The sun is shining down sideways from a crystal blue sky, decorated with faint brushstrokes of windy white. It’s cold. There is snow everywhere, but not too deep. In the midst of an action, it seems as though everything alive was suddenly caught in a motionless freeze, yet still retaining a gesture of captured vitality. The fields that once held golden rows of Swedish wheat are now under the spell of winter, sleeping until the spring warms them awake. Inside the walls of Tallevana too, the winter’s introversion is tangible. Nevertheless, unlike the frozen world outside, laughter and conversation still emanate from behind doors and the anticipation of approaching excursions beyond the bubble is palpable. A shift without a name has occurred, with changes unconfined, ceaseless and perpetual, and walking through it all, a company in wonderment of what could possibly happen next…
In this quarter-annual Newsletter, we’ve gone for an in depth look at the ever-growing labyrinth of YIP Alumni and the Initiatives related to their existence in the world. You’ll have the chance to look back on the last month of the current program, read mini-briefs from two Alumni from each year of YIP since its inauguration; a reflection on ‘Growing Light’, an event organized by some participants of YIP7; an update of the Alumni Initiatives, Classroom Alive and Orientation Aotearoa, and information on what’s going on in Aegina, Greece. You’ll also get the opportunity to meet YIP Coordinator, Pete Munk in print, and see what is on the horizon for YIP7…. Fare well (for now) and good luck!
Looking back, the time that has passed since our last update to the world brings memories filled with endeavors of passion blended together with a slew of challenging questions. We arrived back from the winter break with a certain level of enthusiasm and excitement, reunited in this place that has curiously become home, and were propelled headlong into the thick of the YIP curriculum in all of its benevolent mystery. Our week with Orland Bishop ushered us straight into a profoundly intense and deafening exploration of self and place, the inner and outer, the soil and the cosmos, and the list goes on. All six of the Organizers were able to take part alongside the Participants, getting a chance to observe their profound processes as well as embark on expeditions of our own. We carried these explorations of heart, mind and soul, right into our bodies, with a week of Slava Theater, pushing the boundaries of comfort, personal space and movement. Following Slava, we took a look at the development of the human being through an Anthroposophical lens with Marcel de Leuw and his course, the Study of Man. Theories behind psychological and physical development, as well as ‘soul activities’ and the spirit, were examined and considered. This led us beautifully into the process of exploring our own stories through a week of Biography Work with our very own, Annie Meijer, and the support of Mary McArthy, who has guided this course with Annie each year since 2008 and has ceaselessly supported YIP elsewhere as well. Together, they divided the group into four and guided the participants through the tales of their own lives. Each in their own way, the week undoubtedly moved us all and opened new doors to what lies in the future. By the time Monday rolled around again, it was time to dive into ourselves in yet another way: through painting our own portraits. This week, Rachel Miller has been challenging the Participants to study themselves through art, question their methods of viewing the world via classical portraiture, done modern. In the afternoons, the participants have also been sharing with each other the status of their Personal Projects, through fifteen-minute mid-way presentations, asking questions and getting feedback on their work…
As YIP is now in its 7th revolution, that means there are six years worth of YIP-influenced (or YIPfluenced) souls out treading the waters of life, or swimming vigorously through them. In this section, we can catch a glimpse of those varied lives, what waters they’re in, what stroke they’re putting their hearts and minds into and where they’re headed. Two people from each year, 2008-2014, submitted a piece of writing and a recent photograph of themselves, or a shot that captures what they have been doing. Each Profile also contains a ‘Then’ photograph, retrieved from YIP’s immense archives…!
View them all here!
Reflections on ‘Growing Light’:
A public, all-day event at Gula Villan in downtown Järna, on the 21st of December, 2014, organized by a group of YIP7 Participants. By Inte Koster and Darius Matthies
With the start of YIP7, and the darkness slowly rising, an old idea was reborn. It was the idea of giving shape to the celebration of the darkest day of the year, December 21. In a country where the hours and intensity of light decrease remarkably this day holds much power that is worth acknowledging. It is a reminder of the dark not being endless as well as a moment of connection to the cycle of life, to the time that has been and the light that starts to grow again. It’s the point where day and night, black and white, darkness and light meet, embrace each other and shift. The intention was to create a moment of appreciation, oneness, warmth, joy and light together.
