Visit Staf Ecolearning Camp to The Netherlands


October 12-13 , 2015 Ferry Sutrisna Wijaya pr, A. Sarwanto SJ, Alexander Iskandar and Shierly Megawati visited Tilburg. The purpose of the visit was to connect again and continue the training in ecological consciousness/spirituality that had been started already during earlier visits of Elly in Ecocamp Bandung, in 2013 and 2014.

The program consisted of introduction to the history and happenings around De Gaarde Udenhout, The Netherlands, ( 1999 -2011), a visit to the place where De Gaarde in Udenhout was and an encounter between a group of us of the circle of De Gaarde, co workers, board etc. to share our experiences. The team of Ecocamp Bandung shared with us how they have started Eco learning Camp in 2013 and work with the inspiration and learnings of De Gaarde ( and other sources) in Bandung now.

Before the group left Tilburg, Ferry Sutrisna asked me to write about this wonderful and surprising event.

October 13, 2015

Quite a group of the circle of De Gaarde had responded to the invitation to come and meet the group of Ecocamp Bandung and to exchange our experience and learnings in our care and concern for the future of life on Earth.

Ect 2

Those who are part of the story of De Gaarde ( 1999-2009) started to share their story of how they got to know it, participated in and how what we know now how those years are still so much a part of our life now. One by one  through special moments if we became part of the circle It was as a wake up call, an invitation. And no one who came could have been missed, we all had and have a very special contribution and role in this great story.


In front of Molenhoefstraat 7, Udenhout. 13-10-2015. De Gaarde now given back to the Earth. Nature takes over! Though this place is now deserted. Now De Gaarde is in our hearts and souls. And the story continues.

We were so surprised how much we are changed and have grown through this experience and how this story is still part of our everyday life. We are pioneers in our own ways. We shared a meal together and continued the getting to know our friends from Bandung.

The story of Eco-Learning Camp, in Bandung.

Our inspirations and experiences of all those years in De Gaarde are shared and taken up in an experiment at the other end of the world, in Eco-learning Camp in Bandung, Indonesia.

Alex and Shierly shared about the beginnings of Eco Camp in Indonesia. In 2002 their second child was born and this event was the beginning of a remarkable process of waking up. ‘What can we offer this child” was the question of Shierly. “Good education” was their answer together. Together with Fr. Ferry Sutrisna they started Eco-spirit camp. A project a Bandung, where they offered programs to children to play in nature, to work on character building and to help children to reconnect with nature and Earth. Places were offered, as a 600 hectare ancient forest at the outskirts of Bandung. Based on these experiences Ferry Sutrisna, pr. wrote in 2012 his dissertation for a Ph. D. in “ Ecological Values in Education” .

In 2012 Ferry Sutrisna, wrote an E-mail to Elly Verrijt asking for ways to learn from my experience and for materials. He got my address from a Jesuit priest, ecologist with whom I had already worked together in retreats since 2010.. He also asked me to give a workshop for the board, staff, volunteers of Eco-spirit camp. It was quite a group that gathered in September 2013 in Bandung. The DVD The Universe Story from Brian Swimme, the Shambhala Warrior Story as passed on by Joanna Macy and told by an Indonesia Sufi Story teller, the words on conveying a cosmic vision to children for their future, through words of Thomas Berry and some sharing about the story of De Gaarde brought to them a broadened vision and set a whole range of happenings in motion. When hearing about the Gaarde they “saw” a Gaarde in Indonesia. It was the right time and the right moment. Not long after that Eco-Learning camp Foundation was born, founded by Ferry Sutrisna and Shierly Megawati and many others. A piece of land was obtained and within a year the first energy neutral building of Indonesia surrounded by a herbal garden and permaculture garden was realized. Many organizations, corporations have sponsored and are still involved in the running of this megaproject.


Ferry Sutrisna, a priest and architect gave a presentation about the project, the many ways in which the principles of green building are put in practice and  the first programs that have been developed. Alex Iskandar, who teaches at several universities ( Quantum Physics) explained about the program and the components of the eco-learning camps. In meantime they have fifteen years of experience.

In the past year, since September 2014, 6000 visitors came to Ecocamp, in programs of a few hours to a few days. They recently finished an Ecological leadership training for 51 teachers ( 10 days) from all parts of Indonesia. And they have trained children for ecological leadership. ( Children of Earth program) The Shambhala Warriors are the students who get a training to help conduct the many programs and groups for the children.


The team showed some movies with snapshots of the programs. It was such a deep experience together: of amazement, of seeing what can happen when the time is ripe and so many people connect to work for a better future. It is remarkable that such deep processes of change happen in such a short time.

