Ep.4 - flowful meets... Green Youth Collective

Green Youth Collective (GYC) is a learning community that inspires living practices in harmony with nature and people. Their main focus is sustainable gardening, low-impact communal living and youth education. flowful meets… talks with the founder Hanh aka Stoney and Bphu at their home and working field An Nhien farm. We chat about their philosophy and values towards a nature-human harmony as well as about their way to become part of the next door village community to inspire people inside and outside of GYC.

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Show notes:

  • learning community

  • living practices

  • harmony with nature and people

  • sustainable gardening

  • permaculture

  • low-impact communal living

  • youth education

  • beyond sustainability

Information about Green Youth Collective and An Nhien farm :

Music is by Andrew Healy:

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Today, flowful meets… the Green Youth Collective, short GYC. Based within the An Nhien farm and close to the Vietnamese 17th century old agricultural village Triem Tay and historical town of Hoi An, the Green Youth Collective is a learning community that inspires to live in harmony with nature and people. GYC is strongly connected with the An Nhien farm. An Nhien means inner peace with nature and the farm was once started by landscape architect Dao Ngo to protect the historical site with sustainable landscape architecture. As part of that GYC focusses on sustainable gardening, low-impact communal living and youth education. 

An Nhien farm and Green Youth Collective are one part of Triem Tay village.

An Nhien farm and Green Youth Collective are one part of Triem Tay village.

An Nhien farm and GYC aim to restore the natural ecological system involving the local community of Triem Tay. Support has been received by UNESCO and the province. However, the villagers of Triem Tay need more contribution in protecting their land from the water, as it is close to the river, and to learn life and economic skills to survive.

Together with An Nhien farm, the Green Youth Collective are trying to make the most of the UNECSCO support for the community garden.

Green Youth Collective: So Green Youth Collective is just a part of the An Nhien Farm. An Nhien Farm can inspire many more other issues, you know. And inspire a lot of different solutions in a creative and systematic way. And each of us can contribute like an aspect into the overall project. Green Youth Collective is just a part and we directly support or kind of facilitate different activities especially with the young people. So far it is an educational platform based on how we established the ecological food forest in the area and now we’re starting with the nursery.

One of the visions that we uphold is to establish live. Not only for one person or a family but more for a community. That can inspire a person to do things not only for oneself but to be aware about one’s own actions and how that can affect the environment, the living environment and the people nearby.

Since the first time, we also moved into Trien Tay village and as I said the first year we participated in the community garden. This is one of the initiatives that at time the UNESCO and ILO promote to a kind of sub-development project. They tried to not to put too much pressure on the heritage itself but for the surrounding. To reach out more for the surrounding areas with the hope that the ecotourism can change the people lives.

 

flowful meets...  Hanh, founder of Green Youth Collective at An Nhien farm.

flowful meets... Hanh, founder of Green Youth Collective at An Nhien farm.

In Triem Tay village, people have been living simple lives, balanced with nature for generations. They have been weaving bamboo mats and worked in the paddy fields. Today, Triem Tay village counts 127 households living on a 45 hectare area that mostly rests on the bank of the Thu Bon River.

Green Youth Collective: The last 20 years we’ve seen an effect of the river flow that took about 30 acer of land away from the village. That is actually 3/4 of the village. Many people have to move out or choose to move out of the village to find more opportunities to live and to run their lives elsewhere. That also is one of the factors that make the village more abandoned than ever. It is just the change of the last three years or so.

But before all that the whole island was just accessible by the ferry 3 km from here. So there will be less chance for people just randomly visit this village. They were basically by themselves. That is about how much of land the river took away. The natural river banking restoration is always a priority to us, because first it is a security and not only for us but also for the people that live nearby. And if you ask any of the villagers here the soil erosion is one of the key factors that make their live kind of an unpredictable factor that sets their attitude towards their lives. But all what they can do is to hope for the governmental initiative to build a concrete dyke.

To support the people of Triem Tay, An Nhien farm and GYC intend to protect the riverbank and to provide the villagers with new skills and jobs. With support of UNESCO, they started a community garden and approached the villagers to maintain it together.

