A slight feeling of warmth has returned to the rays of sun that cut diagonal light through the still-frozen tree branches and cast their long shadows in the patchy snow. Like the sun, the Yippies too have returned with embracing warmth from migrations afar, renewed in spirit and resolve. They arrived like a flood of energy, first one, then three, then twenty-five, filling this quieted place with their inspiration, stories and diversified biographies. Happy to see one another, happy to be “home”, happy to return to the spaciousness of their Tallevana accommodations after squashing, sleeping-bag-to-sleeping-bag on the guest room floors of friendly hosts. However, within this joyful atmosphere of reunion, strange intrigue also lingers as people who once knew one another meet again on different terms. All have been changed. All have experienced something. All have returned in a way, anew. In that sense, it is more than a coming together of familiar souls, straightforward and simple. It is the opening, again. It is a new beginning. As previous familiarity is bonded with new dimensions, a foundation is strengthened so that YIP8, this constellation of brilliant and diverse individuals, may walk side-by-side toward a radical future of unknowns.
With the combination of the Winter Break and the Internships it seems like forever and a day since the Yippies departed on their journeys, but it has really been two months. For those of us that remained behind in Ytterjärna, these past weeks have been relatively quiet, but they have not been idle! After some much needed respite around the turn of 2016, the Organizing Team set to work on pulling together the rest of the logistical strings for YIP8, the curriculum design for YIP9 and a campaign to connect with Alumni and find newcomers who want to participate in the future. We spent many hours in meetings, conversations and visualizations to promote the successful continuation of this incredible phenomenon. In a way, we reinvent the wheel after each revolution of the program. Perhaps not the easiest approach, but in truth, it is part of what keeps it all fresh. What are the current and prominent issues that need our attention and learning? What are the questions being asked by potential participants? These ponderings help guide our design.
What supports and guides us as well is the knowledge that 225 Alumni are spread around the globe, active and engaged with the world in their own uniqueness, and carrying the shared experience of YIP. We reached out to them in our yearning to support young people in finding out about this opportunity. How wonderful it was to hear back from so many! We heard about their lives, their whereabouts, their current work and art and questions and drives. Beautiful letters poured in from many corners of the earth with vivid descriptions of life and family. And the resounding answer to our plea was, Yes. Yes, we will support in spreading the word so that others may discover what possibilities await them in Sweden, in Ytterjärna and at YIP. Thank you, one and all. It is so comforting and encouraging to know that you are all out there rockin’ it.
Applications for YIP9 are coming in, slowly but surely. We have already accepted participants from Europe, as well as New Zealand, Brazil and Thailand! But still, in order to pave the way for YIP9 to be a thunderous and brilliant success, we welcome your support as well! Would you be willing to receive and spread some flyers or business cards in your community? Or, using the link to our video, simply spread the word through social media? You could even go a step further and organize a discussion or presentation about YIP! If these are things that you are already doing, THANK YOU!! If it is not the right time, or if you are not interested in any of the above, no worries, we still love you very much. If you have any questions about any of this, would like advice or guidance on how to organize an event, or if you have any suggestions of things we can do or places we can visit, please be in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org! We are hugely grateful for the support, in whatever form it comes, and look forward with excitement to an abundant future.
A Short Report from Chios: Gate to Europe
Written by Christoph Walther (YIP1) and Katalin Kuse
The sun has set on Chios. We are sitting in the back of a van with one hundred liters of hot soup ready to be served at Vial. Here, in an old aluminum factory, the local authorities have recently opened a new registration hotspot for the people who cross the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Europe. After the usual conversation with the police officer we enter the camp – tonight we are asked to serve inside. Razor wire has been put on the fences this morning. The camp’s architecture suggests that it could be turned into a prison at any time. However, the basic human need of providing warm food to the refugees has not been arranged by the public agencies until now. Therefore, our soup is allowed to enter this gated place of transition, where people are waiting for their documents, hoping for permission to move on.
The tables are set up quickly – someone spreads the word about the soup, others start filling paper cups giving the warm meal to anyone who is hungry. Families, elders, young adolescents from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran: the crowd is as diverse as the causes for their migration. Tonight, we serve a lentil soup with chickpeas and carrots, topped with fresh cucumber. This delicious and spicy soup has been prepared by the People’s Street Kitchen (PSK), the pioneering volunteer kitchen on Chios that we are here supporting. The vegan kitchen was initiated in late 2015 and has welcomed different groups of volunteers towards the aim of delivering healthy food to the refugees on Chios. At the moment, the ‘disaster relief team’ of the Ching Hai Association is running the kitchen under the supervision of Ifty Patel (UK), the initiator of PSK.