The Story continues

On our way home from Schiphol to Tilburg Shierly said: “De Gaarde has a child in Indonesia”. Yes and that child has grown up, finds an own expression of the insights and learnings of a new Earth consciousness, now in the context of the history, culture and Community of Life in Indonesia. Again we see that once each of us responds to the invitation of Mother Earth and the challenge of this moment there is all the guidance and help to move on. And like it happened in De Gaarde before, it continues now here in Indonesia, while all of us, each in our own ways,  gifts and consciousness  are bound together in a common commitment. Though De Gaarde in its physical way does not exist anymore, deep in our hearts there is a Gaarde, a haven of consciousness and love for life and Earth. We carry it within us, wherever we are and go.

We ended the evening with a meaningful ritual, guided by Alex. Like in the workshops they give there, we gave each other a bracelet and put it on, as to affirm our common concern and commitment. So we brought together the Old and the New Gaarde, …..and the Story continues…


Nov. 2015, Elly Verrijt

A dream of the Earth in Transylvania / Rumania

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Transylvania, a part of the S.E. European country Rumania. In Tilburg I met Borbola Szabo, a Rumanian woman, who had to leave her country in the nineties of last century, and has live in The Netherlands till 2015. In her country she lives in a small farm. She shared with me and others her dream of starting an Ecological Learning Centre there. Together with her and several others we looked into possibilities for such a centre.

Touched by her dream and with hope that such a centre can be founded there, in July 2012 I travelled to Praid, a small town in the heart of Transylvania. A place with high mountains, plains and large woods with wild animals. And also a beautiful culture and old traditions of a people who live in a very sustainable way, very connected with the Earth. I found it a pity that I could not communicate with them, because of the two foreign languages for me: Hungarian and Rumanian. Transylvania is an area inhabited by people of Hungarian origin. After World War One  this area is part of Rumania.

Trans-sylvania: the land “between the woods”.  High mountains embrace the land from all sides. Old forests, castles, rivers and lakes and the small farmers villages all over where people live a simple life, like long time ago. A country with a long history of cultures. You find there the Sun temples of Romans, the art of the old great Otto-German empire and the many traditions and festivals that are still alive. The connectedness with land and seasons are expressed and celebrated and also the great moments of life. A very religious people as can be seen in the many cloisters and convents, churches of different denominations and the crosses along the roads.

I was deeply touched by the way the people live. The country is still very agrarian. Farm yards full with fruit trees, corn, vegetables and herbs. It was time for harvest and preservation of the many fruits of the gardens, kept for the long winters with lots of snow and cold. People live very closely with the seasons, as can be seen in the ways of housing: a little house for the family in the summer, when they live mostly outdoors and in the fields, a big house for the long winters with a stove and several rooms for weaving and other handicrafts for gathering to tell the many old stories, and a stable for the hay and the cattle.

A local sustainable economy. Besides the work on the farm the people help each other; one is baking the bread for the village, others earn some extra money with repairing cars or building houses etc. or producing beautiful pottery and other handicrafts and many other ways.  The local community takes care of the commons, meadows for the cattle that are cared for together. In the bigger cities modernity has come to some extend.


I was struck by the effects of climate change and global warming. Five hundred meters up in the mountains every day the temparature was about 30 degrees C. For two summers now the rains had not come and there was an alarming lack of water. On the mountains the fir trees were dying and the other trees were dropping their leaves already. In the train from Boedapest to Rumania, I saw the dried up corn and wondered if there be any harvest in autumn. I sensed the anxiety in the hearts of the farmers as the wells run dry. Cattle is also thristy!

I felt the power of the healing Earth energy: the saltmine in the little city of Praid. Five hundred meters under the surface people sit for hours in the cool air and breathe in the salty air to cleanse their bronchial tubes. And the pools with hot saline mud, in the countryside. You cover yourself all over with the mud and then let it dry in the sun till you sparkle as an ornament in a Christmas tree. Then to dive in the cool river and be cleansed and relax. Or swimming in one of the many lakes with salt water. I saw the tradition of healing herbs: making teas and ointments from  them.

We saw the old cities with the fortified churches, houses, squares. I sensed how it is to be in the heart of ancient Europe and how properous these areas must have been. I saw the gypsies, of several kinds. They live peacefully amidst the local people there.

An International Ecological Learning centre in Transylvania?

In this time of worldwide ecological crisis it is important and very necessary that people of our time rediscover how they can inhabit the Earth in ways that do not destroy or deplete the Earth. Finding and embracing new ways to live  in harmony with the whole community of life. To help the Earth to continue in her basic functions to provide food, healing, wisdom, balance,  fulfillment, governance.

This understanding and knowledge has disappeared in so many places and groups, especially among the younger generations all over the globe. Economic growth at all price and technology of computers and other kind,  ask for all the attention of the modern human and Earthwisdom disappears. The villagers are still very much in touch with the Earth and nature. But also here modernity will come along some day. What a gift will it be to the Earth there and to the people, if they could skip the times of the economic growth imperative I thought. A transition from their present situation into a sustainable way of life of our times. These people could offer  the example and experience of a simple and harmonious lifestyle and share their age old wisdom.

