From September 1st – 9th, six youths aged 18-25, in connection with Embrace Cooperation Ltd., had the exciting opportunity to represent the UK as part of a European Youth Exchange. The programme, created by the European Parliament and Council and funded by the European Union, brought youths from Spain, Italy, Romania, Germany and the UK together in the town of Domegge di Cadore. The main aim of the programme was to raise awareness of, and promote the importance of environmental conservation via numerous sustainable practices.
Domegge di Cadore is a beautiful, ancient countryside town 912m above sea level. It is found on Piave River’s northern shore nestled in a valley overlooked by a magnificent mountain range in north Italy. Its population of ~260 form a very close-knit community. The residents’ familiarity with one another, and warm hospitality towards the youth exchange participants, was instantly noticeable and greatly appreciated. The town, once famous for manufacturing glasses, offered a fascinating, valuable insight into rural Italy.
A succession of ‘green-themed’ activities ran throughout the week. One particularly interesting task involved role play: each participant country group had to assume the role of institution representatives and produce 10 implementable solutions to combat environmental degradation. Consequent idea presentation proved to be an enlightening and educational exchange of all manner of solutions, from introducing a specific ‘environmental care’ subject to the school curriculum, to making major cities ‘bicycle only’ zones to tackle pollution.
‘Hands on’ activities included designing a set of 3 recycling bins from old cardboard boxes, and directing and producing a movie clip explaining the meaning of ‘A Green Life’. The film-making was extremely enjoyed by all. The clips were presented at the final conference, with the UK youth group focussing on the small lifestyle changes which can make big environmental differences, for example choosing to walk rather than drive.
A Venice day trip revealed impressive monuments, rustic shops, iconic buildings such as St. Mark’s Basilica, and of course the novelty network of countless waterways constantly traversed by spectacular gondolas, local boats and vehicles, and a variety of water fowl. Whilst this trip offered a chance to explore one of the world’s most unique cities, it also highlighted the stark contrast between the highly developed, urban surroundings of Venice, and the peaceful, rural Domegge di’Cadore. It emphasised the attraction of the town’s ‘green’ existence: home-grown produce, wide expanses of natural landscape, and a sense of peace that only nature can bring.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo (the three peaks) are three distinctive, immense mountains found in the Sexten Dolomite range in north Italy, and rise 2900m above sea level. A strenuous yet satisfactory trek around Tre Cime rewarded climbers with breathtaking views of colossal mountains, intricate winding streams, crystal clear pools, and an assortment of flora and fauna.
Not only did the UK youths work towards a greener life, but they also learned about the other participants’ respective countries via a set of International Evenings. These were planned and run by each youth group and involved authentic food samples, details of lifestyles, languages and locations, and various activities from native dancing to traditional party games. These evenings provided informative insights into different cultures and expanded the participants’ world knowledge and perceptions, whilst enhancing presentation and social skills.
The youth exchange programme was an invaluable, greatly enjoyed experience, bringing young people together from all over Europe with one common, yet vital goal: promoting environmental sustainability to ensure natural resource conservation for future generations to enjoy. Additionally, the social aspect of the youth exchange resulted in the formation of many cross-country friendships which will hopefully be retained and strengthened over the coming years, thereby enforcing the UK’s connections within Europe.
By Emma Prowd & Chee May Lang
Photos by Patrick Lofus