The simple act of delivering soup implies a series of challenges. The place of serving at Vial is subject to an ongoing conversation with the authorities (Police and Army). Although the camp utterly relies on the daily soup, it is hard to find the right people who are in charge and assume responsibility for their ideas. Even the invited NGO’s like the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) with the lovely and competent staff face similar challenges. Another difficulty is the job of ‘crowd control’: informing people that the soup has to be eaten outside the registration facilities. By the end of the day, however, all people are fed again. We hear that our leftovers are needed in Souda, another camp on the coast, where people are sent after registration at Vial before taking the ferry to Athens late at night.
The different NGO’s, volunteers, and kitchens are striving towards a working communication infrastructure that is capable of coping with the shifting numbers of refugees on the island, which can change immediately over night, depending on weather, changing political conditions, and eventual failure of infrastructure. So far, peaks counted in at over 2000 refugees on Chios at once. In order to prepare the right amount of soup on time, the kitchens need to be always in touch with the other organizations. In collaboration with a local kitchen and the Swiss organization ‘Be Aware And Share’, PSK has assumed responsibility for feeding the refugees on Chios. All kitchens are financed though private donators and are run and supported by volunteers. Other groups of volunteers or small organizations have set their focus elsewhere, on first aid at the shoreline, distributing clothes, serving hot chai, etc.
While our van approaches the Souda parking lot where soup is served, the lights from the Turkish coast mark the horizon. That coast that seems to be so close is a key obstacle for the people on their way into central Europe. While a regular ferry ticket from Cesme to Chios costs around 20 Euros, the smuggler charges around 1000 for a ride on an overcrowded and dangerous boat. However, the way from Chios to the countries of destination seems to be ever more challenging – tonight, we hear rumors about new migration regulations along the Balkan Route and limited ferry ticket sales to Athens. However, despite all uncertainties for both refugees and volunteers, we continue striving towards a warm welcome for our new fellow European Citizens.
One of the many pillars of the Youth Initiative Program is the Internships. The participants are challenged early in the YIP year to design a six-week internship working with an initiative (or initiatives) somewhere in the world. As YIP grows older, the network around it has also expanded, creating many unique opportunities for the participants to engage. It is up to them to design how. Upon their return, they must present their work and experience over the prior weeks in an interactive, hour-long presentation and answer questions at the end. This year, participants travelled to Nepal, the United States, Greece, Brazil and South Africa. Here are some snippets from their stories…
Nepal: Paul, Mirdith, George, Rosie, Nadine and Clarissa
Text by Mirdith
After a long trip in dreams, the silence of a cold dark night slowly started to shine. Shades of pink red sunrays are coming from behind hills, awaking life in the village. It is around 6 a.m., suddenly the first truck horn is heard from down below, followed by some barking dogs and ringing bells. Indeed, from the rooftop of the house you are in first class. Some Nepalis are doing the morning ritual of shaking bells around the house, welcoming this new day and Namasté!
The silence is quickly disappearing and leaves space for life, now we have the chance to listen to an orchestra: the bark of dogs makes the rhythm, all different horns make the melody mixed with bells, later come shouts of joy from children in the playground, accompanied by loud traffic sounds from the street.
Kathmandu life is calling us in this foggy morning, the over packed bus is coming. As soon as we can, we grab the ladder to get on top of the bus. It is already almost full, time to sit down and find a comfy spot. And hoopla, Nepali style starts: on the corner of the street we can see the colorfully painted water tank trucks, being filled from the river. We are quickly spotted, six white folks on the roof of a bus. While looking at us, the Nepali people at the bus stop are grinning widely. Before our eyes, a man is chasing after his happy free cow on his land. The most beautiful view of Kathmandu gradually gives way to the chaos and madness of the city, now it is time to get of the roof and try to enter into the crowded bus. My whole body is now being squished. A woman is offering me her lap for my bag, smiles are exchanged. Later, a beautiful woman makes me realize my bum is dirty from sitting on the roof, by rubbing off the dust from my pants. I didn’t feel in that moment to be embarrassed at all. Here, I have several mothers who take care of me, and this intimacy between women is just a normal part of the culture.
It is time to get off the bus! Ouf! A rush of polluted air with some oxygen is available again! Landing in an insane and vibrant environment. The street is lined with tiny fabric stores; it is the kingdom of fabrics. Further down, on the corner of the street, your nose is guided by a wealth of spices. On your left, there is dried fish that will steal your sense of smell. Now we are in the main square, in the kingdom of fruits and vegetables where all the women are doing their shopping. Stop one moment and look up, a majestic old temple is in front on you. Welcome to Kathmandu.