As time passed many different ideas came into being of how to actually give form to the intention. Cautiously the word spread and with a crew of 7 YIPpies we committed to bring this idea to life. We agreed that we wanted the working process to be in connection with our intention, meaning that the most important thing of all was to enjoy it!
After weeks of brainstorming, planning, organizing and preparing, the day finally came. We started off with creative workshops before noon, where people joined in dancing, making crafts and playing music. The cakes and drinks from the café were enjoyed either inside, or outside by the fire. The creative hours were followed by a wonderful concert with ‘Kolonien & Markandeya’ that filled the house and garden to the top. Afterwards, we slowly moved into a ceremony, honoring this very moment of shift. The circle of people together created and witnessed a magical moment of singing, dancing and improvising.
Looking back to this event it is not only the day that stays in our minds and hearts as a lasting memory and good experience. It is the whole process that made us learn a lot. The very first conversation about the idea and intention, the communication in the team, the process of shaping and overthinking ideas, the meeting of challenges and search for alternative solutions, building connections to the community in Järna. All those little steps were at least as important as the day itself and gave us the confidence and trust in our ability to work together, dream together and bring our intentions to life. And overall, to never forget that joy is not only the destination but also the path.
Stories from a Classroom, Alive:
“The beginnings are various.” Says Caleb. One could argue that they go back as far as the early ‘90’s when three little souls came into the world. One could also argue it all began in a tomato patch. Perhaps it began when they all found themselves delivered unto the world again by the long-winded sorcery of YIP. However it began, Classroom Alive came into physical fruition on the 26th of May 2013, when the bodies of Caleb Buchbinder, Mischa Saunders and Mathijs Poppe flipped packs laden with food, literature and questions onto their backs and struck out in the Swedish woods heading south. The journey would last six months in total, bring them on foot through ten countries, shower them with snow, rain, wind and dazzling sunlight until finally delivering them to an 18th century mansion on the island of Aegina off the coast of Athens, Greece (although they didn’t know that at the time).
It came about through a constant questioning of education. How does one learn? How can mind, body and spirit be stimulated and united, so as to channel true learning? What is true learning? Even after the three of them finished YIP in 2011 and went their separate ways, the conversations continued. They found themselves coming back to these very important questions and speaking about them over the Internet from Sweden, Belgium, Canada or wherever else they found themselves. Along with a rag-tag team of fellow educational adventurers, conversations about Bus Schools and Pop-up learning wove themselves through a vibrant spring of conversations. There where however, many different facets to the collective search, and at times the needs and dreams seemed so disparate as to be irreconcilable.
One sunny afternoon, while bent over a tomato patch and encouraged by the course that YIP4 was having at the time on Storytelling, Mischa began imagining a fairytale inspired by conversations with Caleb and Mathijs, about a group of people walking through Europe. Each of the journeyers carried individual questions and came into relationship with each other in their ponderings. Through the rhythm of walking, the expansiveness of nature, the diversity in their surroundings and their support of one another, these travellers found their classroom come to life. The question of how to create an education that is truly important was answered, and everyone lived happily ever after. A voice could be heard, “Who needs a bus?” it was saying, “You can do what your dreaming now.” Mischa retold the story to the others and a spark soon became Classroom Alive.
With a unified vision that was constantly and consciously reevaluated, and a belief in what the voice had said, the three of them set about planning a route, creating a rhythm for the day of walking, studying, walking, sleeping. They opened it up for anyone to join along the way who was committed to entering a unique educational process and who understood that the experience would exist out of everyone’s collective intentions.
Along the way, thirty-three people walked, ranging in age from eighteen to sixty-two (and one dog). They walked through Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. The first thing that was done when entering camp was to string up their tarp, their mobile Classroom (alive). “Lazy Pierogies”, made of lasagna noodles, instant potatoes and cheese, could be found many a night on their plates. Hot Sauce was a saving grace. Between them, they consumed approximately 4,570 tortillas (put end to end, that would span the height of the Burj Khalifa and the Eiffel Tower, combined). The most used piece of gear was an e-reader. The average cost for the six-month journey was €1,800 including gear, food and accommodation. Support along the road came in the form of water, shelter, directions and occasionally fruit.
