More than sixty ISKCON youths and twelve youth leaders participated in a project that included four inspiring youth exchanges during 2017 and 2018.
Two years ago, six devotees from different yatras started to organize youth exchanges at several ISKCON temples in Europe. They saw a need for ISKCON’s youth to get together, develop deep friendships, integrate into the ISKCON community, and develop a philosophical understanding of our faith.
The title of the project was ‘Youth for Sustainability’ and it brought youths from Hungary, Latvia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden together. They met at Almviks Gård in Sweden in July 2017, at Krishna Valley in Hungary in June 2018, at New Vraja Mandala in August 2018 and at the ISKCON temple in Ljubljana, Slovenia in December 2018. Each youth exchange lasted for five to seven days. These exchanges were entirely funded by the EU-commission through the National Agency in Sweden and included traveling costs, accommodation and food.
During these four youth exchanges The Four Pillars of Sustainability were explored, i.e. the environmental pillar (e.g. organic farming, cow-protection, water-supply), the economic pillar (e.g. how to make a living with green jobs, how to find out about one’s skills and interests), the social pillar (e.g. friendship, cooperation) and the cultural pillar (e.g. cultural tours, Ratha Yatra festival). The youth also had the opportunity to participate in ‘Ask the Swami’ sessions with Yadunandana Swami and Bir Krishna Das Goswami, a hiking-tour with Smita Krishna Swami, and a discourse on sustainability by Sivarama Swami. They even met the youth minister Manorama Das who was invited to participate at the youth exchange in Spain.
The youths were encouraged to organize and hold different workshops on their own such as dance, musical instruments, martial arts, archery, arts, henna-painting, football, volleyball, swimming, juggling and more. They led evening bhajans in the temples (sometimes till Mangala-aratika) and harinamas in the cities. They also helped to organize sight-seeing tours in Stockholm, Budapest, Madrid and Ljubljana. Furthermore, they engaged in different services in the kitchen, served prasadam, prepared accommodation facilities, and did several other services.
“It was wonderful to see how the youths developed friendships during these four exchanges, how their natural bhakti was nourished and how their faith was deepened and had matured,” says Kamala Priya dd from Sweden, the coordinator of the project.
The organizers have already planned further youth exchanges for the years 2019 and 2020, and they are looking forward to have even more youngsters from other European countries joining such events.