A Youth Leaders training camp, funded by the Erasmus+ Programme, was held in Chenini, southern Tunisia, from 23rd to 28th March 2022. The aim was to prepare young coordinators in managing new environmental volunteering camps in the Mediterranean area.
The training was attended by young people from all sides of the Mediterranean sea: Italy, Catalonia, France, Belgium, Morocco, Jordan, Palestine and Tunisia, with about forty people involved. The training days were fast-paced as they were packed with both practical and theoretical activities.
Through group work, warm-ups, plenary discussions and manual activities, everyone became more aware of the importance of acting together for a common goal: the protection of our planet.
One meeting, in particular, was really important in changing the group’s perception of the words spent on the issue of climate change. Hamadi, a young farmer, was able with his simplicity and passion to convey the deep relationship of love with the land and nature that is hidden in every human being. “For me, the earth is like a mother, I was born from the earth and I will return to it in the end,” said Hamadi.
“Being able to listen and get back to knowing the value and the gifts that the great mother can give to us is the first step towards being able to start a real transition and think in an ecological way,” said Mahmood, one of the trainers who came from Palestine.
To celebrate this new-found relationship three palm trees were planted, so that future generations can enjoy the fruits to come. In addition, ripe vegetables were harvested from the plot of land belonging to VSFR, the Tunisian association of Volunteers Without Borders, which hosted the camp, weeds were removed and construction of a tool shed was begun according to the principles of bio-construction.
During the training days, the consequences of human actions in the areas where the camp took place were also well explained.
“The small town of Chenini, very close to the city of Gabes, for example, is greatly affected by climate change,” said Khaoula, the trainer from Tunisia. The oasis where one of VSFR’s offices is located used to be full of water. Today, however, the oasis is a deserted canyon and the construction of the village in the middle is an attempt to change the fate of this place that would otherwise be abandoned.
The large city of Gabes, which is only 5 kilometers from Chenini, is also extremely affected by the effects of pollution. Aziz, one of the VSFR volunteers, said that near the city’s port there are several factories producing chemical waste that is dumped into the sea. Today, fishermen in Gabes have to go far to find uncontaminated fish and the citizens cannot use all the beaches.
However, in and around the city, the youth are not giving up, and through eco-volunteering projects they have created an oasis that flows into the sea at Gabes, they look after protected areas and the Chenini botanical garden, where traditional plants are allowed to grow without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
The training ended with the organization of a traditional feast, in the name of cultural exchange between young people from different sides of the Mediterranean. This final moment allowed the participants to get to know the local culture better and was the best way to leave a colorful memory of the training in the hearts of all the participants.