This article is not just a call for a support, it is also a message of gratitude to all of you who shared your stories on this website and gave us inspiration to move forward and aim towards the creation of a more human world.
Before I get to the main point of this article, I would like to tell you about our beginnings. It all started when a bunch of friends who share a common vision for a world in which humans live in harmony with nature decided to get together and make their vision come to life. We formally joined an organization called The Green Ark. It was exactly five years ago when we decided that we wanted to do something more, to transform our revolt into organized action which would be useful for our community. However, our beginnings were not all that glamorous. Back then, our knowledge of the permaculture ethics and principles came solely from reading books and watching videos like The Global Gardener series, Establishing a Food Forest, etc. And since none of us had taken a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course, we were a bit apprehensive, but very excited at the same time, when we embarked on our first project – to start an urban garden.
Even though we had never done anything like this before, we knew that it was going to turn out amazing, since we all put our heart and soul into the project and were doing something we love. What we had to do was establish an urban garden based on the principles we saw it these permaculture movies. Since all the green public areas in our city were created by the principles of the contemporary style, with huge grasslands, our project aimed to demonstrate a sustainable way to make use of urban areas. Since the location of the garden was a dump yard, we had a lot of work in front of us. It took us weeks just to clean and prepare the site for what was to become our first Eco-Park.
Everything was going well and according to plan: we made three herb spirals, two big raised beds; we even started a small food forest! But, only a year after beginning our hard work, with all the effort and love we put into this project, we received horrible news. The local government, the same government that approved this project in the first place, had a change of heart and decided to destroy everything we made and worked hard for in order to build something else on the site. There was nothing we could do but watch a year-long project that we’d put our hearts into being demolished, right in front of us.
We took this very hard and we were all very angry and frustrated, but most of all disappointed.
However, for every new organisation, something like this represents a turning point — we had two options, we were either going to let this destroy us, or we would let this experience make us even stronger. We decided that it was not our time to give up, and that this was only a small obstacle on the way to achieving our goal. We decided to stand tall and continue following our dream, the dream of the Green Ark. And we did not allow for the government to destroy everything; we managed to save our trees and with them we did a guerilla fruit tree planting in another part of the city. And seeing those trees today gives us hope and shows us that not everything is ruined.
After spending two years in various activities and projects, and when most of the people in The Green Ark got their PDC, we started to feel more confident and since we were a lot more experienced we decided to take a step forward. We wanted to be able to show and implement a design based on the permaculture ethics and principles, and the way to do this was to find a piece of land on which we would establish an Education and Research Permaculture Center. We did all kinds of research to find the perfect place where we would make this goal come to fruition, and our search led us to the southern part of Macedonia, to a village called Sermenin. We immediately fell in love with this place. It was magical and it felt like the trees, the beautiful springs and the entire nature there had put a spell on us and we were forever connected to it.
And in the middle of all those beauties, there it was, an abandoned old building, left to the mercy of the weather; a building that was destined to become the permaculture center. Even though it appears that the building is badly damaged and is in desperate need of reconstruction and repairing, it has excellent potential and can serve as a facility for education and accommodation for at least 30 people. It also has a garden surrounding it, which is 1000m2 and even more land around the garden just waiting to be rehabilitated.
The village is situated at 600 metres above sea level, on the foothills of a mountain with peaks that are over 2000 meters. Being only 50kms from the Aegean Sea, as well as in a place where the Mediterranean and Continental climates meet, this place, very rich in biodiversity, was perfect. However, besides all these advantages, this climate has its disadvantages as well, such as erosion and soil loss, summer fires and low rainfall. Moreover, overgrazing and pesticides usage are issues that need to be resolved together with the local people. And to be able to overcome all these negatives and make use of all the positive things, all we need is a good and functional design, which would also serve as an inspiration and a positive example for others.
This spring we are planning to start the reconstruction of building. We hope to be able to rehabilitate a part of the landscape and start a food forest as well. And since we are financially incapable to do this by ourselves, we decided to start a funding campaign. So, if you feel that what we are doing is a worthy cause, and if you share our goal and dream for a better future, please give us your support by donating or simply by spreading the word.