Between the 1st and 9th of September, Volunteers Centre Skopje hosted Erasmus+ youth exchange “Volunteer for Mother Earth” in Struga, Macedonia. The main objective of this project was to raise awareness about environmental issues and highlight the positive impact of volunteering.
In total, almost 50 participants from different nationalities took part in the project. The participating countries included Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Macedonia, and Greece. It was truly a memorable week!
During the initial days of the project, our leaders Viktor and Goran helped us get to know each other better, understand our personalities, similarities, and differences through various prepared activities, including energizers and creative tasks that strengthened our team bond. These activities sparked many debates and discussions, not only during working time.
As the project progressed, we focused more on environmental issues, including planning for a clean-up action outdoors. We reflected on our impact on the environment and brainstormed solutions. We also watched a documentary produced by Zapochista Makedonija. This film, created during the “Trash Tour”, project in which VCS was partner, highlighted the significance of proper waste disposal and the avoidance of littering. We were all impressed by the efforts taking place in various Macedonian cities such as Ohrid, Strumica, and Kavadarci.
Soon after, we put our plans into action by cleaning up the nearby beach next to Lake Ohrid, removing a great amount of trash from the water and surrounding areas. It was saddening to see how much garbage man can produce in such beautiful place. The problem is not limited to Macedonia but prevalent in many countries worldwide, with countless abandoned waste sites in forests and natural areas. Despite global awareness campaigns advocating for the responsible treatment of our planet, some people still struggle to follow these guidelines. They often choose to throw trash in secluded areas rather than waiting a few minutes for access to a bin, as became evident when we moved from the beach to the main streets of Struga.
Every night from our third day there, we enjoyed special intercultural evenings with each national team presenting their country. We got to explore traditions of our friends through dances, food and games. Personally, each performance was exciting and unique! We also had a day to explore nearby city – Ohrid, where we saw numerous historical monuments and enjoyed the stunning local landscapes.
Based on our experiences, impressions, and knowledge gained during this unique project, we recorded interviews, videos, and prepared reports highlighting the benefits of volunteering and offering positive solutions for improving our environment. In our separate groups, we created brochures and presentations to educate people about the importance of waste segregation and not littering. I hope that through the dissemination of our work on selected websites a vast majority of people will become more environmentally conscious.
During the project, I played a role in logistics, which turned out to be an incredible learning opportunity for me during my time in Macedonia. I can confidently say that I gained valuable knowledge, just like every other participant. Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet many people from various countries, and despite being the only Polish person in our group, I was warmly welcomed from the beginning. I am certain that I will maintain strong and lasting connections with these wonderful people,, as most of them have become great friends.