When asked about a memorable experience, Mischa described having walked for five days through a veil of Romanian fog and pouring rain. “Everything was wet,” he said, “and we were lost.” It was one of the guy’s birthdays that had joined the walk. “There were huge, old trees. It was brutal but magical.” They finally arrived on the hilltop that would be their camp for the night. Near enough to a town, a few people walked in to grab some groceries and a few well-deserved beers. The others busied themselves by setting up camp and securing their trusted Classroom. Finally sitting on the rain-soaked grass with a beer in hand, the clouds that had surrounded them for days, gave way. Slivers of an unfamiliar sun illuminated the dense forest through which they had walked and the valley beyond it. “We got through that,” Mischa remembers thinking as he sipped a beer. Their captivation lasted only until one of them noticed a half-feral pig trying to run off with a tent that had been laid in the sun to dry.
So, what’s the next phase? “We want to find the entry point for other people to dive in,” says Caleb, “we’re working on a new website now.” Their wish is to make Classroom Alive a financially viable alternative to conventional education and one with innumerable outcomes and benefits. Already, one group has utilized the framework, and in May of 2014, eight people journeyed 1,600 kilometers up the Atlantic Coast of Ireland. It was an independently created journey whose organizers simply found value in the quality of the intersection of questions, study, and journeys. “It was so great to see it taken up, to have this great group inspired by the form and run with it,” said Caleb. “It was an honor and a wake up call to see that others can find a meaningful experience through this framework.”
Caleb, Mischa and Mathijs are already in the process of designing an event to support others in creating their own education that they hope can happen in Belgium and/or Holland in the end of April this year. Participating in this kind of endeavor is certainly not for everyone, and they’re not attempting to promote it as such. But for those that it is suited to, an incredible opportunity awaits: to gild an education that is important in every aspect and gain a lasting experience.
“We’ve done this leg of the journey,” said Mathijs referring to Classroom Alive: Sweden to Greece, “but we want to make this framework accessible to others. We want to wake it back up!”
Have a look at the Classroom Alive Website, and stay tuned for more information!
Finding Orientation in Aotearoa:
Residential or not? Short, intensive courses or longer, in-depth studies? Growing food on-site or buying it elsewhere? These were the questions on the table after a group of people in New Zealand committed themselves to creating a new, eight-month education for budding agents of change: Orientation Aotearoa.
‘Aotearoa’ is a grouping of three Māori words that literally translate to Long White Cloud and is used in referring to the land that is known to the world as New Zealand. Similar to the Youth Initiative Program, Orientation Aotearoa will focus on broadening the minds of its participants through courses led by innovative change-makers in their respective fields, engagements in the local community and a six-week internship. But unlike YIP, the coordinators have chosen to focus on what is at their fingertips, with all of the confirmed Contributors coming from New Zealand and a plan that eighty percent of its eighteen to twenty-five year old participants will as well. The courses themselves will delve into individual, local, national and global questions, and address the challenges and possibilities that are crashing on the shores of the world, but the inspiration will come from home. Experiences in the vast and diverse natural landscapes that the islands provide are dispersed throughout the curriculum, as well as a “Hui”, the Māori word for ‘meeting’ or ‘conference, planned to take place toward the end of the year.
“New Zealanders travel a lot,” said Skye Chadwick, one of the coordinators and co-founders of the program, “they go everywhere.” She too had gone out to see a bit of the world. One such adventure led her to take part in the third chapter of YIP in 2010. But upon her return, she realized in a new way, the depth, beauty and potential of the land on which she had been raised. “I want to tune into what’s happening here,” she said.
The kickoff date is the 12th of April and the program will last until the beginning of December with an internship based in New Zealand around the middle of the year. The Program will take place about fifteen minutes from the city of Wellington and the participants will be responsible for preparing their food and also for growing some of it. The Participation Fee requested for taking part is ten thousand New Zealand dollars, less than half of the actual operational costs of the Program and, in fact, only covers the food and accommodation during the course year. The rest of the money needed to run the program is carefully fundraised in the form of money, time, materials and knowledge. “Communities from all over New Zealand will be investing in your future…and theirs,” it says on their website, “Through Orientation Aotearoa, everyone can contribute to making New Zealand a better place.”
