Vila Pouca de Aguiar, Portugal, August 1-30, 2023
"Meet the Nature Where It Belongs: A European Solidarity Corps (ESC) Volunteer Project in Vila Pouca de Aguiar, Portugal, August 1-30, 2023
This short-term Volunteering Team in high priority areas project achieved its objectives of promoting solidarity and lasting cooperation, through volunteering, between youngsters and the local community. Also, it included many activities that promote environmental protection including green practices, sustainable living and climate action. The project, which was hosted by MEDesTU, gathered 15 young volunteers from Desert Bloom and their leader along with some volunteers from Portugal, Egypt and Lebanon.
The young participants learnt about ecological principles and practiced permaculture bio-building principles. Also, they had the chance to improve their multimedia and planned skills. They organize a conference about ESC and Erasmus+ Programme and conducted interactive sessions on eco-friendly lifestyle.
https://youtu.be/WggVbfEwRZs Check this short video about the project made by the volunteers.
Below some feedback from volunteers:
I'm thrilled to join the "Meet Nature Where It Belongs" project in Vila Puoca di Aguiar, Portugal. First and foremost, I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Desert Bloom for granting me this life-changing opportunity. We embrace nature in its natural Habitat. Throughout this project, we wholeheartedly immersed ourselves in the unspoiled beauty of nature. We engaged in various activities, including setting up tents, tending to farms, mastering the art of making fires, cooking outdoors, and adopting eco-friendly practices like using natural detergents and constructing dry toilets. Despite a few challenges encountered with our host organization, we managed to successfully complete our project, thanks to the invaluable support of the Portuguese Civil Defense and the Municipality of Vila Puoca di Aguiar.
During the project, we visited the Tamera Peace Research & Education Center in Portugal, a community that works toward autonomous decentralized models for a post-capitalist world, with those who share their vision of Terra Nova, the vision of a planetary culture of autonomous and interconnected communities: a post-patriarchal civilization free of violence and war. We learnt how to become "a self-sufficient, sustainable and duplicable communitarian model for nonviolent cooperation and cohabitation between humans, animals, nature, and Creation for a future of peace for all. There is no financial exchange within the village, but rather there is an exchange of social services.
We explored Portuguese culture, traditions, and attended local festivals. I also visited the historic University of Coimbra and Alvao Natural Park to learn about local flora and fauna.
At the project's end, we organized a conference and a Jordanian food bazaar for the local community. This experience outside Jordan has enriched me personally and allowed me to make new connections. I'm thankful to Desert Bloom and everyone who contributed positively to our project's success.
Hello! I'm Motasem, and I'm 25 years old. I have a background in physical education. My journey into volunteering began in 2016 in Jordan, where I collaborated with various organizations. Over time, I had the privilege to work with children, youth, and rural communities. Now, I'm excited to share my first international volunteering experience, which has brought me to Vila Puoca di Aguiar, Portugal, as part of the European Solidarity Corps project "Meet Nature Where It Belongs" with Desert Bloom for a one-month commitment.
While there have been challenges along the way, the positive aspects have consistently overshadowed the negatives. It's essential always to focus on the bright side of volunteering.
This experience beyond Jordan's borders has been incredibly valuable to me. Not only have I had the opportunity to immerse myself in new languages and cultures, but I've also come to realize that prior experience in a specific field is not always necessary. In a nutshell, humans learn best through experience, and we have the power to shape our own growth.
The European Solidarity Corps plays a pivotal role in fostering genuine intercultural dialogue. As a Jordanian, I've brought with me a rich tapestry of traditions, cuisine, and language that might be unfamiliar to many Europeans. Through open and respectful conversations, I've had the privilege to share the beauty of Jordanian culture, from our warm hospitality to the diverse flavors that adorn our tables. In return, I've been fortunate to immerse myself in the diverse European cultures.
In closing, I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported me on this incredible journey. A special thank you goes out to Desert Bloom, the organization I'm currently affiliated with, for making this experience possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I will talk about what I benefited from during my volunteer period in Portugal, which was in August
Firstly I would like to thank Desert Bloom and European Solidarity Corps for offering this chance.
I would like to speak on the intellectual level, my thinking about life has evolved, iIt opens my mind to things in nature that I was not aware of. I have improved my personality, become bolder in speaking, and become more effective in speaking. I have learned a lot in facing difficulties. I have learned to adapt to all circumstances and ensure that all circumstances are fleeting. I discovered a new culture
We have created many events including inviting municipal members and gave a presentation about Jordan Egypt and Lebanon with other volunteers from Egypt and Lebanon as well and we presented some Jordanian food and dessert. We visited the village of Tamira, which aims become a self-sufficient community model
We coexisted in nature, learned how to make a fire the right way, built a dry toilet, and learned how to set up tents and plow the land as well. We faced many difficulties on the receiving end, but we were able to overcome them with positive, energetic team spirit. Thank you for the experiences I have gained
Imad Amer, Lebanon
This project was a voluntary initiative as part of the European Solidarity Corps, targeting two main areas: "Bioconstruction" and "Permaculture," focusing on environmentally friendly architecture and sustainable agriculture. We faced significant challenges during the project, with logistics and project management being among the most challenging aspects, largely due to inadequate management by the Portuguese hosting organization.
On a positive note, the local Portuguese authorities cooperated effectively with us, including the Vila Pouca de Aguiar Municipality, the Portuguese Civil Defense (Bombeiros Vila Pouca de Aguiar), and Portuguese volunteers like Patrícia Portelinha and Patricia Vasconcelos. They greatly enriched our experience and provided insights into Portuguese rural culture, traditions, and the spirit of collaboration and solidarity among the people.
Throughout the project, we met with representatives from the Vila Pouca de Aguiar Municipality and learned about their various activities, such as civil organization, engineering, healthcare, public facilities management, planning, resource management, and efforts to encourage cooperative initiatives and attract investments to the region. They also shared their experiences in creating public amenities like swimming pools, football fields, and organizing festivals in the villages within the municipality. We noticed similarities between their challenges and those in our region in Lebanon, as both strive for community development.
We also visited Tamera, an environmental village, which is one of the largest eco-villages in the world, hosting people of various nationalities, ages, and professions. Tamera aims to redefine the concept of community based on different principles, emphasizing social exchange instead of financial transactions and adopting a vegetarian and organic diet and other sustainable practices.
Furthermore, we visited the Civil Defense center in Vila Pouca de Aguiar, which covers a vast area, directly supervised by the municipality and central firefighting authority. We got acquainted with their equipment, operations, and the services they provide to the community.
We also met with experts in environmental architecture and discussed concepts, local building materials, sustainability, and practices for reducing environmental impact and adopting eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyles.
Overall, these experiences were incredibly enriching and provided valuable insights into the communities and environmental and social projects in Portugal and Lebanon. They will help us develop and improve our projects in the future.