As the first lines of YIP: Chapter 7 come to life, the adventures, misadventures, dreams, hopes, challenges and triumphs spill forth to fill its pages. The truth is, there could be twenty-five very different voices called upon to narrate the experience of the last few and very full weeks. Each voice with a distinctive tone, unique in perspective and singular in approach, and each with a story of their very own behind the tales of YIP’s liftoff. Even more voices could heed the descriptive call if you include the organizers and supporters, wizards and enchantresses, observing from a different vantage point, and even those of you that read this Newsletter who are also an incredibly important part.
But no matter how many voices are added to the mix, there is a thread that can be found, a unifying pledge between us all; we’re in it together. Whether it’s in the macrocosm or the microcosm, the actions we take will ultimately affect the lives of those with whom we share this planet. And for those who’ve found themselves here in Europe, in Sweden, in Järna and in YIP, there is a commitment to unfolding this story as a collective.
Whether it’s skipping past early morning frost to jump in the freezing fjord with an enthusiasm to stir even the sedated, or hearing about the impulse behind EkoBanken, a local bank working to shift the modern economic paradigm; whether it’s learning about wild edibles with Oskar Rosengren, gathering Yarrow to fend off the Swedish autumn flu, or hearing stories from Gerard Lartaud, why he trudged through the snow in search of a job and years later went on to carry Saltå By, a curative home and school pushing the boundaries of therapeutic education; whether it’s capsizing in a canoe or setting a toaster alight, pulling up a beetroot or marketing YIP’s own Ecological Apple Juice, it’s begun. Whether it’s from the common room of the Tallevanna Student House or from the comfort of your living room on the other side of the globe, the chapter has commenced, and we’re in it together.
I sit in the grass. Voices around me; the voices of friends. The evening sun is tingling my neck. I feel warmth on my body, warmth in my heart. Laughter, understanding and curiosity surround me.
The last two weeks have shown me how relative time can be. It feels like one heartbeat and at the same time it feels like an eternity, a lifetime, intense and overwhelming. When someone asks how these few weeks have been, over and over again I hear myself saying these words.
I am hesitant in loosing too many words to describe the feelings I have regarding the past 16 days. I am afraid to touch it, afraid to take some of its magic away. How could I start to tell about the Program or my impressions? Amongst everything that I could talk about, I would like to express what an intense process it is to step into a YIP-community. Living together with 25 people from different places, with different challenges, on totally different stages, in one house, is very beautiful but also very challenging. Stepping into that community opens for me a whole new experience of what it means to live together, what it means to be together, what it means to share in such an intense way. But also, how important it is to take care of yourself, to sense what you need in this moment.
I feel confronted with my dark sides. Everyone here is a mirror, a friend, a co-explorer and a family member. It is interesting to get to know all the people not only in the course but also in the community-engagements, during the evening activities and in the daily life. It allows us to get to know each other in a holistic way. The connection I already feel to the group is unbelievably strong and powerful. I am deeply touched by the openness, curiosity, love, awareness and warmth in which we interact with each other.
I am surrounded by people who love what they do and do what they love, surrounded by the pureness and beauty of nature, surrounded by a passionate, dedicated and wonderful organizing team. What a playground, what a beautiful playground in which to discover myself, my potential, my inner desires. What an opportunity to allow myself to fall, to fail, to get lost, to feel reborn.
Looking back at those first days, there are a lot of emotions, pictures and thoughts in my mind. I feel overwhelmed and confused, but above all, what I feel stronger than anything else right now, is a deep gratefulness and thankfulness. I am thankful to be here, to be part of such a powerful Program, to be part of such a wonderful group. I am thankful to be alive.
The first week was spent mainly in the area of heart and hands: working side by side, getting to know each other and finding one’s place in the group. We heard the varying stories of how each participant found their way to YIP and set some intentions for the year ahead. We got an overview of the program as a whole and an outline of the courses to come and had space to ask every question imaginable from, “Are the canoes available for us to use?” (they are), to, “What is the code to the laundry house?”(unfortunately, I can’t publish the answer to that one).