That is part of the vision of the Ecological Learning centre to be. To support and rejuvenate the present villages there and invite the people to share their wisdom and knowledge with many “modern people”. Permaculture, community building, safeguarding culture and traditions. We saw so many possibilities when we gathered in a circle to “dream”  this place. Most of all to build a strong community of local people and people from other places in the world, who can develop and carry all this.

On website and ( still under construction) you can find more information about these developments.

Bori in the entrance of her yard in Ocna de Sus ( area of Praid) foto Bruijn

Who knows are you touched too, because volunteers are welcome with their expertise and right motivations. Finances are still a bottleneck. Where to find the money to rebuild the stable and make it into a holistic centre for courses? Still there are many possibilities and what is there already is the farm on the yard.

The Earth is dreaming in this place and if people will pick up her dream, it will happen, I am convinced of this. I have seen it happen before and in many more places all over the world.

Western Europe with the many problems about financial crisis, corruption, banks falling down, etc was far behind me and I realized that this land and these people is also the European continent. They are our brothers and sisters, hoping for a sustainable life in the future, not necessary riches but enough to have a “good” life. A life in balance and in connection with the land and nature and .

Shambala Yard, Ocna de Sus: will it happen? It has started already.

NB: Update 2017: I was there in 2013 and in 2016. The dream still exists and first steps are taken toward a centre for preserving the old and traditional handicrafts. A centre has been opened where visitors can learn traditional handicrafts.

July 2017 , Elly Verrijt

Building ecological awareness in South East Asia

Since the middle of July I am in South East Asia; in Indonesia and the Philippines. Giving retreats and workshops on ecological awareness and an ecological life commitment.

The first two months I was in Indonesia and mainly worked in Central Java. Giving three retreats for in total more than 90 people. People of all walks of life, but mainly with a Christian background.

I saw and experienced the great changes in the environmental situation. Java, that I knew from my time there in the seventies, when I worked as a nutritionist in the poorer parts of Java, has changed tremenously. Development everywhere and more wealth for the people, though still one third of the people live in poverty in Indonesia. The beautiful rice plains are now turned into housing areas and industry. The infrastructure has been developed and beautitiful roads full with Indonesian made cars. If not a car yet then a motorcycle and the bicycles, so typical in the past, have disappeared.

Coming from the west, I realize my favorite position: a place to live in  that is relatively free from pollution of air, water and soils. Especially in the big cities the traffic is so heavy that a quiet place free from gasoline gasses is rarely found. The mystical East has given way to the developments of modern life.  There is not much difference I see with modern western youth in lifestyle, clothing, recreation and the use of technology.

Where to start with building ecological awareness? And what can I see as some one coming from the West? I have felt it as a precious fact that I lived and worked here in the seventies. The Indonesian language has not left me and I could express myself still in bahasa. I encountered people who are awakening to what is happening to their country, so rich in natural resources. The sadness about what happened and is happening to the forests. The mining and the peoples driven from their ancestral lands because of that. The “theft ” of the primal sources of water: large foreign companies that exploit the water in the aquafiers and put it in plastic bottles. Gone the tradition that where ever you go you find fresh water in earthen water jars.

Weeks of study and input on the present situation of the ecological crisis. Understanding the causes and finding a vision that leads us into the future.  Where to start building a more sustainable Earth community? What lifestyle and spirituality can sustain that work and the tremendous changes that this askes for. We focussed on processes that can restore the lost connection with the life processes of the Earth and nature. And most of all how to find a fulfilled way of life in a true concern  for the Earth and all her life.

It was a  most touching experience to see how much new life it gave to all of us. Discoveries, new understandings, new visions of doing things differently. Mother Earth herself made our hearts burn with fire to protect life and help to build a future for all Earth children. We were deeply touched by the promise of Jesus who came to make all things new and help to bring creation to the fulness intended from the Beginning.

At the moment I am in  the Philppines, in the midst of one tyfoon after the other. People in  the floods, harvests destroyed, houses blown away by the strong winds. The inconvenient truth of the global warming as one newspaper said in the headlines. I am deeply touched by the beauty and richness of this country, especially the days in Mindanao. And everywhere the same message; global warming is doing unpredictable things. The serious dawning awareness that we already have to prepare now with searching for new foodcrops to plant for the time when there will be no water anymore for the ricefields.

New awareness is arising and it puts hearts and hands in motion. It is a very deep experience to see the realities here and be with the people in  this. It will give direction and fuel to my awareness building work once I will be back in my homecountry The Netherlands somewhere next month. And for sure I will try to speak about the situation here once I am back.


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