In 2022 Descalças Cooperativa Integral received its first European Solidarity Corps volunteer and now the organization is hosting three volunteers. They participate in pedagogical activities as well as in partner projects (Maria d’Alegria, Férias na Quinta, Cantina Social, among others), developing their interests and learning in the areas of forestschool, nature regeneration, sustainability, food and culture.
Italian Frenju was the first volunteer to arrive in March 2022. She jokingly describes herself as the guardian of the farm. She maintains Terra d´Amor by gardening, building and painting. She also follows Maria Simões (Maria d’Alegria) to her shows as a technician and a scenographer. From time to time Frenju works with the children of the BEA.
Being a volunteer for me is to have the volition to change things for the better, help and leave a sign, Frenju says.
The strong will to change the world also brings challenges. Frenju feels that during the year as a volunteer she has understood that she is a strong person and that challenges are part of life.
Paiju describes: Francesca is the most efficient person I know. I would need years to complete the things she can get done in one. She will always have time to help you and in the meantime you will laugh so much that your stomach hurts. I honestly did not think I could call someone one of my best friends after half a year.
In September 2022, Paiju (a Finnish volunteer) joined the project. Most of her work is related to the BEA Mini. She assists the educators and plans activities for the children. She also helps to take care of the needs of the Mini, whether it is with the maintenance of the cabin or making hand-crafted toys.
My culture is quite different from the Portuguese one and it is the best and the hardest part of being here, she says.
According to her, the new environment offers a great opportunity to learn but in the challenging moments, it is difficult to find familiar, comforting things. In those moments it is important to have people around you: “I feel that the community gives me space to grow and learn and offers support when I need it.”
Zoё describes: Paiju is a great part of the family of the Quinta, she brings fun, creativity and a joyful and caring energy with her. Her musical talents are a great addition for us at the farm, and we are blessed to regularly hear her angelic voice and Finnish harp at events. She’s socially engaged and interested with a vision for what living together well means, but is also dynamic and open and excited by new experiences.
Zoё joined the project recently in January 2023. She participates in the lessons of the BEA Maxi and accompanies the group from the morning until the end. She also plans and implements activities:
“There is a lot of space for ideas and to create things”, Zoё says.
Planning activities is an opportunity for her to learn to be more confident in taking the initiative. Zoё describes volunteering followingly: “It is fun to be a volunteer here. In comparison to other places I have volunteered, it feels very much like you´re an integrated part of the project. You are a part of a community and they are kind of a family where people care about each other and think about you.” She thinks that the challenges she faces create space for learning: “It can be a bit challenging with the language especially but it is also one of the best ways to learn. You get kind of thrown into the deep end and hopefully you develop that skill”
Francesca describes: Zoё is nice and she is a good worker. I think she really believes in this project so she puts a lot of effort into this project and the children, and everyone in this world. She is a safe person so you can be yourself with her.
The European Solidarity Corps (ESC) aims to promote solidarity in European society by involving young people and organisations in accessible and high-quality solidarity activities.
Update: The selection process for 2023 is open!