Green Youth Collective: We don't come here to just to live on our own but the approach since the beginning is always try to reach out for people, to share and to learn from them. Build, or not build but support for the community that already exists and all kind of values the village have because this village is really old and it’s gone through so many things. Also the transition of change of the economic life of the region, too. But that's what I myself expect to see, to really be able to involve people in what we believe that is right to do. Like to care for the land, to continue to do what the ancestors usually did and did well before. Before all the time of fertilizer and all the time for money, the need for money came.

At the beginning it would be to see their some whatever, that we can connect and support or help. At times it was to get the older people to the clinic to be able to come and meet the doctors and at least this kind of emotional exchange of care among another.

That’s when we saw more. How the reality is here. And then on that part, was kind of to get to understand who is it that is able to connect people that can come together like that and is that well? Is that smooth? Or is there some politics in it? Kind of like a lesson.

But especially for, I don't know about other villages, but with this specific Triem Tay village it requires more of the readiness and the people's awareness towards that common values and objectives. So it is not as easy as it is set up and we try to understand and participate with people and contribute and do everything we can. And in a way we try to connect with the younger generation in the village and the local areas.

 

The section of unknown plants is part of the education at An Nhien farm.

The section of unknown plants is part of the education at An Nhien farm.

The community garden in Triem Tay village is an important connection for the An Nhien farm with the village community.

The community garden in Triem Tay village is an important connection for the An Nhien farm with the village community.

And working with the youths is a very important part of Green Youth Collective’s work.

Green Youth Collective: Since the beginning we always had interns and volunteers to host kind of a like a community living lifestyle. What we have is the actual place where we live and we also have an extra area for the interns and volunteers that work here. So things can go very slow in a part but it is quite fruitful in the sense of the core practical things we want to share. And they can learn. And they can come back to basics. How you care for the soil, and then growing common values in that sense. The heartbeat of GYC is about the youth participation within that kind of core active thing. And also GYC is the heartbeat of An Nhien as well because there are so many kind of different situations where we need to really put a lot of energy into in and do. Because we are going towards something where it is about learning space, about sharing that kind of wisdom and growth towards the better thing.

 And in that sense it means that the heartbeat of GYC itself is about the youth. And that’s why we also connect with the disadvantage youth in Hoi An so they will come and get the knowledge and hands-on share, gardening and all the practical skills. We also host different events and things with some international volunteers, too. So this part it will be kind of a sustainable skill, like self-development and things with the next generation.

 

Mulching is one important permaculture technique to regenerate soil and add fertility.

Mulching is one important permaculture technique to regenerate soil and add fertility.

Plant propagation adds biodiversity and is a good way of understanding more about nature.

Plant propagation adds biodiversity and is a good way of understanding more about nature.

GYC believes that connecting with the youths and inspire them to the simple yet effective lifestyle and values of the elderly is fruitful for both generations.

Green Youth Collective: So I established something that we can have students who stay with us for a week and a few of them had experience in water testing. They brought their tools and we organized a trip to every, to almost of every family around the village to help to test the water. For example the degree of aluminum or heavy metals in your water. And then we picked up the different families who were willing to redo their filter which were actually too old. Somehow we found out that the filter water is actually worse than the direct pumped water because the filter system is too old. Because they don't have any young people in the family to support and almost all of the residents just put the system up high and the old people cannot climb up there and change everything. We did it within a week.  We try to do what we can and come up with different project to build up the understanding, the exchange. Because by having a visit to every family we can also have a look in their home garden. The way they treat their space, the way they have a relationship with themselves, with their family and with the neighbors. And that also supports our appreciation to their kind of heritage. In using or having all kind of herbs, or plants that are native here. That it can be a multipurpose thing; that they use it for food and medicine and for many other purposes.

When UNSECO stopped the support for the community garden project, An Nhien farm took over to ensure the ownership transfer and since then GYC uses the garden to bond with the villagers and build trust among each other.

Green Youth Collective: And they did appreciate! We have a lot of exchange and you know we're good neighbors. But when it seems more serious like making a plan together in the community garden, let’s say. So what turns out is that people are not really ready for that.

