For the first week of August, I was in Northern Poland for a gathering of Young Friends of the Earth activists from all over Europe. Seventeen national groups were represented by as many nationalities, with as much variation as

you’d expect from the range of cultures and environments.

The focus of the agenda was training and skill-sharing, to provide an overview of key issues that we’re campaigning on across Europe and equip ourselves to build a stronger network. As well as developing our facilitation, communication and campaigning skills, we talked. We told each other stories about our actions, discussed reasons for successes, formed working groups and developed relationships that will facilitate our international campaigning for future years.

By sitting down together as representatives of movements from different countries, we formed a clearer picture of the network we move within and an overview of how we fit together. We take this back to our groups with an understanding that we are stronger when we share information than when we keep it to ourselves.

But there’s more. A big part of Young Friends of the Earth Europe‘s appeal lies in the brilliant people who make up the network, and Starbienino Environmental Education Centre was ideally situated to make the most out of the top-notch company. With plenty of green space and a custom-built campfire, large-scale frisbee and late-night huddles were regular fixtures on the agenda.

A trip to the Baltic coast one afternoon was the first time some participants from land-locked countries had ever swam in the sea, while just 1km away was a deep and wide freshwater lake, where 7am morning swims became a ritual for the early-risers.

In the last day or two, moods were mixed. Some people didn’t want to leave (“I want to stay here forever!”) and others couldn’t wait to get home and put themselves to work (“I’m so excited about getting this started!”). A fantastic technique called Open Space helped tie together any loose ends so, when the minibus rolled up at 8am on Friday morning, we left in a cloud of dust, friendship and optimism.

Nobody can guarantee we’re going to change the world, and there’s always the UNFCCC to hamper progress. But, at the very least, in a corner of Poland this month young people across Europe agreed that we’ll continue to give it our best shot, and the feeling that together we might just succeed is enough to keep the dream alive.

If you like the sound of the international scene, or just want to join Young Friends of the Earth Scotland in our contribution to the fight for climate justice, you can find out more and register your interest here.