Young Active Citizens support Ecological Actions

Young Active Citizens support Ecological Actions

Esai en Roi Cultural Organization of Macedonia – Thrace

EERco is established in 1997 non formally and 1999 formally. EERco main-core was as a Dancetheater group of professional artists. After many years of experimentation, the professional performers became leaders of youth and new talents in arts-related professions. Since 2003, EER has extended its activities and started functioning as a non Governmental Organization with Inclusive Culture and Arts & Innovation Social Activities.


Objective Action

The main aim of the current project was to activate young citizens for supporting Healthy Ecosystems: YACeco project concerned local community activation for supporting environmental Conservation and International Solidarity. We mainly aimed to local parks' development. ESC volunteers had the chance to select a topic according to the needs of local society and relevant to the local parks' services and aesthetics' development. There were several other activities that volunteers could organize and coordinate with active participation of the local citizens as for instance, to organize actions of recycling; minimizing utilization of plastic products; energy saving; heat exchange; inducing the green across public space; community gardening, etc. Project's Challenges: campaign for enhancing eco-awareness (engaging citizens, social partners, public authorities, creative sector & social entrepreneurs); youth project related to nature protection.


Target Audience

The target audience was the empowerment of local community in ecological actions. Except of local citizens, there have been also incolved policy makers, Board members of local associations and local authorities.

Via Community development we tried to develop the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities with a focus on marginalized people. Solutions to community problems were developed by our volunteers, based on local knowledge and priorities. The principles which underpined our practices were:
(1) Self-determination - people and communities have the right to make their own choices and decisions: We gave space and time to our volunteers to start on initiating and practicing their acquired skills. We forced them through the initiation of applying their own project, within other tasks, to fully initiate and present us their achievements.
(2) Empowerment - people should be able to control and use their own assets and means to influence: Each volunteer, after his arrival was asked to attend training courses according to the observed needs and reported expectations. Through this process we were aiming to empower them as to self-regulate tand stabilize their emotional state, pass over any type of cultural shock and continue with focusing in personal and professional development; to apply their knowledge, to get advantage of their assets, to energize their wholeness for personal and interpersonal benefit, in benefit of all.
(3) Collective action - coming together in groups or organisations strengthens peoples’ voices: even if the physical presence and multi-activization in live events was impossible to be obtained because of the restriction measures, we were adapted to the situation and created non-synchronous interaction with the public based on social learning theories. Specifically, in most of our initiatives, we challenged citizens to get involved in our actions and activities, changing, reforming outdoor natural objects, adding our own and decorating the environment ecologically. For example, we painted a part of a wall. We planted flowers. We placed wooden pallets in a specific layout in the area, using them to construct a platform, stands, benches. We have seen changes that have been achieved with the intervention of the citizens. The results were more interesting than expected. We feel proud of this success  (more will be listed below).
(4) Working and learning together - collaboration and sharing experiences, vital to good community activity: From the very beginning all the activities of the participatory youth that volunteered for EER was based in team building, mutual cooperation & knowledge alliances. That process pursued unique results with an impressing impact to themselves, to the others but also to our organization and local community in total. The sense of existence has been reborn & an insistence on ecological values has been gained. A new "green" spirit has spread by reuniting local clubs for "green" purposes.

Besides the social work that has been the main task of our volunteers, we prepared and promoted a healthy life style for them: appropriate accommodation with air quality; healthy meals; weekly program of physical exercise and fitness; satisfaction of special needs; promotion of reliable digital mobile apps for health status feedback.



The project lasted 17 months in terms of implementation and 3 months were needed for the process of recording the results of the project, reporting on activities and de-indexing data.


The activities  concerned promotion of micro-ecosystem prevention, environmental conservation highlights & spotting international solidarity. Even if there were several obstacles with community empowerment processing, we invented alternatives of sensitization of the general public through hybrid events and digital activities. Moreover, we made a very interesting experiment. We were building within the outdoor environments several attractive mobilized objects that could be utilized for several reasons. The experiment worked, unexpectedly. Specifically, we left several refined objects in the nearby park that could be used for creating bike racetracks, formation of fitness equipment, bird nests, bench-like wooden constructions, , etc. Local Youth responded by relocating objects, answering, challenging & questionning us. This asynchronous "blind" dialogue, similar with an asynchronous competition and tempting civil society challenges was one of a kind.

Community development arised through trigerring the everyday life of marginalized people. Solutions to community problems were suggested and the citizens by their own have shown their preferences with an unexpectable way that has really impressed us. Throughout YACeco activities, we have gained community empowerment via our volunteers' actions & their footprints which are still leaving between us....For all those passengers of the "instant moment" that interacted with us or with our activities, we claim the uniqueness of our project. Nearby our volunteers' creations, which are still signalizing their presence within the outdoor environment, we keep observing overlaps of recreation (read below about the experiment of "attractive action - rapid reaction"). Self-determination - Empowerment - Collective action & Working and learning together - was our main aim for volunteers and followers.

