With just few weeks left until volunteers start their services in Velebit and Sharr mountains and with calls for short-term volunteers in summer 2018 open for applications, we met for few days in Kuterevo, Croatia to plan, share, observe and inspire. Planned as a kick off meeting, organizations that are going to host volunteers gathered together with representatives of sending organizations and other NGOs who are willing to involve volunteers and other youth projects in their future activities.
Just in 2018 through short and long-term volunteering activities (ex European Voluntary Service) more than 60 volunteers will be supporting the nature protection work of organizations around the Balkans. But first things first! Arrangements and agreements for quality volunteer activities for nature conservation are needed.
However, there was more to this shared space and time than just planing and dividing tasks. We learned about the communities standing behind the organizations; we discussed the long and short-term goals we want to achieve by including international volunteers in our work addressing social and environmental obstacles. We exchanged about national challenges and opportunities regarding volunteering, state of nature and isolated mountain areas. And of course local media was interested and covered our activities – read the article here.
By spending several days in Velebit, we got to know Kuterevo, the incredible food of Teta Ruza, the favorite to thousands of volunteers “coklje” made by Teta Dragica, the Volonterska Postaja (Volunteer Stations) and the Bear Refuge. We visitted the newly opened education centre of National Park Northern Velebit – Kuca Velebita in the village of Krasno and learned why Velebit mountain is as unique as to have several levels of environmental protection. Having the local perspective, we got ourselves introduced to UNESCO Man and Biosphere program (MAB), which will be the focus of long- and short-term volunteering projects in Kuterevo in 2018 which will celebrate 40 years of Kuterevo spirit and of Velebit MAB.
Within the idea of Mountain spirit, we also got the chance to meet with Irena Glavičić Sertić (director) and Katarina Blažević from National Park “Northern Velebit”. We presented Mountain spirit project, learned about the National park and discussed how volunteering is included in the work of the protected area management. Both, the National Park and Velebit Association Kuterevo are open to possible cooperation for nature conservation, so we can follow the outcomes of the meeting here in the upcoming months.
We also met with Josip Tomaić, a ranger in the Nature Park Velebit, the biggest protected area in Croatia (200 000 ha). We got familiar with the differences between national and nature park and the way they function. One example: in nature parks diverse human actions and economic activities are allowed (logging, hunting, tourism, etc.). In an open talk we discussed about realities and challenges in being in the field and the preventive role rangers have in the management of a protected areas.
When it comes to protected areas in Velebit we should not forget to mention National park “Paklenica”. Unfortunately, the group couldn’t meet with representative from the park due to the winter weather conditions.
The meeting allowed for 15 people from Croatia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia, Germany and Spain to get at the same level of knowledge about Erasmus+, volunteering activities, youth projects, nature conservation and bears with the aim of a successfull 2 and half years coperation.