This is a “brief” story of the experience of a grown-up kid, finally embarking on a long-desired adventure that significantly improved his perception of the importance of how working with youth and raising the ECO awareness leads to the eventual LOVE and sustainability of all life. Within this story there are also, 3 more personal experiences from the rest of the Macedonian team members, included. And without further ado, with only the highlighting of the amazing opportunity that ERASMUS+ projects are for personal growth and for international exchange of ideas and viewpoints, I would like to start the story by expressing my deepest gratitude to the Volunteers Centre Skopje, for making it all real.
– Taking part in this project for me personally meant a great deal in several aspects which in turn resulted in a big improvement in the way I see and understand things. So not to be excessively long I will try and pack everything up into four segments that decently encompass all the important things from the project in my opinion. First of all, and maybe the most important segment for me, I would like to point out the “secret”, unofficial, goal I had set for myself, or maybe even in a way I have been given this task to fulfil, by a certain somebody. It felt really good being on the road again, after a relatively long hiatus caused by the pandemic. Only this time, for the first time, I was in charge of delivering the whole Macedonian team from Skopje to Antaliepte where the project took place. Since the team was comprised of three super cool high school girls, from the city of Sv. Nikole, our esteemed team leader Andrej who was already there, and….well ME, it was only logical that I would be given the responsibility. Along the journey to the project in Lithuania, I not only got the opportunity to, at least for a moment go back in time and relive my high school days through the lovely conversations with my teammates (Mila M., Dushica and Mila S.), but we also bonded in a way that made each and every one of us give their maximum during the project. As team chemistry is the prerequisite of every successful team, we only kept the momentum going from task to task and we managed to represent our country in a very respectable and dignified way. Once we successfully touched down in Kaunas, and managed to super swiftly catch all the connecting bus lines to Antaliepte, the project started and in the beginning we naturally sticked to ourselves until we familiarized ourselves with the other participants. I really enjoyed that I kept that “big brother” role during the whole project because it made me feel the importance of responsibility and punctuality when it comes to working with young people. This came at the perfect moment for me because I strive to obtain a teaching position in the Macedonian educational system, and even Tho, here I have to be realistic and self-critical, I mishandled things on a few occasions, in general, I feel like I did a really good job and most definitely I have sharpened my skills for the future. When it comes to the girls, on many occasions they made things clear that they had a wonderful time and that, for them, it was the first intercultural experience with such dynamics ever. By later, with the project related, discussions It came to my understanding that the cultural shock and the thoroughness of the many activities, that were so SPOT ON, connected to the main topic made enormous advancements in the way of their reasoning and the simple digestion of the beauties of life. So, when Dushica said that this was the first and yet an unforgettable experience, and where later she added “Days full of laughter and wonderful people who radiate positive energy. There was so much to talk about and do on the topic itself, so we did it through Debates, actions, etc. I totally liked all the actions and all the time we spent outside, in nature. A wonderful country where many cultures and different human opinions came together”, and then Mila M. continued with “I had a really wonderful time. I met a lot of people who were so nice and full of positive energy. The topic of the project was great and I liked the activities so much. I miss the people and the place where we were. Now I have different positive perceptions, about the ecology and about life”, only to finish with Mila S.’s statement that “In every sense it was great. A wonderful experience that will remain in our memory from our teenage years. Different cultures, religions, and nationalities are united in one. Many young people are ready for change. Every day with different debates and actions we reached the goal of the project. And the goal is: Let us all together help our planet because it’s our one and only. As long as we live like that, the future is bright! GIVE A HAND – THE PLANET NEEDS HELP”, so I realized that the ultimate goal was already achieved. The vital aspect of the project and the sole motive was to raise the awareness in the new generations, to spark the spirit of self-respect and self-care where it matters the most, to the young people, to the ones that bring the future with them and must ever so responsibly and respectfully nurture the bizarre little rock we call home. Only then I realized that, along with the myriad of new things I personally learned, also I succeeded in my secret task to guide and care for their saunter onto the road to enlightenment, by which I was affected greatly as well.