The second week was focused mainly on getting to know the area and the vast amount of initiatives thriving in Järna and its surroundings. The Yippies heard a brief history of the Kulturcentrum from the mouths of some who have been pivotal in the community’s prosperity and perseverance. They visited Örjanskolan, the Steiner School in Ytterjärna, and were greeted by the 11th grade class, who gave a tour, answered questions and were all in all, impeccable hosts. Walking through the rain, there were visits to Ekobanken, Saltå By, Saltå Kvarn, Undar Tallarna, Vidarkliniken, and a sit down with the founder of Beras. By Friday, the whole crew was generally exhausted but with a much greater understanding of the community they were stepping into.
Our first course entitled Harvenst, Food and Preservation was with Oskar Rosengren, a chef at Järna Café and a co-founder of Undar Tallarna. He delved headfirst into the questions of food consciousness, sustainability and practice by screening the film Our Daily Bread and contrasting that with a visit to Sörbro Gård, a biodynamic farm where we witnessed and took part in the slaughter of two goats. The rest of the week glided through harvesting and preserving, pickling and fermenting and ended with butchering and making sausage from the goats slaughtered at the beginning of the week. Many questions arose over the week and few (if any) of the participants remained unshifted in their relationship to their food and what it takes to get it onto their plate.
Reflections from YIP7 participant Charlotte Breed:
Today I went with YIP7 to Sörbro Gård, a small biodynamic goat farm. In preparation, we had watched a movie together called Our Daily Bread from Nikolaus Geyrhalter. It’s a documentary about [Europe’s] current food system. With no commentary, it speaks even more. You can see the emptiness in the eyes of the people that poison enormous monoculture fields with pesticides, cut off the beaks of living chicks, or cut pigs in half on a conveyor belt. It’s the same emptiness that I feel when I walk through a supermarket with all that packaged food that has lost all meaning.
It was such a relief after watching that movie to be at a farm where the goats and the crops are so full of life and soul; to hear the passion in the voice of the farmer when he talks about the personality of his goats; to see how the little goats, that were allowed to stay with there mothers for six to eight weeks (normally it’s around three days), now have two mature goats to take care of them, because that is what they need for their development; goats that are allowed to be goats, on a farm with the complete cycle of grassland and a variety of crops. It makes me so happy to see food growing like that. It just makes so much sense.
But then it was time for slaughter. At the beginning I thought that it was a good thing to witness, to face that part of life. And it was impressive to see how the farmer, Arthur, takes full responsibility for the things he does, how he takes care of his goats from birth to death. I think that is very brave.
I watched the whole process: the shot in the head, the goat being skinned, the organs coming out. It was all done respectfully, but it didn’t feel good. It felt awful. It made me feel very conflicted. I never ate a lot of meat, but I always thought that eating meat is part of human nature, part of how we were made to be. Still, it felt wrong to end a life just so we can eat it.
It’s food for thoughts. I guess that’s what YIP is all about, raising these big questions for us to sit with. And maybe that’s how education is supposed to be.
What’s Now and What’s Ahead:
Currently YIP is engaged with Architect and Urbanist, Edgard Gouveia Jr. from Brazil, with his course entitled, Playing to Change the World, and are welcoming with open arms the rhythm of the course schedule.
Next week Kiara Nagel will visit us to explore aspects of Place Making and Designing for Social Justice, and how identity, social networks and life in general are guided by the elements of Place. The week with Kiara will be followed by a Research Challenge Week hosted by the team, and then it’s Autumn Break!
Initiative Forum 2015 Update!
Have you ever been in Sweden when the sun rises at 3:30 and sets at 22:30? Have you ever watched a sunrise or sunset that lasts for hours on end? Have you ever taken part in the festivities that surround Midsummer in Sweden? If you have, then I’m sure you can attest to the fact that it’s an experience to behold, that the Swedish summer sun instills an energy that cannot be contained and that it would be the perftect time for Initiative Forum 2015!
Initiative Forum is a conference hosted by the participants of the Youth Initiative Program and has traditionally been geared toward bringing together changemakers and enacting that which we wish to see in the world. As it is designed entirely by the participants, we will have to wait for what unfolds this year! But as of now, the 2015 Initiative Forum will take place during Midsummer, the fourth week of June! So, save the date!
More information on IF2015 will come soon enough, but to get an idea of the impulses behind Initiative Forum and to read a synopsis of years past, click here.
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