Ruralize – Erasmus+ adventure in a village

When was the last time you saw the stars?

This June I had the amazing opportunity to see them in the full glory in a beautiful Croatian village called Kolenica. But they were not the purpose of my visit. Instead it was an Erasmus+ Youth Exchange that brought me to this picturesque place.

Short info about the project

Place: Kolenica, Croatia // Dates: 15-23 June 2017 // Participating countries: Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Italy // Project topic: Promoting rural life among local youth

The rough work

I will start by giving you more information about the project and everything that we’ve accomplished.
All our activities were divided in 2 main parts throughout all days - workshops and practical work. During the theoretical part each of the participating countries had to present their workshop which was on a previously determined topic. All topics were connected to the life of rural youth in each country. My biggest personal impression was from the Slovakian workshop which showcased good practices done in the country. Rural youth are actively engaged in social activities such as volunteer firefighting, scouts, traditional dances and crafts - all of these contributing to a better local society. Engaging was the presentation of these activities itself, because the participants themselves are participating in such activities back home. We even had the opportunity to play some fun games such as “Catch the Flag", but take out as many opponents as possible in the meantime by stealing the gloves from their back pocket  No casualties only a lot of running around was done

As an additional activity every team had to develop their own project on each of the workshop’s topics. The results were interesting and very fun which proved once again that no matter what country, religion or even gender we are we can still work together for a common cause.

For example, we had to prepare our vision for the perfect rural area that had to have its own national anthem, flag and even the ideal school. To the Bulgarian team was most interesting to see the level of creativity of all participants regarding the traditional Bulgarian festivals such as the one of the roses and crafts. Some of the participants took the task dearly and transformed themselves into “Kukeri” (traditional Bulgarian figures that are believed to have the strength to banish evil spirits) with the available materials on site.

However the more important and interesting task we had was the design and creation of a recreational field which would be used from local youth. But not only that - we wanted to set an example of a good practice that locals could implement in future on their own.

The whole polygon was divided in two sections - Sports and Recreational. In the first zone we set out to make a rope park with 3 obstacles and a boot camp type of filed with another 3 obstacles. All participants in team “Sports” took part of the designing, gathering of materials, preparation and building activities of the sports section. The end result, as well as the whole process, are shown in the following photos.

Completion of 1st section
2nd section - hanging tires
Boot camp section

The remaining participants had the uneasy task of creating a music wall, path of senses, book house and also to decorate the whole park. And although we were divided in two big teams each and everyone of us had the opportunity to switch to tasks that fitted our own wishes and skills. For me personally, that was a great leadership lesson, because it taught me that people work best when they love what they do. The second big lesson for me was accepting every person with his own character nuances and working with them as a team no matter what. The end result of our efforts is incredible and really shows that if we are patient and if we all forget our EGOs anything is possible.

Path of senses
Music wall
Book house
The opening day

The human factor

In this part I would like to tell you a bit more about the Ruralize experience.
I had the honor of meeting the most amazing group of people all coming from different countries whom I will be able to call friends for life.
I know that this is a very bold statement, but the bond that we created and the feelings we have for each other are things that we cannot mistake for anything else than pure gratitude and appreciation. After all I believe that we humans are emotional beings and regardless of all the ‘modern tech’ we surround ourselves with, we cannot fool that gut feeling about the world around us.
I am also certain that the main reason why we clicked so good was the fact that we were out of the big cities and we really had time for each other.
Here I would like to thank Victoria and Romina for being awesome hosts and for doing everything in their power to make us feel at home. You did it ladies! xo
The games and activities that our hosts organized for building the team were more than successful and super FUN! Each one of us had a secret friend that they had to take care for throughout the exchange. We also had a cool Buddy system that ensured that every Buddy couple was on-time for every activity.
Team Bulgaria-Slovakia conquering the tied shoe-laces challenge
We also spent amazing and extremely fun cultural evenings that every country prepared. There were songs under the stars and wishes sent to the shooting stars above us that we meet again soon.
Last, but most certainly not least, I would like to personally thank Snezana & Ante for their passion and dedication to the project. For taking care and helping us along the way. You truly are inspiring people and I am very very happy that I’ve met you! Your passion really kept me going! Thank you!
Official Facebook page of the project is here.
Check also the video of the recreation field making as well as the opening of the park for the local community made by our italian participant Francesco Morra.

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Dimana Dyakova

Participant of Ruralize // Author of the article

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