This morning on a walk to the top of the closest hill, life is still in sleep while we are hiking up. Arriving at the top, the sun has not appeared in the distance yet, the sky is clear but still in sleep. As soon as the sun shows the top of his head, bells from the Buddhist temple are ringing. Some distance further, a Hindu temple is standing in the same light. In this country, both religions are equal.
There, on your right, you can gaze at the majestic countryside of the valley. Life is awaking… around the houses, they are getting ready for school, eating the end of “Dal Bhat” (rice served with lentils soup and vegetable curry), washing the laundry in front of the house, cleaning the dishes with cold water.
Later, when taking care of cows, goats and chickens is done, mother is dressed with a piece of fabric and can finally take a shower outside. Her black shining hair will dry in the sunshine while she takes a short nap. In the other side, on the left hillside you can see, Kathmandu Valley filled with all kinds of buildings, noisy streets, traffic queues and city life.
There is beauty in the rhythm of the countryside. There is beauty in the rhythm of the city. And there is so much beauty between the two.
“The mountains are not stadiums, where I satisfy my ambitions to achieve. They are my cathedrals, my houses of religions.(…) In their presence I attempt to understand my life, to purify myself of earthly vanity, greed and fear. On their alter I strive to perfect myself physically and spiritually. From their vantage point, I view my past, dream of the future and, with unusual acuteness, I experience the present.“ – Anatoli Nickolovich Broukeev
Los Angeles: Yoko, Tom, Theo, Nick and Deni
Pictures by Tom
“In LA I learned to run and let my breath catch up to me. In the past, ive always tried to breath first, center, and then start to move. But what I realized in that crazy city, is that if I’m doing what I love, I will naturally find balance while in motion. Life is too short to stay in one place dreaming of what you want to do in the future. You have to manifest that bud of inspiration inside yourself, every moment of every day. Otherwise, at the end of your life, it will not have fully blossomed. Set aside your fear, and dare to be powerful so that you don’t even have a chance to dream, but rather you are creating reality.” -Deni
“Today I am a gardner
digging holes into this land
but besides that
I’ve been a gardener all my life
trying to shape my heart into a tree
my soul into a forest
this lawn into a dream
with blisters on my hands
burning contours of a vision
the negative space of the WORD life
folded from the inside out
faded into the foreground of reality”
Aegina Island is a little paradise of sorts in the blue waters of the Saronic Gulf off the coast of Greece. It is here that Oikia Karapanou and the School of all Relations (SOAR) is located. After Ethel was unnecessarily and inappropriately refused a visa to travel to the United States with the Los Angeles group, she set her focus on this small island. Straight away after her arrival she was challenged to lead SOAR’s team meetings, guide the participants through a World Café and take over their web blog, as well as work in Athens with refugees who had just arrived in Greece. She participated in daily rituals of yoga and meditation, and soon became an integral part of the community. Challenged by the fact that she was alone in this new place, Ethel was able to see it as a blessing, as she recognized her appreciation for community as well as her need for space. Despite stormy waters and unstable ferry rides, Ethel returned safely to Sweden with many deep learning experiences and several great stories to tell.
Brazil: Pauline, Julie, Mustafa, Laura, Elias, Anna and Agnes
Text by Pauline
The internship in Brazil was filled with many meetings, with projects, organizations and social innovators. We were welcomed by Bruna Viapiana, a participant of YIP 7, who joined us for our journey and became a part of our group. We had the privilege to have a partnership with Instituto Elos. They hosted us with open arms and open hearts and with two lovely Elos workers, Clarissa and Nati, we were going to do an Oasis Game. We were going to a favela, Vila Charms, where Warriors Without Weapons had been last year. They told us that last time they built a garden and a community house.
Arriving at Vila Charm’s I saw the community house and noticed that it was basically a wooden shack. It kind of got me thinking of my Scandinavian expectations. When I hear someone saying they build a house, I think with Swedish standards and I imagined some kind of luxurious building. Here, it was four walls, a roof and a cement floor. In the community there was water on the streets rising up to our calves, a life threatening electric cable going right above the whole area, kids being super independent, men beating women, drug dealing, beautiful colors and plants and taxis smuggling weapons into the favela. Vila Charm’s tore my heart open and then filled it with more.
After the arrival and doing the first step of the Oasis Game, we were sent out in the community in groups to find (examples of beauty) beauties. But I just couldn’t see them. What I saw was misery and what I felt was fear. I came to be in a group with two 7 or 8 year old boys that didn’t speak English and they started leading me around the area. I realized that I was completely dependent on them, I had no idea of where I was, I heard that people were talking about me and unsure what they were saying. I was stared at; it was like being an animal in a zoo. What if these kids run away? Luckily they didn’t and actually they were really nice.
