The Adventure “Leader in Me 4.0” – Kmetija Veles 9-18.08.2023

Having previously experienced non-formal education and youth exchanges through the Erasmus+ programs, when I came across information about the upcoming course “Leader in Me 4.0” in Kmetija Veles, Slovenia, there was no doubt in my mind that I want to be a part of this experience. I had already heard about this beautiful place nestled among the hills and surrounded by the pure and beautiful elements of nature – meadows covered in flowers and clover, mixed forests on the slopes, a small river nearby, and the constant scent of freshly cut grass, with the night sky adorned with stars and shooting stars. Petra and Janez, our exceptional and kind hosts, have been creating and developing the farm based on permaculture principles for about 14 years. They were always ready to answer questions and share their experience. The place is well arranged to welcome participants in youth exchanges and trainings, providing an exceptional opportunity to combine activities both indoors and in nature.

Petra, Jost, and Eva led us on a path filled with adventures and emotions in search of the sustainable leader within ourselves. This journey involved discovering or rediscovering our inner calling, connecting with the group, sharing and listening to better understand individuality, managing resources and group processes, and reconnecting with nature.

The experience over the next eight days felt like it was outer time and space. We began with introductions – memory games for learning each other’s names, we lined up by age, alphabetical order, and the distance needed to travel to the destination. Then, arranged in a circle, each of us indicated the relevance of a given statement (I need coffee in the morning, I live in a city, I do sports, etc.), with the periphery being “does not apply” and the center being “fully applied.” Our group was diverse in terms of experience and background, but (spoiler alert) that did not prevent us from becoming a cohesive and bond unit. With the skillful guidance and activities led by Petra, Jost, and Eva, we began to get to know and connect with ourselves, the other participants, and the group as a whole. Each activity showed us different aspects of what it means to be a sustainable leader – deep listening, strategic questioning, building trust, non-violent communication, constructive handling of emotions, intuition, empathy, teamwork, and more. As we went through the activities, we learned not only about others but also about ourselves. We experienced many emotional moments, both individually and as a group. This strengthened us as a team, built trust within the group, and made us feel free to share dreams, fears, and express our emotions without fear of judgment, but with the expectation of support and understanding.

Then came the moment when we, the participants, became facilitators, and each team of three had to prepare a workshop related to sustainable leadership. The challenge was significant, but working with the team was a pleasure. We did not overanalyze or overthink; we trusted the process. Thank you, Jost! The day of presentation arrived, a stage fever moment. To my surprise, it was within manageable limits and did not lead to a mental block. Our team went first. Usually, when I’m far out of my comfort zone, I prefer not to be in the front rows, but in this case, I was satisfied and somewhat calm. I trusted the process, but most importantly, I had confidence thanks to my wonderful teammates (Sarah, Guido – thank you). We finished well, and we were satisfied. Now we would be participants in the workshops prepared by our friends from the other teams. By the end of the day, we would participate in three more workshops. The day again passed in many sensations, feelings, and emotions offered by the workshops of the other teams. During the last workshop, we experienced an extremely emotional moment, but together as a group, I think we managed to overcome it, learn more about ourselves and others, and bond even more.

The day after the workshop presentations came one of the most anticipated moments for me – working on the farm. We were divided into several groups for different tasks. With our group, we harvested potatoes and weeded strawberries. We talked and laughed, and we didn’t even notice when we successfully finished.

Our evenings were filled with lots of fun and laughter – we learned to dance various strange and fun dances with our beloved teacher Theo, played games, sang together, had performances, and told stories. We sat by the fire, lay on the grass, and watched the stars in the pure sky. With each falling star, we simultaneously shouted “wooooow,” and there were plenty of shooting stars.

I can’t skip mentioning our culinary journeys, provided by Lin, Lana, and the other girls who took good care of ensuring that our expended calories between activities were solidly replenished (it’s important to note that all the vegetables and some of the fruits used for cooking were from the farm’s own production).

I experienced an extraordinary adventure in these eight days. The wonderful people I met are now my friends. We shared, listened, cried and laughed together. This will bond us forever.

Erasmus+ programs for youth exchanges are an exceptional means of connecting young (and not so young) people from all over Europe, exchanging ideas, and presenting real projects in an informal educational environment. My personal advice – take advantage of it!

With immense gratitude to “Green School Village” for their trust and support.


Translate »