“We’re not campaigners,” said Thomas Burton, one of the coordinators and founder of the program, “it has been amazing to feel all of the local support.” He expressed a healthy mix of nervousness and excitement when asked about the rapidly approaching month of April. “YIP1 seems like the wild west!” He said, referring to the pioneering year of the Youth Initiative Program, when none of the Coordinators knew quite what they were doing. Yet still, they managed to pull it off magnificently, learning a thing or two along the way, that was then brought into the planning of the years thereafter. And YIP is still running strong! An encouraging notion in the face of all that is coming.
In light of all there is to do, how do you create a working structure that remains manageable for the Coordinators? In considering the vast challenges the world currently faces, how do you create a curriculum so as not to burn out the participants? These are the questions currently on the table as the eight-month program is readied for its maiden voyage. “We’re not interested in forcing anything,” said Lucy Carver, another co-founder and coordinator, “we are guiding what wants to emerge and creating a form.” Perhaps that, in and of itself, is an answer to the previous questions. “Learning is a lifelong journey,” she said, “and Orientation Aotearoa is a gift to New Zealand.”
Applications close on the 15th of February, 2015!
Please spread the word with their New Video!
Housing a New School in an ‘old-school’ House:
In November of 2012, one year before the serendipitous landing of Classroom Alive on Oikia Karapanou, Christina Chorafas and her partner Oliver Clementz finished hosting one of their many workshops in the grand, old house. They were filled with an intense longing and inspiration to create a container for young people to explore their relationship to self, to community and to the world in a way that would have a lasting influence.
They certainly had a prime location to do the work they dreamed of. Christina had inherited a 19th century mansion named Oikia Karapanou, on the island of Aegina, off the coast of Athens, Greece. It had come to her via a great line of Greek ancestors; the last to call it home was her great-grandmother, Maria Voulgari-Karapanou, who passed away inside it in 1967. The house stood vacant for nearly thirty years before Christina arrived in an air of serendipity similar to that of Classroom Alive. In her words, “the dream came first, and then the house.”
By the fall of 2013, Christina and her partner would have twenty years of experience hosting workshops around social freedom and freedom of self, but the times were calling for something new to emerge on the island. Christina worked for months writing the concept for a new learning space and youth program that she named The School of All Relations, or SOAR. She had called many trusted people who worked with youth to present her idea to them and listen to their feedback. One suggestion was to have a look at the International Youth Initiative Program in Järna, Sweden. She said, yes, of course she would. Two later, she received a phone call from Sweden, saying that there was a group of youth looking for a place to rest and digest an experience: they had just arrived in Athens from Järna, Sweden, after a six-month walking study. Several of them had participated in a program called YIP. A shiver went down Christina’s spine.
A few days later the house was filled with eleven weary and elated travellers, mesmerized by their good fortune. The connections forged during their stay drove Christina and Oliver to take part in Initiative Forum in the spring of 2014. The connections forged during their experience in Järna encouraged them to invite twenty people, elders and youngsters, globals and locals, to gather at their home on Aegina in the fall to brainstorm the formation of a new education. The meeting was organized but informal. No one quite knew what would happen, yet everyone came with the confidence that something would happen.
What did happen was a substantial step in bringing The School of All Relations, or SOAR, to life, laying the foundation for the program, organization, promotion and, last but not least, creating a website. “The deep root of the world’s pain is division,” says Christina, “what we really suffer from is a lacking connection to self, to others and to the earth.” She believes we have the potential to develop our perception of belonging to a whole, “leading us to discover our true place as human beings in the eco-system of our planet. This requires putting all relations in the heart of our research and our practice.” The program will be based in community life. “We need spaces to face these amazing challenges, work on connection and expand our awareness.”
SOAR is looking for eight to fourteen participants, aged around eighteen to twenty-five years, to gather in Aegina for six months, from November 2015 to April 2016, and take part in its pioneering year. With two workshops a month, through community work and project building, much of the time will be dedicated to exploring what it means to live in relation, at Oikia Karapanou and in the world. Being on an island in the Mediterranean with an incredibly rich history, there is much to learn from its approximately 14,000 residents and strong emphasis will be put on engaging with the local community as well. Hiking and investigating the nature of the island will also be a central theme of SOAR with a longer trek through Greece planned at the end of the program.