The next step in the Oasis Game was to listen to stories, so I talked to a man who used to be a drug dealer and a heroine addict. He was a criminal facing 30 years in jail and a danger to society. This went on until he found God and he decided to became a priest. He went to rehab and got clean and now he is preaching his story for young men to show them there is a way out. I later on found out that he is husband to Ana Claudia who is the feared leader of Vila Charms thanks to her political connections. I also found out that his kids asked if men beat their wives in Europe too. I left Vila Cham’s with a heavy heart and mind.
Being away from everything it was clear to me that I had to take a decision. I could go back and be scared and just stay in the community house or I could step over this fear and swallow it. Because what is an Oasis Game? It’s not just building something, it is making connections. How will I ever make connections if I don’t go deeper in the experience? Lets just see what changes If I do things differently.
So I went back to this community and it was way out of my comfort zone, but this time it was voluntarily. There I dared myself to walk out of the community, alone together with Bruna and try to get supplies. I dared myself to talk to people that in the beginning looked frightening. I played with the kids, laughed with the men in the bars. Worked hard with the ones involved in building and I fell in love with Vila Charms. Feeling free, feeling community and facing myself. I got to see people having dreams and working hard for them no matter the surroundings, some so motivated to finish their work they would work until they dropped and had to go to the hospital. I got to see fire in people’s eyes, generosity, kindness and dedication.
What we built might not be the prettiest, but the building was beautiful.
I will forever be grateful for Vila Charms. It was an insane but incredible experience.
South Africa: Shintaro, Ivy, Arvid, Beth and Boris
Text by Beth. Pictures by Shintaro and Boris.
Cape Town was never lacking in contradictions. White and black, rich and poor, open and closed, life and death, and within this spectrum also lies everything in the middle. It was this patchwork of contrasts that we would call our home for the next seven weeks, and I was scared. I would like to tell you what it was I was afraid of, specifically:
1.) Somebody in my group or myself getting mugged.
2.) Finding myself in a situation where my womanhood held me back from standard levels of respect and understanding.
3.) Confronting a different reality, which I knew would hit me in the face.
By the end, I definitely ticked all of the boxes. Looking back through my journal during the early days of the internship, I could string together a variety of moments where I was at my personal breaking point, where at the end of the day, I had to sit with a built-in entitlement, one which was clearly waiting for me long before I arrived there. But by the middle of the internship, once entering the Township of Langa, the reality of the situation was bigger and much different than I anticipated. I believe that my confrontations with what had scared me, which I met in the township, actually did me more good than harm, for I now see them as moments where I had to fully surrender, and muster up the courage to finally see, with clearer vision, the gravity of Cape Town life, in all of its manifestations, on all extremes of the spectrum. Of course, I never would wish for anybody to be mugged, but I believe that in this moment, in a strange and beautiful way, I finally felt like I could shed my white-western-secure force field, and just submit to the struggle of this event and its implications, in a community where robbery is the norm.
As I move forward in my YIP year from the Cape Town internship, I can’t help but think about the amount of different contrasts we met, but through all of the lightness and the darkness, I appreciate every single part of it. I feel humble and whole, and ready to move forward through the world with a more informed sense of what it means to be White and alive during this time.
This week we have the honor to be joined for the first time by Toke Møller, the creator of the Art of Hosting (AoH). He is joined by Kajsa Balkfors from Stockholm and Maíra Rahme, a YIP2 Alumni and former OT member living in Karlskrona. They are working together with the Yippies on the organization and design of Initiative Forum, utilizing the tools and teachings of AoH in their practical and tangible application. This will lead us fluidly into a week with Kiara Nagel, finally getting to Sweden after an unforeseen event prevented her from joining us last autumn. Kiara, with all her YIP wisdom, will be checking in on the social health of the group and working to strengthen the foundations of relationship before stepping into the monumental task of Initiative Forum. After Kiara, there will be two final preparation weeks before the big event, which takes place on the 26th to the 31st of March.
Have you registered yet?? Initiative Forum 2016: Into the Foodture – Feeding Change will be about food in all its varied forms. From the soil to the root and on to the kitchen and the bodies it nourishes, the conference will invite many to explore the current situation and what the future is asking for. Registrations have already hit 200 including the Yippies! And with so many interesting contributions, and an evening lineup that demands a dance, it’s bound to be a great event. Check the website for updates, register and spread the word!
Following the Initiative Forum, the Yippies will have four unbroken weeks of self designed initiative space where they will have the opportunity to invite contributors they are interested in, get working on their personal projects and put some thought and energy into Life After YIP.
The Newsletter is a monthly mailing update on the life and times of YIP and is a wonderful way to remain connected. It is sent out once a month and gives an overview of what has happened, what is happening and what is on the horizon. Every quarter (3 months) we plan to put out a more in-depth issue that looks into the Organization of YIP from a similar lense.
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