by Dusko Janakiev, EVS volunteer
‘Many are the ways in which people can argue, but even more are the ways in which they can communicate, share, create and grow’
IYNF’s Networking Conference this year was one of many such meetings that provided means for youth to cooperate and share experiences, to teach and learn from each other, and it was held in the beautiful surroundings of the Naturefriends House Koos Vorrinkhuis in Lage Vuursche in the Netherlands, surrounded by all of nature’s beauty and splendour.
It started softly, as the participants arrived and greeted each other, introducing themselves and their background, as well as their involvement with IYNF. Just after the first, introductory day, the programme picked up pace and was riddled with games, debates, discussions, brainstorming and helped form a platform for cooperation on many future projects.
The programme of the Networking Conference was facilitated by Natasha Luzhkova and Thomas Gits, whose sense of humour and showmanship created the cheerful atmosphere that broke the ice from the very first day.
The theme of the Networking Conference was ‘Connections between past and future’, and it mostly concentrated on the sharing of experience and stories between members of NFI and IYNF. There were presentations given by Wilfried Meulenbergs and Friso Teerink who shared their experience in NFI, and told the participants stories about the beginning of the Naturefriends Movement, the symbol of the broken rifle among the first Naturefriends and their struggle with the regime at the time. Their stories culminated with a grand applause as they inspired many of us.
During this wonderful event, participants had the chance to take a glimpse inside the work of IYNF, how our projects are planned, organized and realized, and also had the opportunity to organize various workshops on different subjects, attended by other participants. Among these were the music workshop, where participants learned how to play the guitar and piano, the Dreamcatcher workshop where participants learned how to create wonderful ornaments from ordinary every-day objects, the arts and crafts workshop where pine cones and fallen leaves and branches were the canvas on which participants explored their imagination and creativity. A marketing strategy for IYNF, a presentation about the history of ecology and an introduction to ECOmaps were also part of the highlights. Another very special moment was the storytelling circus, in which participants and trainers had to express their personal and organizational experiences in a non-conventional and creative way.
Overall it was simply an amazing experience, thanks to the kind support of the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe and the Youth in Action Programme/ Erasmus+ of the European Union.
By Jordan Slabbynck, ATB Member
This year I got the chance to go with the Natuurvrienden Belgium / CLIMB, to go to Fontainebleau or the IYNF Networking Conference. I chose to go to the IYNF Networking conference. This was a great choice.
This was my first activity with IYNF. I have learned a lot about the history of the Naturefriends and IYNF and the goals they pursue such as ‘connect and inspire, solidarity, sustainability,…’. I also learned about what IYNF did in the past and the cool ideas they have for the future. It was also interesting to hear all the ideas from the participants.
For me personally the most interesting thing about the Networking Conference is that you can work together with people from different countries and cultures all the way from Siberia to Portugal. You come from a different country and have a different background but since we are all young Naturefriends, communication becomes easy.
And to end the Networking conference there was an awesome ‘cocktail cocktail party’ where the profit from the party went to the Nepalese Naturefriends and a project from the German Naturefriends for the project Teachers on the road.
Because of this IYNF event I am inspired to do more for the Naturefriends in Belgium and go to more events organized by IYNF. To begin I would love to come to the IYNF planning weekend in September.