(A) One of the most important issues of the region is an x-military base, open to public, previously stated as "STRATOPEDO KARATASOU". After being neglected by the military services, the birds soon found refuge there. Even pairs of parrots circulated in the air. In the same time, homeless people come in and loot the premises or even destroy the existing buildings of the former camp. Thus, partially it is threatened by environmental pollution. Now-days, few local Associations are activated in upgrading the abandoned place, the same as we already try to do. We believe that we could co- ordinate activities with other bodies with familliar goals and vision, to upgrade this space to a green, cultural and leisure park for the whole city, since its location next to the suburb makes it easily accessible to residents all over the city. Karatasou region is nearby EERcomt office.

(B) Many other activities have been planned in advantage of Thessaloniki's hidden ecological treasures. Within this framework, our volunteers discovered several small or large public parks of West, East and Central Thessaloniki. Under this collective, our volunteers studied several small or large public parks of Western, Eastern and Central Thessaloniki. This initiative was made in collaboration with the President of PROTEKTA Kordelio Evosmos, Thessaloniki and Pavlos Melas. They tried to make Thessaloniki more attractive as a dynamically "Green House" in Europe. Throughout discovering and exploring green city resources, our volunteers have planned activities that were aiming to:

-introduce the local citizens to the hidden physical treasures of Thessaloniki;
-place artistic activities of EERcomt to outdoor physical places, for entertaining people, free of charge;
-enhance research for students with relevant ecological interests;
-design, propose or even upgrade the places to get more green and to be appropriate and attractive for sports and arts;
-study on the leaving species of the park and create inventories, maps and guides of exploring the thesaurous of Thessaloniki's green spaces (check the list of deliverables);
-support and enhance all the other local associations as to build all together ambitious plans for the future of the Green House of Thessaloniki's Metropolitan Region

(C) Moreover, there are several other activities that the volunteers organized and coordinated training courses or participated to local initiations of the Municipality of Pavlos Melas, PERKA Association and PROTEKTA, that they regularly promote for a long time as recycling; minimization of products from pastic material; energy saving; heat exchange; induce the green across public space -community gardening, etc

Through this ESC project we focused in the following challenges:
-campaign for enhancing eco-awareness: engaging citizens, social partners, public authorities, creative sector & social entrepreneurs (The Map of J. Todic and the 21 Hidden Treasures of B. Nahic)
-youth projects related to nature protection (the Handbook of Ecological Terminologies of B. Nahic)
-community project related to prevention (the project DHIA cive NATURA, submitted in the Institute of Educational Politics of Ministry of Education Religion for future application in school communitiesb (J. Todic's work, supervised and supported by the specialist in th field, E.Kavazidou)
-community empowerment of environmental behaviors that are eco-conscious! (training courses applied in KDAP Platon and in 4th Primary School of Special Education)

We support that the reflection of those projects were critical for our local community and new suggestions have been smoothly assimilated through several methodological tools that we utilized.


Impact on Society

Eco-awareness empowerment in local community: Through this program local community has broaden their understanding of the opportunities for the protection of their micro-ecosystems. There has been applied activities that pursue self-observation attitudes towards environmental pollution, recycling, community gardening plans, etc. According to statements and the real facts, local society is very few motivated in constancy and regularity of ecological actions. Public participation, decision-making, the role of local government, and planning for action have been agreed as crucial for protecting and maintaining healthy ecosystems. Our volunteers tried hard with us to support the activation of local community and promote ecological actions with a sustainable impact and they succeeded in a high degree to fulfill their purpose.

Footprints: The fact that we involved youth in solidarity activities is by its own, a practice inclusive, innovative and reflective among professionals and non professionals, experienced and non experienced, etc. As it has been already stated, the project was running in benefit of local community with benefactors, the ESC Volunteers and indirectly the implicated NGOs and the European Solidarity Corps funding scheme. The impact was really significant, influencing the local associations, integrating organizations with different identities for a common purpose (sustainable environment enrichment), empowering the youth community and promoting new ways of creative thinking in benefit of all. ESC Volunteers were the direct beneficiaries of the ESC fund and were always supported by the sending and hosting NGOs as to accomplish the purpose of their visit in Greece. The planned activities worked in benefit of local community and ESC Volunteers. Local citizens participated in digitally approached prevention strategies, interacting in an asynchronous mode, co-creating the final outcomes and influencing the content of our final deliverables. The reputation of those solidarity activities have already influenced positively the local community, as expected, where our community received social services that derived because of the "European Citizenship", which is one of the main objectives of the European Union.

