Stronger with Youth: EUROPARC Youth+ Camp 2019
The 3rd edition of the International Youth+ Camp was kindly hosted by the Kullaberg Nature Reserve, in Sweden. Over a week, 20 youngsters from across Europe came together to put in practice their conservation skills, but also to gain new communication & advocacy techniques and, together, further develop the Youth+ Programme. This is their story.
The wild treasures of Kullaberg
On the 3rd August, a sunny Helsingborg welcomed the youth participants, coming from the UK, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Estonia, and Germany for an unforgettable week. Between hugs and smiles – as many participants knew each other from past International Junior Ranger Camps – and shy hellos amongst those who were joining such event from the 1st time, the youth headed to Kullaberg Nature Reserve.
Kullaberg is simply an amazing place: imagine an entire peninsula protected, covering many inland and marine Natura 2000 sites, with a large community of porpoises living in its waters, and biodiverse forests. The first day was dedicated to discovering its wildest secrets: hiking, swimming and going on a porpoise Safari! Tor Larsson, the leader of Kullaberg’s Junior Rangers, was a great help locally, making the connection with the Park authority and guiding them through incredible places in Kullaberg.
Parks are #StrongerWithYouth!
An important component of each international Junior Ranger or Youth+ Camp is to give a direct contribution to nature… This means, joining a specific conservation-related activity with the Park authority. In Kullaberg, they have built a stone wall from scratch in less than 4 hours! Yes, they are strong…and have a huge will to work!
The stone wall was needed to smoothly conduct visitors towards an alternative path recently created, as a tranche of it was hardly eroded, and could put visitor’s safety at risk. According to Jimena Castillo, project manager at the Kullaberg Nature Reserve authority, “the identification of problematic tranches and the establishment of alternative paths was one of the measures of our Visitor Mobility Plan, a key component of our Sustainable Tourism Strategy”.
With the new stonewall, visitors are now naturally directed to the alternative path, giving nature a chance to regenerate and providing visitors a safer, and more comfortable, hiking experience. After many (heavy) stones lifted and moved, bushes removed and a new drainage waterway dug, they’ve returned to the base camp happily exhausted. Mission accomplished!
Becoming a nature ambassador requires some soft skills too… Within the Youth+ programme, EUROPARC is preparing a set of guidelines to help Protected Areas engaging youth and provide them training opportunities.
Besides the conservation technical background, leadership, communication, and advocacy skills are fundamental for our future – and present – nature stewards.
One of the afternoons, provided with the proper gear to (safely) capture sea animals, they spent an afternoon catching and identifying marine species. The objective? Widening their knowledge on the local fauna and flora, but also a chance to engage with the curious visitors and put their nature advocacy skills into practice.
Although they’ve spent much of their time outdoors, there was also time to learn new communication skills, indoor. Thea Peters from IVN facilitated a Storytelling workshop where their creativity was challenged… They created their own stories, wrote, drew and even performed!
Later, Bárbara Pais, our communications and marketing manager, led a Communications training session. The practical challenge was to define a communications plan for the Youth+ programme, a task that the participants took with great dedication. A good range of ideas and tools where discussed, and we have now a group of committed youngsters willing to support communication activities.
But more people are needed! So if you feel like giving your time and contribution to the Youth+, drop us an email to youth @ europarc.org.
Meanwhile, you can keep up with the programme updates following the Youth+ on Facebook.
Youth+: where did it all start?
When a whole generation of very committed Junior Rangers turned 18 (the Junior Ranger programme runs from 12 to 18), they wondered “why can’t I keep involved with my Park?”. After they’ve expressed their will to continue engaged with their Park, EUROPARC decided it was time to give them a voice…
In 2013, the first Youth Conference ran side by side with the EUROPARC Conference, in Hungary, and the yoputh message was clear “we wanted to be heard!”. Later, in 2015, the first Youth+ Camp took place in Aiguestortes National Park (Spain) and the principles of the Youth+ Programme were founded. In 2016, the EUROPARC Council invited a youth representative to join the Council, bringing the perspective of young people into the strategic decisions of EUROPARC. Laura Peters has been the Youth representative at EUROPARC Council since then. Together with her peers, she formed the Youth Council, which is aimed to be a network of young people committed with the implementation of the Youth+ programme from all over Europe.
Then, in 2018, EUROPARC launched the Youth Manifesto, a call for change in rural communities and protected areas to consider the needs of young people, and provide them opportunities to be more actively involved in the community. The Manifesto, made by youth from across Europe, is now being implemented by Protected Areas authorities who have, for instance, started Youth Councils like in the Prealpi Giulie Nature Park, or created steering committees to have young people involved in the governance structures of the Park, as they did in the Cairngorms National Park.
Besides giving voice to young people across Europe and promoting the implementation of the Manifesto, EUROPARC’s biggest contribution to its implementation is the establishment of the Youth+ Programme across European Protected Areas.
Meanwhile, our youth have already taken the lead… Laura and the EUROPARC Youth Council, have put into practice their leadership skills with the organisation of this International Youth+ Camp 2019. The activities were organised by them, with great logistic support from IVN, our member from the Netherlands responsible for the implementation of the Junior Ranger programme there.
A huge thank you to IVN for all the support, and to the Kullaberg Nature Reserve team for hosting the Camp. A special thank you to Tor and the Kullaberg Junior Rangers who made it an amazing experience!