So it is really quite difficult to really coordinate, to understand each interest and to coordinate the different voices into pushing into real action and motivate people. But we try. I mean working individually and try to find a local champion, the one who seems to can influence positively to people.

But still, we cannot just do it for them, we cannot. We have been doing that, we have been so much doing that. But now it is just their collaboration to fit into that. Which I never underestimate the power of their team work, meaning if they gonna do, they gonna do. So that takes its time.

Triem Tay village and An Nhien farm are just a short bike ride away from Hoi An.

Triem Tay village and An Nhien farm are just a short bike ride away from Hoi An.

The bamboo forest gives shade and offers local building material for the first housings at An Nhien farm.

The bamboo forest gives shade and offers local building material for the first housings at An Nhien farm.

The ecological river embankment is another project that is closely linked to the villagers. Being strongly affected by floodings and soil erosion, the restoration of the riverbank is a joint project of An Nhien farm, GYC and the villagers of Triem Tay.

Green Youth Collective: So it is not that we ask them to do this and that it is more about collaboration, more about sharing what they know and how we see it. Even with the neighbor's project that already establishes some kind of effects to the river flow. If they do it here what can it affect to this side. Or if they have the concrete dike over there what it can affect here. So like in the interrelation with it all. Share together and see that the local knowledge can play the role into making it all together. That is a really beautiful thing that we learn.

Sharing is caring! This is something that is clearly visible in GYC’s approach to bond young and old.

Green Youth Collective: Our wish is to connect the younger generations to the appreciation of a simple effective lifestyle that we see in the older ones. But we also see the values we need even more than before. Because with the modern live now that it can be a thing that we can share. And it can be a space where people can live together, work together and appreciate it on a daily basis and practice it. Practice is very important.

I have been working with youth for around 15 years. More to try to see a new look into the development strategy. Because they’re not hurt, they are inexperienced in a way, especially talking about the connection with the family, orientation, and the current orientation, you know. It is more about very systematic problems in the educational system.

But they also have their own aspirations. That is how I started seeing them and working with them, you know to become a youth activist in all environmental and sustainability projects.

The Green Youth Collective sees community living as a good way of learning. But living in a community can be challenging. Even so, it is also a good way to step out of your comfort zone and to get inspired!

Green Youth Collective: As long as there is the awareness from within it doesn't mean that you do it because somebody is telling you to do but you do it because it is your nature and that you wish to do it. That should be kind of awareness and that is how I try to related them with the way of sustainability and resilience. That's all. That is how it should nurture one another. That is why you appreciate what we have done from a very little thing into a big thing. Community living is like a habitat and biodiversity, it is the same with the garden. It is a habitat and biodiversity. The river bank as well. And in that sense what you take the resilience comes from the core of how you understand sustainability. Which is the awareness of what is going on.

So, how to really build personal awareness into the communal efforts? You know to live the way of low impact? But inspiring each other to improve every day. This is one of our wish and we try to share it to the persons who visit and who stay here. And learn together because it is not like one knows everything but if we are open and learn to be more open to adapt to each other and to try something new every day it is like keep up the inspiration.

The riverbank restoration was the first action that was needed to protect the land from uncontrolled floodings.

The riverbank restoration was the first action that was needed to protect the land from uncontrolled floodings.

We were curious: how could GYC actually increase their current impact on the environment, the community or the villagers?

Green Youth Collective: I think a better or more appropriate way to communicate. The communication channel is needed. So we learn fulltime to find not only direct communication with them and ourselves. The daily thing between people, like drinking session or talking all over anything. It is just stopping in the middle of the street and talk about everything. Besides that we learned to involve more of the people with influence and people with inspiration too. That we have to learn more about them but the approach is we feel like okay, maybe people don't see it all because they don't have the full information. Because here people would have the regular meeting on the very important thing, like on the community level, they have the new policy that gonna be effect or directly effect to peoples live. Like building a concrete road in the village. It is supposed to have a like a meeting, many meetings that involve everybody in the village and then several meetings in the sub  area to make sure that people have information. Or participate in the decision making process. But even so, it doesn't cover everybody. It never covers everybody, every interest or benefits of that. But to have the appropriate communication channel is very important to at least inform and share.

