation has brought awareness to various challenges I currently have in my life… teaching me how to grow. The exchange helped me visualise forthcoming challenges and see how to overcome them. In our imagination, we are free!”

Annemari Salminen (25), occupational therapist from Turku, found that the exchange gave her a place to rethink her connection to nature. “One memorable moment for me was the sweat lodge ceremony. Going together into this underground lodge, singing in the dark and making wishes for peace together felt really good. Afterwards, going out and seeing the beautiful night sky full of stars, listening to the river and smelling the earth connected me to the moment in a special way. All my senses were open and mind quiet, I could truly enjoy the moment.”

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