The future is wide open. The program could expand to a year. The possibilities are immense. It will be up to those who get involved to shape what they wish to see. The hope, according to Christina, is “that people come out of this experience with a greater connection with themselves, equipped with tools for making change through community. SOAR will be a laboratory, and we, the co-creators and pioneers.”
More info: School of All Relations
Also check out YIP6 Alum, Kailea Frederick’s Blog, and her article, Conspiracy in the Chimeny Room
Name: Pete Munk
Where do you call home?
My home is on the couch, making silly faces with my baby girl while my son is jumping around us, and my wife is in the middle of it all drinking tea trying to read a book. If that couch is here in Sweden (as is the case for now) or back in Denmark where we are from, or on a remote island in the Mediterranean, is of less importance.
Seeing that you work at YIP leads me to assume that you support the Program and its continuation. Why?
For me YIP is a place for young people step back, take a deep breath and observe. It may not feel like that when you’re participating in a full day, fairly packed and demanding program, that surrounds you with people all day long! But something happens in this bubble in Ytterjärna. In the in-betweens, conversations happen and transformation occurs. Somehow, YIP as a whole lives up to its aim of strengthening young peoples capacity to step into this world and take initiative in the face of all its struggles, and this is of eminent importance in our time and a pursuit I will support any time!
You’re an Alum from the first year of YIP in 2008. Do you think that YIP has changed over the years, and if so, how? And if not, why?
YIP1 was a year of pioneering. We were the manifestation of an idea that luckily worked out very well. The first years in any initiative will always have a special character. But the changes I see in the program itself are mainly refinements of an otherwise outstanding sequence of courses and activities.
The greatest change I find outside the program. In the office we work with the terms “little YIP” and “big YIP”. The first being the program and the latter the 200+ Alumni, and in particular the initiatives that are growing out of this community. This is an exciting change with great potential! So yes, YIP has changed.
If asked to think back on the YIP7 year so far, what is a memory that stands out for you?
Just before Christmas we said goodbye to a participant, our dear Vivian from Brazil, who is continuing on her path closer to home. I recall the atmosphere in the room when she parted – completely stuffed with love, support and thankfulness towards this person and thinking to myself, “Whaw! Not even 4 months have passed since this group of people met each other for the first time and now this!”
My sources tell me that you’re a Sailor. Do you have any tales from the Sea?
Open sea is a wonderful place to be and is most fun when it really counts. One beautiful memory I hold is running up the rig of a tall ship in the middle of the night to tie down a number of sails because the wind suddenly began picking up. We were a crew of maybe 7-10 people who were sent up to take care of it and it was quite exciting crawling out the yards, 50 ft (15 meters) over deck hollering to each other in the wind and rain to coordinate our maneuvers!
Starting Monday the 9th of February, first time contributor, Weston Pew, will be coming to lead a week-long process with the participants. Utilizing ceremony, rites of passage, nature and story to crystalize the experiences gleaned so far this year, he will aim at readying the Participants for their internships through his course titled, Turning Evolutionary Insight into Action. This will be our final course of the term!
The following week will be spent preparing that last necessary elements of the Internships and getting ready to depart! The Participants will be travelling to South Africa to work with YIP contributor, Eduardo Shimahara, the Sustainability Institute, in Cape Town; to Nepal to work with the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation in Kathmandu; to the United States to work with YIP contributors, Orland Bishop and Kiara Nagel and the networks of Shade Tree Multicultural Foundation in Los Angeles; and to the Philippines, to work with YIP contributors, Tressa Ruelas and Nicanor Perlas with MISSION, that has operational hubs throughout the country. To see who is going where and for information on the different Organizations they will visit, click here.
The Internships will last six-months and bring us into the first bit of spring, when the sun can finally be felt again after the winter freeze. Upon arrival back in Järna, the Yippies will spend a week reporting back to the community on their experiences abroad, what they accomplished and what they came away with. During the Internship period, the coordinators will dig into the work of preparing YIP8 and envisioning the future (as well as get a little break)!
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.
Please spread the good word of YIP by forwarding to friends and family and inviting them to sign up!
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the newsletter or feel that there is something you would wish to see more of, contact [email protected]