Youth Exchange Between Findhorn and Kitezh Youth

Youth Exchange Between Findhorn and Kitezh Youth

After more than a year of preparation and enthusiastic fundraising, the Findhorn–Kitezh Youth Exchange has happened. In July 2009 twelve excited members of the Findhorn Youth Project arrived in Russia followed by a reciprocal visit to Findhorn by twelve young Russians in October, to undertake a life-changing journey in friendship and cultural understanding.

This is the first youth exchange that Ecologia Youth Trust has organised since the momentous exchange in 1997, which was also Kitezh founder Dmitry Morozov’s first visit to Findhorn and the beginning of a long, fruitful relationship between Kitezh and Ecologia.

Youth in ActionThe exchange is funded by Youth In Action, an EU programme that encourages young people to participate actively in society, to shape their own future and to contribute to the development of the European Union. Youth In Action aims to inspire a sense of active citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among young Europeans and neighbouring countries. It promotes non-formal learning and intercultural dialogue, and encourages the inclusion of all young people, regardless of their educational, social and cultural background to ensure that young people with fewer opportunities can take part. Respect for people’s cultural origins is at the heart of the Youth in Action programme, as is the desire to fight against racism and xenophobia – forces that undermine European values and people’s solidarity.

Kitezh Findhorn ExchangeDuring their 2 weeks in Russia in July, the Scottish youngsters took part in an exciting Role Play Game on the theme of Ancient Russia that explored the historic relationship between Europe and Russia. The tribes in ancient Russia were invaded from the East, Vikings from the North brought in a Celtic influence, and Christianity was introduced through Constantinople. Our Scottish youth joined the ‘tribes’ and together they wrestled with issues of politics, morality, unity and peace making. Dance, music and art brought cultural diversity into the theme. The ultimate aim of the Role Play Game was for all the teams to come to a common agreement on how to make peace between all groups and how to take the best from each side.

In October 2009, the Russian youngsters had a treat in store in return: they visited Scotland to live with their new Scottish friends and their families, and took part in a special youth empowerment programme at Findhorn followed by a week on the island of Erraid on the Scottish West Coast. None has ever travelled outside Russia before.

This youth exchange has changed lives and created friendships across the cultures that will last a lifetime. “We started as people from different countries, and now we are just people, and we will always be friends.”

Youth raising funds in FindhornAn important part of the preparation for these exchanges was to engage the Scottish youth in fundraising activities to raise a further £12,000 for both Exchanges to supplement the 70% covered by Youth In Action. Our Scottish youngsters and their parents enthusiastically created fundraising events: they organised a Talent Show, a Valentine’s night dinner, a Circus event and many other activities, including delivering pizzas and manure (not at the same time!).

A huge thank you to all those who made it possible: to Youth In Action, the Youth Project and their parents for raising the extra funds, and to the Findhorn and Kitezh communities for hosting a fantastic adventure for all!

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susie Kemp

Susie has 30+ experience as a creative copywriter, editor, and proofreader, starting out as a 20-year-old copywriter in the Mad Men world of early 1990s advertising in South Africa. Ever since, she’s had a love affair with creative conceptualisation, thinking outside of the box, writing to a deadline, and being thrown in the deep end!

She took an MSc in Publishing at Edinburgh Napier University as a mature student, in 2015, and continues to keep herself busy working as a copy-editor, proofreader and copywriter in book publishing, corporate communications, and publishing project management.

Apart from her love of working with independent authors, Susie has a fondness for working in the third sector and likes to use her corporate communications and marketing experience to support projects close to her heart. She has lived and worked in the Findhorn area for 25 years, and has been involved in a number of third sector projects and organisations, and family businesses.

Working at Ecologia Youth Trust helps Susie to live in integrity with her values of supporting the next generation to be the best that they can be, and she sees it as a way to give back to Mama Africa, the beloved continent on which she was born.

Ellen Shaw

Ellen joined the Ecologia team in June 2018 as Marketing and Communications Manager. Ellen has lived in Scotland for 6 years and has worked for non-profit and charitable organisations across varied fields. She currently shares her passion for helping young people through Ecologia Youth Trust and she works as a dancer and dance teacher in her spare time.

Robyn Cooper

Robyn is the Associate Director of International Projects, having previously worked within the team as a Project Development and Marketing Officer from April 2019 until May 2021. As Associate Director, Robyn is co-leading the International side of Ecologia with Founder and Director, Liza Hollingshead, bringing a new energy into Ecologia as they look towards the future of the charity.

Liza Hollingshead

Liza is the founder of Ecologia and Director of International Projects. She was born and educated in South Africa and worked there as a high school teacher. She moved to live in the Findhorn Community in 1974. She started Ecologia in 1995 after being introduced to Dmitry Morozov, the founder of Kitezh Children’s Community in Russia, and was inspired to support the community in its mission to rescue orphaned children from institutions and give them homes, families and education in a supportive environment.

This led to projects supporting disadvantaged youth and children in South East Asia and in East Africa. TRead more about Liza’s story here.