Climate Change – People Change? GEAI’s Youth Climate Action Week

From the 24th to 30th of July, Irish, Italian and Croatian young people between 18 and 24 years old travelled to Solta, a Croatian island near Split. For a week, they looked at their potential for leadership, focussing mainly on Climate Change and how young people can be inspired to take action.  They were 24 participants with nine accompanying leaders.

This project was a Strategic Partnership event, funded by EU Erasmus+.  The project has four partners – Good Energies Alliance Ireland (lead partner), DOOR (Croatian partner that organised the venue, promoter of sustainable energy development), Legambiente (Italian partner with the aim of making a new kind of development and diffused well-being through environmental culture) and Youth Work Ireland Galway (working with disadvantaged young people).

Legambiente’s website: http://international.legambiente.it/
DOOR’s website: http://door.hr/english/

The participants gathered in the Zelena akcija’s (Friends of the Earth Croatia) Solar Academy. It is a camp made from ex-military barracks and re-used as a place where young people from all over Europe can come and learn more about Climate Change and about practical ways to fight against it. The location is isolated, the water used for hygiene is filtered collected rainwater, the meals are vegetarian and the hot water is provided thanks to home-made solar panels (built in the camp itself). The young people got to experience an alternative way of life where they really had to pay attention to their water consumption and to the way they eat and it was actually an important part of the learning experience that took place on the island.

Video introducing the Solar Academy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZcVOJD7Ixg

Every day the participants and their leaders gathered and participated in various workshops facilitated by Brigitta Varadi, an international artist who organises and runs those kinds of leadership development events.

Brigitta Varadi’s website: http://brigittavaradi.squarespace.com/

The workshops facilitated participants to find, in an enjoyable and unique environment, the Climate Champions within themselves and to feel empowered to address the issues threatening our planet and their future. Thanks to several ice-breaking exercises, the participants felt comfortable with each other and it created a safe atmosphere for them to exchange their ideas about Climate Change and how to find solutions to the problems it brings. They got to challenge their own shyness and fears and to experience what it is like to work as group to create innovative ways to communicate about Climate Change. They learned and personally changed during this one week and it is the leaders’ belief that if people change, then they can bring positive changes in the world.

All of this happened in a beautiful but remote island, without modern facilities, that contributed to an atmosphere of cooperation, friendliness and laughs.  All the participants had an unforgettable and enjoyable week, with challenges for all but great learning as well.

By the beginning of the next school year, a website will be created to present all the details of this project and share its methodology and results so that anyone can benefit from it.

EVS ECO-activity Manual is ready!

After one year organising environmental workshops and games in Youth Café Drumshanbo, EVS volunteers Kate & Andrea, have compiled all the activities they have done in an useful manual. And here it is, ready to be used by educators and youth workers. The activity plan developed in the manual is intended to enable learning and fun at the same time. It is directed towards young people after school who therefore need some dynamism and excitement. We are really proud of our manual and all the effort we have put into it. It is an excellent result after one year of work! This project was a great opportunity to get young local people involved in environmental issues using a non formal education approach.  Special thanks to everyone who helped and contributed to make this possible!

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Reduce your bill – join local sustainable community.

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Our Survey of Four Communities in Leitrim is done

Volunteers from GEAI finished surveys last week on how households get and use energy . Four towns were surveyed: Drumshanbo, Carrick-on-Shannon, Ballinamore and Carrigallen. 10% of houses in Drumshanbo (60), Carrick-on-Shannon (150), Ballinamore (50) were surveyed and 20% of houses in Carrigallen (25).

This energy survey is part of the Northwest Energy Communities Start-up project (NECS). The project is a part of the national plan for transition of communities all over Ireland to a low carbon economy, moving away from fossil fuels and using renewable energy resources.

The partners in this project are Good Energies Alliance Ireland and I.T. Sligo. The project is funded by SEAI – the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Basically the NECS project is researching how people, in selected towns, use energy and how much it costs them. GEAI and IT Sligo prepared questionnaires for each town.  The questions were about type of houses, heating systems, heating control systems and most importantly, questions about energy bills.

After all the information is analyzed, GEAI and IT Sligo will organize an Exhibition Day in each surveyed town to give the results of the surveys and plan how residents could have warmer, more comfortable homes while costing them less on fuel and heating.

After the project, each town can be registered as a  (SEC) with the SEAI.  The SEC programme gives grants to make homes more energy efficient and warmer through more insulation, better windows, solar panels and upgrading boilers, for example.

Form volunteers perspective.

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For the GEAI volunteers it was a unique experience.

“We were knocking on doors and asking questions. This experience helped to train our communication skills, flexibility, teamwork and many other skills.”

The volunteers worked 2 days per week in the evening from about 5 pm till 8:30 pm. They were supported by local volunteers in each town, so that people were happy to answer questions.

“We came across different situations, different people’s reactions. The vast majority of people were nice to us and they were glad to help us.  They were also interested in reducing their energy bills!”

Weekend in Donegal

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Ireland is subdivided into 4 provinces and 32 traditional counties, each one with a different attractiveness. This weekend was the turn of Donegal County. The idea was to spend the weekend visiting a friend in Letterkenny and between the journey and the short time I had, I was conscious that I couldn’t visit a lot of places.

Leterkenny’s surroundings have a lot of activities and places of interest, but one of the most important attractions is Glenveagh National Park.  It’s one of the six national parks in Ireland, and one of the most peaceful, beautiful and charming.  In Glenveagh National Park you can see mountains, lakes, glens and woods.  I did a walk to Glenveagh Castle, a castellated mansion house built in 1870 by Captain John George Adair, a member of the minor gentry. After that, I sat above the lake and looked at the landscape that extends as far as the eye can see. Without doubt, one of the charms of the National Park.

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In the night we went out in Letterkenny, the largest town in County Donegal with an abundance of nightlife and a great atmosphere. First we had dinner with people from a great number of nationalities: United States, Turkey, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Ireland (of course). Then, we went to the club “Voodoo Venue” to finish the night.

The next day we had to come back on a long bus journey to Drumshanbo, in Leitrim.  I was tired but very happy with my weekend in Donegal!

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Evaluation time

Evaluation time has come. Yesterday, 31st of May, GEAI EVS volunteers organised the evaluation of all activities/games they have leaded during the year in Youth Café Drumshanbo. Each child recieved the evaluation form in which we placed different smiley faces meaning the activities were: really good, good, ok or didn’t enjoy. The form also contained the following questions: “What did you enjoy most or least?” and “Have you learnt something new?”.

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For a while the atmosphere was silent. Children were carefully thinking about what they have learned from the activities. The answers were different. But the interesting fact was that almost all participants ticked the box with the “GOOD” smiley face. And they have definitely learned lots of new information about environment, renewable energy sources, sustainability and recycling. One of the most interesting answers was: “I have learnt that fracking is affecting wildlife”.

It was such an useful and great experience for EVS volunteers as well. They understood a lot about theirselves and about Youth work.

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