As the new intern with Friends of the Earth, I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Young Friends of the Earth Summer Camp in Bulgaria right at the beginning of my internship. Alongside another Irish participant, I travelled to Sofia where we met representatives from Young FoE groups across Europe including Finland, Norway, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lithuania. After a 3 hour bus journey, we arrived at our camp-site in the beautiful Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria!
We eagerly set up our tents and were shown around the camp-site which included compost toilets and solar showers, before having a delicious vegetarian dinner cooked by the two Bulgarian chefs who looked after us for the whole camp.
The focus of the camp was Food and Agriculture so there were plenty of opportunities to learn new vegan and vegetarian recipes, learn about the medical properties of local plants and hear from experienced guest speakers on topics such as producing compost and creating an urban garden. There were also opportunities to hear about the wide range of current campaigns across the Young FoE groups. I found the “Protect the turtles” campaign in Cyprus and the “Green Canteen” campaign in Finland particularly interesting. There was of course time to share food and drink from our own countries and learn about each other’s cultures and local food traditions which was very entertaining!
The camp was also an excellent opportunity for the participants to develop practical skills through “Capacity Booster” workshops which focused on helping us develop creative campaigns, learn facilitation skills and how to communicate with the media. There were many ways to get involved in the running of the camp such as by writing a blog of the daily events for the YFoE Europe website, facilitating morning meetings and being a “Listening Ear” who were a group of participants who were available to address any issues relating to gender equality and multiculturalism to ensure that everyone felt comfortable and happy to participate in the activities at the camp.
Of course as well as great learning opportunities we had plenty of time to socialize and develop other skills including canoeing, mountain biking, yoga, swimming in the lake and I even had a go at the high ropes garden which included zip lining over Lake Beglika!
All in all I found the camp to be a great place to share experiences and ideas for environmental justice campaigns and to meet interesting, like-minded people from across Europe. I would definitely recommend the summer camp for anyone looking for inspiration and to make new friends, look out for it next year in France!