Community development arised through trigerring the everyday life of marginalized people. Solutions to community problems were suggested and the citizens by their own have shown their preferences with an unexpectable way that has really impressed us. Throughout YACeco activities, we have gained community empowerment via our volunteers' actions & their footprints which are still are leaving between us....For all those passengers of the "instant moment" that interacted with us or with our activities we claim the uniqueness of our project. Nearby our volunteers' creations, which are still signalizing their presence within the outdoor environment, we keep observing overlaps of recreation (read below about the experiment of "attractive action - rapid reaction"). Self-determination - Empowerment - Collective action & Working and learning together - was our main aim for volunteers and followers.

The results of the project were much more evident and significant than expected. Specifically, the locals have got in touch with new approaches of being activated in the sector of ecology. They have got in contact with foreigners and foreign cultures, comparing their eco-awareness status with that of Bosnians, discussing and changing ideas about common pourposes, those of a sustainable environment for the common good. Policy makers were attracted to our activities and started on more regular contact seeking our updates. Some of our deliverables have travelled to other cities and have been shared with local policy makers in the sector of tourism. Moreover, there has been made an attempt to be recognized one of our projects appropriate for being applied and repeated in primary and secondary education school activities (we still wait feedback from the Ministry of Education). Finally, locals (mainly youth) participated and have been motivated to act and react getting intro an action-reaction game; to be more specific, we suggested a new model of motivating our community: the "attractice action - rapid reaction" processing. Below are reported some paradigms:

We planted flowers in the nearby park; citizens responded. They destroyed everything within two weeks. Afterwards, we have put posters on the trees, near the area that have been destroyed the plants. The message of the poster was reffering to those that destroyed the plants. Our volunteers have written the content, where they were trying to explain the reasoning of our actions and our main purpose.We were hoping that they will reach and read our message. It seemed that they did. Nobody destroyed our posters. Afterwards we moved the posters by our own.

Jelena took care of the garden near the office. She was decorating it everyday and was leaving several positive messages with cards that decorated the garden. Citizens started on getting near to her, asking about her purpose of visit. One neighboor offered her plants to add to the garden. Two neighbors from the opposite garden started taking care their garden which was abandoned for over one year. One day some kids started putting explosives in front of the office, trying to bully her. We intervened immediately and asked for the origins of the praxis. The movement has been originated to some neighboors that didn't like the whole situation, they probably preferred the decline.

We created a wooden platform with recycled wooden material; we painted it and very nice symbols have covered the wooden platform. It was consited of 20 wooden pieces. Within some weeks, there was evidence, that people were using this platform to sit, discuss, and have fun. Much of trash here and there within the physical environment (cups of coffees, empty beer bottles etc). We added some bins, made by us, with recycled material. They didn't use them. Some of the wooden pieces have moved; some destroyed, some stayed in the same place. Within time, many changes were made, as for example, to create a bike racetrack, base for fitness practicing, a woden home within trees for birds, like nests. Those, mobilized objects were moving for over 8 monthts. Finally, they were here and there, three of them, still near to the place of the very beginning. A few changes have been made in benefit of all. Somebody cleared the place again! Municipality's technical service passed also from the specific place, refining the ground.

Using shells we had taken from Perea, we created two beautiful shapes on the ground, at a point in the park: a meander and a moon. No one has taken them until today and the impressive thing is that until today there are traces of shells and the layout of the meander and the moon, which are eagerly awaiting their renewal. Obviously we have to go pick up shells again!

We placed a beautiful handmade table with symbols, messages and reference to their creators, representing an alliance of seven associations. The creators were local craftsmen and our volunteer, Jelena. We have set the table in a very nice location, suitable for people to gather and make a stop at the place, enjoying a nice view. The only things that have passed over the table were the signs of time, the weather conditions and the hot power of the sun.

At specific points-tracks, suitable for the presentation of sports activities or theatrical events, we gave them a name as to be easily distringuished because of location, shape and functionality. IN the ground, we have painted a logo, or better, symbol, for labeling the place with a specific recognition-sign. We colored the symbols and have put a name under them. Until today the symbols are intact and remain as they were originally shaped and coloured.