The second and third segments are intertwined and go perfectly hand in hand when it comes to discovering the physical world all around us. People and places. Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and eventually LITHUANIA posed as a “tera incognita” for so long for me, but no more. The chance that the ERASMUS+ program offers to briefly feel, though more than enough to allure you, the countries where both the projects are being held and from where all the participants are, is just AMAZING! Now having in mind that passionate wanderluster I am, the project in Lithuania made me realize how beautiful and unique as a country it is. This project gave me the possibility to visit Kaunas, Vilnius, Zarasai, approximately fifty steps in Latvia (😀😀) and ultimately ANTALIEPTE. The unspoiled natural beauties with which this remote Lithuanian jewel momentarily ensnares you, along with the local patriotism evident in every single resident is just beyond any comprehension for a person of my background. Their unconditional desire to remain present and combat the pressing issues of the modern-day living not far from their cradle inspired me to a great extent. They realized that the benefits and many boons pristine and charming nature, all around them, is an extremely rare commodity in this time and age. And so, they have all, more or less, agreed-upon collaboration towards a more sustainable future for everyone. Their concept of each contributing with whatever is on-demand for them, either as a set of skills or a final product or even a raw material and etc., adds up perfectly to the idea of how things should be if we were ever to truly try and reorganize our micro environments for a common benefit to all life. Being able to scratch now Lithuania off the bucket list, I can’t help but think about all the amazing people I have stumbled upon this project, as participants from the other countries involved. Now when it comes to them, I am fairly certain that a bag-load of books written in their merit shall not suffice, therefore I will only stick to the one thing that connects almost every single one of them with me and defines their roles in my story…. lifelong FRIENDSHIPS based on a mind liked pedestal structured by LOVE, joy, RESPECT, trust, honour, gratitude, AWARENESS, action, inspiration, cooperation, ECOLOGY….” Get eco, stay FRIENDLY”
– “Get eco, stay friendly” is the perfect title for a project with results like the ones from the project in Antaliepte. It is almost as if the organizers somehow broke the constant of time, went into the future and named it perfectly according to the outcome of their actions. Now I cannot know for sure how many times they did that in order to plan out all the activities to reach the final point, but nevertheless, they balanced things in an optimal way, and for that, we are all really grateful. Now to be fair, as we are all different and have many different characters and, first of all, needs, it is very normal to expect a few mixed emotions upon certain matters. I for one, even though I am 100% satisfied with how things went, felt like there was at least a bit more space for practical use of all the theoretical build-up we made during the debates. But then again, it might just be me and my unmatched need for physical activity and hustle. Work smart, not hard… is among the top of the list of things I learned and am actively trying to implement in my everyday life. Many activities we had, from like really fun “get to know each other” games and ice breakers, through the acquirement of a new skill like sowing and watching a very motivational movie about the importance of the soil, to the ENTHRALING intercultural nights. But the essential beauty of it all was that every single activity and even every single interaction between us was in the spirit of sustainability and the importance of LOVE and care for ourselves and for our planet. I have always, in a somewhat vague way, felt the importance of ECOLOGY and sustainability but this project made me realize that this feeling of responsibility and unselfishness is a primordial feeling, a feeling lying dormant in every person, a feeling deeply rooted in all that life takes credit for. The ultimate goal here is to equip the free thinkers and unconditional all LIFE lovers with the adequate tools for rekindling the potential for change and obtaining and maintaining true values, true GREEN values. Now I can proudly say that I am way more ECO literate than I was before this project, and full of inspiration and drive to start implementing the changes in my micro environment, to take action with the goal of improving the public opinion regarding the ECO activism and fundamentally to motivate and support the young people in my local area of influence towards the strenuous road to the three R’s….REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE…because all life is one, all life is made of the same star stuff, all life flourishes against all the odds, and so we must take care of ourselves because ultimately ALL LIFE IS PRECIOUS!
Petar LUNGA Filipovski