Volunteering empowers young people and helps them develop self-confidence, and the feeling that they have done something useful for the benefit of the community is invaluable – was the common conclusion of the participants of the final conference of the project “VOLUNTEER FOR NATURE, VOLUNTEER FOR YOURSELF! – school volunteer programs in protected areas of nature” (VOLI), held on 11th and 12th of June 2019 at the Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism in Split.
The two-day conference brought together domestic and foreign experts in the field of education, nature and environment protection, as well as some volunteers from the project. Presentations and lectures were held on volunteer programs and their sustainability. Participants were introduced to the practice of volunteering in protected areas in the Netherlands, Macedonia and Croatia.
In her introductory speech, the head of the Association Sunce nature conservation program, Zrinka Jakl, said that developing school volunteering in protected areas aimed to integrate volunteer programs into schools and bring nature parks closer to young people.
“We are aware that children and young people are less and less outdoors, so one of our goals was to give them their nature back” – said Jakl and stated that the project held 16 info workshops for 371 participants, 18 educational workshops for 88 participants and volunteer actions in the Krka National Park, Biokovo Nature Park, Vrana Lake Nature Park and Telašćica. 70 volunteers took part in the volunteer actions, together with mentors and teachers.
Duška Milinković from the League for the prevention of addiction assessed the VOLI project as a successful connection between nature and society and concluded that the importance of volunteering in nature is recognized at the national level. Biljana Opačić from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy emphasized that the importance of volunteering is twofold: volunteering affects the growth of self-confidence among young people and children further spread the knowledge they gained by volonteering in protected natural areas.
Antonio Jovanovski from Go Green High School Youth Clubs organization spoke about volunteering experiences in Macedonia, while Norman Scheffelaar from the Dutch Het Nationale Park de Hoge Veluwe, which stretches over 5,400 hectares, presented volunteering opportunities in the park.
After presentations and lectures, participants held a panel discussion on the development and sustainability of school volunteer programs in nature.
The implementation of the project “VOLUNTEER FOR NATURE, VOLUNTEER FOR YOURSELF!” began in September 2017, and the main goals were to promote and encourage the implementation of school volunteering programs in protected areas and work on developing social skills of young people.
Project VOLI! leader is the Association for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Development Sunce and project partners are the League for the prevention of addiction, Craft Technical School Split, Ivan Lucić High School – Trogir, Center for Community Services Split, Public Institution “Biokovo Nature Park”, Public Institution ” Krka National Park “, Public Institution” Vrana Lake Nature Park “and Public Institution” Telašćica Nature Park”.
The project is funded under the Operational Program “Effective Human Resources” 2014-2020 European Social Fund and is co-financed by the Office for Non-Governmental Organizations of the Government of the Republic of Croatia.
The total amount of the project is: HRK 1,211,473.24.