Dates: 1st October 2019 – 31st May 2020
Venue: Arrouquelas, Rio Maior, Portugal
Programme and action: Erasmus+, KA1, European Voluntary Service – long-term
Please read the EVS infopack.
Volunteer: Petr Wolf
Hosting organization: A hosting organisation was H2O.
Volunteers came from these countries: Armenia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Macedonia, Romania and Turkey
Upon arrival to Portugal I had to scrape off all my expectations – nice warm weather? Tasty food? Comfort of a city living? At that time I had no idea I would get something much more valuable instead.
If someone told me a year ago that I’ll be living in a small village in the middle of Portugal, I would be laughing, but that’s exactly what happened. Our little village called Arrouquelas can be found in a district of Santarém near a city of Rio Maior, where we went everyday for work.
There was a huge variety of places to choose from – primary school, kindergarten and a mental health institution. There were some side jobs too such as going to the dog shelter and helping to distribute food for people in need.
Every Sunday we had a meeting and decided to which place we want to go. I’ve always tried to reservë a spot in the primary school, where I’ve created a strong connection with the teachers and kids and every time felt very welcome there.
My work mostly consisted of being an assistant teacher for kids with some sort of cognitive disability. During the day we got plenty of free time which I’ve used for playing with the kids or practicing Portuguese, which was necessary for communicating with others.
After coming home the work didn’t stop there. By the end of the project I was living with 8 other volunteers. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome, such as cultural differences, language barriers and different habits, but working on creating stronger bonds felt very rewarding. For most of the evenings we have tried to organise activities such as playing games, movie nights, intercultural evenings , parties and of course travels around Portugal. I had a chance to visit so many beautiful places, such as Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Nazaré, Óbidos and so many more. We had a lot of fun while travelling I can safely say that I’ve created many friends for life who I will definitely see in the future.
But not every project is perfect and ours was unfortunately spoiled by the outbreak of Corona virus. All the schools closed and we had to stay locked at home. Seeing the same faces every day created some problems and on a few accession there were huge arguments.
Luckily we could still go outside around the village to clear our minds and one wouldn’t believe how much stuff is there to be seen in Arrouquelas, such as watch tower, Hollywood sign with the name of our village and many beautiful hiking trails around.
So might be asking right now, was this experience overall worth it? Absolutely! I’ve discovered so much about myself, learned a lot of useful stuff and mainly discovered the real beauty of Portugal with people whom I truly loved spending time with.