Story #07 THE PAINTED WALL (the most impressive arousal)

Observing and investigating the interventions of the human factor in our neighboring park, we noticed that some deserted buildings had been occupied and formed on the initiative of some people. Some places were even secured and locked, well maintained by unknown people. So we decided to make small changes in an abandoned building and see how the locals would react. We chose a building that was next to a place where young people were going often to work out and keep fit. We cleaned 1/10 of the building, wiped out the exteriors and painted a very small outer wall area of ​3 square meters with dark pink color. At one point we have put the symbol of our youth council (Youth Council Alliances). As we were cleaning, various people asked us why we were doing this and we said that we just wanted the area to look cleaner without being a source of contamination with dirt and dangerous objects. This happened in April 2021. By the summer everything was intact. In September 2021 we noticed that some people started to develop our symbol surrounding it with black colour, as grafiti. They created a black mosaic around our logo with symbols and messages. Our symbol acquired mainly body and tail! Its tail was very interesting and extended from the one wall to the other, connected through an angle. It was impressive! After about 5 months, around the beginning of February 2022 something unique happened! The walls have been repainted with the same pink colour and instead of our symbol and the atraktos around it, our beloved the black mosaic, there has been a new amazing grafiti design, over 4 square meters. It was incredible! A master piece! A wonderful colourful grafiti, were we could recognize a young man and a young woman. Their beautiful phases were designed by linears and curves, in pink, blue, black and red colours. Magnificent! One of a kind. UNder the design, there was the signature of the creator, signing the year 2022 and writing the following message: KAI POUSE AKOMA, which means, that there is much more to be said and to be seen, that is signalizing just the beginning... 


Initiative Location

The location which was the core of the main activities was Thessaloniki, the sub-capital of Greece. The activities have been designed in the city and for the city in a wide-extend. We also promoted three deliverables applicable nationally and internationally: the attractive action/ rapid reaction methodology; the handbook of eco-terminology in greek and english language and a modelization of environmental education activities according to the paradigm of Karatasou Park mapping and creative thinking methodologies.



Working with Organization

For the current project we have cooperated with several local and regional associations. The deliverables have been shared with the municipality of Thessaloniki and the Touristic Organization of Thessaloniki for further use. The books and maps that have been created have been shared within the social media of EER and also have been given some printed copies to our affiliated partners (KDAP Platon, INSR, PROTEKTA) and of course, to our partner, SVITAC, the sending oragnization of the current project. Three students, two post-graduates and one as a PhD candidate, interviewed our volunteers and us, trying to comment and promote our initiatives to the academic community, within the context of reviewing local activation of citizens in  West Thessaloniki parks (Alsos Meteoron, Karatasou Park, Pavlos Melas Park).


Workers Participation

The current project was based on volunteerism. The volunteers who volunteered for this project, which was sponsored by the European Solidarity Corps, were Jelena Todic, Belma Nahic & Emela Fazlic from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The organization is purely voluntary and the actions are implemented through initiatives of citizens and volunteers. The benefits of the participants were several, relevant to personal and professional development of the implicated individuals. Our volunteers received a better understanding about the added value of volunteering, social needs of different societies, local characteristics of environmental pollution and GR practices concerning Eco-awareness. By working on small teams for a common purpose, they practiced their managerial skills and strengthened their personal, educational and professional development via working for ecological awareness and community empowerment solutions. They have attended training courses for youth workers and project managers and more interestingly, they practiced their skills before leaving back. All participants have received several non formal and formal rewards, as new experiences, skills and competences , personal development, new contacts and fellowships and several certificates of participation (Youthpass, EERcomt & ESC Certificates, recommendation letter). 

 The volunteers have built to our new projects, that were mainly based on outdoor artistic and sportive initiations. Below are summarized our final deliverables:
1. Review of Karatasou Park, Emela Fazlic
2. Proposal for Karatasou Park , Emela Fazlic
3. Proposal for Karatasou Park, Elena Todic
4. Ecomapping Karatasou Park as a Creative Playground, Jelena Todic
5. EcoGlossary (book) in English, Belma Nahic
6. EcoGlossary (book) in Greek, Belma Nahic
7. Thessaloniki's 21 EcoTreasure Map, Belma Nahic
8. Teatro dale Movimento, Belma Nahic
9. Setting a Table and a Theater in the -nearby to EER- park, Jelena Todic
10. Training Courses - Raising Ecological Awareness, Belma Nahic
11. Gatherings at a Park, Jelena Todic
12. Proposals for Eco-Education in Schools, Belma Nahic
13. Planting New Seedlings, Jelena Todic
14. Cleaning Buildings, Jelena Todic
15. Interviewing Local Policy Makers, Jelena Todic
16. Sharing Opinions in DHIAfest Meeting Points, Belma Nahic




Benefits for Οrganization

Throughout those experiences, by running ESC programs, we have been boosted dramatically up, gaining knowledge, better understanding the voice of EU youth and activating our local young citizens, who are not so well acknowledged about those programs, especially those with a less opportunities profile. Throughout this project ESAI EN ROI has become more active and attractive in the field of Sustainable Environment and Ecological Awareness activation. Being our core activities relevant to Sports and Arts, increasingly in outdoor environment since 2019 and after, mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our volunteers supported this new direction and helped us to fulfill our new initiatives and establish a new culture to our activities.

Connection with Global Goals

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