The first buildings at An Nhien farm are almost ready to move in.

The first buildings at An Nhien farm are almost ready to move in.

Nature is coming back after the floodings of 2017.

Nature is coming back after the floodings of 2017.

Oh yeah, communication is a very important thing, especially within community projects…

Green Youth Collective: What I appreciate most about this project is that it starts with your own commitment. So you do not have to follow anybody’s timeline or expectation. Of course you are open to listen, to adjust, to improve but you always know that you have done the best you can. You try your best so it is not about timeline to meet anybody’s expectation. We are dealing that with the villagers and we understand it in their mentality and we also do what we can to inspire them to look in a different way. And adjust ours too! It is always open for learning for everybody. So that is what I enjoy the most and you know that things will come at their time and you know at least at every day we have moments that we share within our community and we can laugh and we sing and we enjoy live and we have sad moments, we have fun moments. I think it is pretty much about live and we know what we have done for day and that we have things to hope for tomorrow.

It's the moment when you realize that there is life. By hope and dream and what the young and the old can do together with the new and the ancient. The balance between the different values. What it can make life happen. I think it is the moment when you realize that especially with the river bank and any of the area that you see things happen.

This is a peaceful space, a peaceful land here. And whoever comes here at least they have peace with themselves. You know what I mean. And it that sense it is a learning space, because of whatever that the An Hien team itself can support with each and everyone’s personal kind of experience and things through it is also about education.

An Nhien farm is indeed a peaceful space! Seeing all their effort and their influence on the environment impressed us a lot. And hearing about their vision was really inspiring.

Green Youth Collective: The homebased shared learning space where, you know the commitment of human settlement can play a role and kind of coordinate. Coordinating the balance of the relationship between people and nature. By meaning people it will be the neighbors and the villagers, who always lived here. And with more the people who come to get inspiration and to learn and to share and to exchange. And the nature is about the natural landscape and about the earth values of the area. About historical and cultural values too. The way how people have been treating it.

It's kind of a pioneering stage of a human settlement into this habitat, where An Nhien home base itself would like to encourage more biodiversity within its habitat here and is open for every kind of live to come in the sense of being able to have a sharing experience and wisdom within their way of looking at live.

Hanh is explaining the way Green Youth Collective and An Nhien farm are connected.

Hanh is explaining the way Green Youth Collective and An Nhien farm are connected.

Fragile and strong at the same time: the natural riverbank protection before the flood in December 2017.

Fragile and strong at the same time: the natural riverbank protection before the flood in December 2017.

Unfortunately, An Nhien farm got again hit by floodings and typhoon Damrey destroyed pretty much everything of the restoration work. Being challenged by both natural and manmade disasters and catastrophes, the team of GYC is more inspired then ever. They learned a lot to adjust their state of mind and attitudes that reflect their philosophy and values towards the harmony of nature and humans.

Their theory of change reflects exactly that approach: as a learning community that follows a practical approach to coordinate the balance between people and nature, GYC aims to connect the younger generations with the lifestyle and values of the older generation. Furthermore, GYC goes beyond sustainability: their masterplan and their strategic actions allow the response from Mother Nature on the systems that they created.

Currently, people all over the world seem to head to a very different direction. Responding to that, the Green Youth Collective creates a space where people from all over the world, the community, the villagers, volunteers and travelers can meet, share, learn, work and live together. Getting inspired by the simple and mindful lifestyle, people leave GYC and spread the word even further!

Well, and that’s totally what we’ll do! Thanks so much guys for having us. We enjoyed the day at An Nhien farm so much!

You beautiful people out there, make sure to visit the Green Youth Collective on facebook and have a look at their amazing work! Your support is also very much appreciated: you can support their work financially, give them a hand if you’re around or just spread the word by sharing their story!

You can find all links in the show notes below and on our website www.flowful.org. If you like what we do please share this episode, our website or whatever! Oh, and we’re also on Instagram and twitter!

Music is by beautiful soul Andrew Healy.

Thanks for listening! Be flowful!