Recently, I attended a Youth program “Greenspiration” as part of the Italian team in Romania from August 2. The program’s topic was sustainability and recycling. The name of the town was Miercurea Ciuc, it is a very small town in Romania near Hungarian border, most of the people there speak Hungarian. The town is located in the heart of mountains with lots of trees, fields and amazing landscape all around.
The program lasted ten days and with a carefully organised timetable. The whole group of 25 participants from Italy, Greece, Portugal, Romania and Hungary was a very diverse group of young people from different backgrounds and professions. As the program was based on recycling and sustainability we were engaged in activities to recycle household waste for example plastic bags, milk cartons, discarded clothes & plastic bottles etc.
Each day of the project was designated for a particular workshop. During the program the participants were provided with tools for creating numerous masterpieces, and freedom for fulfilling any artistic idea they could’ve possibly had. We were provided with all the materials and some prototypes of the stuff that could be made with the raw material. We made different things like jewelry, purses, coin bags, decor pieces and many more. While some participants found it easy to get their hands on the materials and produce any upcycling pieces, others took their time to get adjusted to the creative process, but in the end we all equally enjoyed the activities.
One day we learned about the best green practices in other European countries, but not only we learned, we also taught each other. It was very inspiring to hear young people talk about their countries’ current state in sustainability and their optimistic opinion on the future. As an Italian group we were proud to share our experience of separate waste disposal and also best practices in sustainable Italian fashion. As it turns out, we often take all this for granted. There are countries who are only hoping to get better at mindful separate recycling or disposal habits and practices. Yet Italy has already gone a long way, ever since the “Raccolta differenziata” program was introduced to the population.
The program was not just about the activities but about making connections and learning about how we can work together in different team sizes and with different people. The program also tried to make a deeper connection with ourselves and the nature around us.
Personally I really enjoyed the small crafting activities organised by the tutors because they were very simple but at the same time created a spark of creativity. Also because it provided me an opportunity to experiment with myself and with other people. It helped me in my personal growth.
Tetra Pak, plastic, paper and fabric workshops: not only did they show us techniques to design new things from the household waste, but also taught us of thinking how we can “reuse” before “throwing out”. A pair of earrings from a plastic bag, a wallet from a milk carton, a notebook from a beer box…is there anything you threw out today that could’ve been given a second chance?
My whole life I used to see plastic bottles, milk bricks and food packaging as ‘normal’ waste. Of course I used to differentiate and separate them, but I never imagined to re-use them somehow. The activities gave me some new ideas and a fresh perspective. Now everytime that I look at some waste I try to imagine how I might give it a second life.
Moreover, I’m realizing that there is something more and the project was not only about some workshops. I came back to Italy and I spent the rest of my vacation with my friends. I went back to work and to my daily life and I notice that in every conversation I can’t keep myself from telling how great that exchange was and suggesting to all my friends to apply for some Youth exchange program. It’s the experience they absolutely need to live.
I met fantastic people from different countries with unique stories, different origins, different cultures, different occupations, different studies and their own ambitions. I felt comfortable spending time with each of them. I really loved every evening or early morning talk, every debate on an environmental or even political topic. I loved learning about their habits and their passions. There was so much life in all of us. We were all sharing this experience and truly enjoying the time together.
In conclusion, I think that I was very lucky to be a part of it. This fantastic place, these amazing people, our patient leaders and coordinators. A lot of variables combined in a complex equation, and the result is life long memories! ©️
V.M. , O.N. , H.Y.