In 2014, we – Hilaine, Bart, Roger, Nico and Lucas Bijen – decided to come to Brazil to create the Eco Caminhos self-sustainable farm. We are idealists with experiences in social projects, engineering, management, entrepreneurship and Brazilian youth education. We like to reach out to the masses, connect with people, and enjoy the exchange of energies and knowledge.
In the last seven years, we have received many volunteers from Brazil and all over the world.
We believe that the challenges we face and will continue to face throughout our trajectory will make us grow as human beings. We are now cooperating with the local community and inviting people with similar dreams to join us.
One of our great motivations is that Earth is in crisis. With 7.3 billion people on this planet, the world faces unprecedented challenges: polluted cities, a growing number of natural disasters, pandemics, financial crises, hungry people, war, terrorism and corruption. And we of Eco Caminhos are part of a growing counter-movement that seeks a simpler and more committed lifestyle in finding and sharing sustainable solutions. We believe in autonomous and communal living in terms of food, energy and building materials, exchange of knowledge, skills and experiences among people.
When it comes to social development, bioconstruction and sustainable living, Eco Caminhos wants to become a model to follow in Brazil and abroad. Our goal is to live in harmony with nature, produce our own food, energy and treat our own waste, while the earth grows in wealth, productivity and aesthetic beauty. In addition, we provide apprenticeship experiences for young Brazilians in social vulnerability.
THE CULTURE OF OUR ECOVILLAGE
Eco Caminhos is an ecovillage in the middle of the beautiful mountains near the city of Nova Friburgo, in Rio de Janeiro. Our intention is to become a self-sustaining community producing our own food, energy and building materials, creating a healthy and active living environment.
We believe that this is the ideal scene for human development as we learn to live, work, evolve and solve our problems together.
From different experiences in community life, we realize that shared ownership is extremely complex, so at Eco Caminhos we try to overcome these challenges together, seeking to share, deciding and welcome people from different cultural contexts, life experiences and dreams. Our commitment is to break the invisible barriers that often exist between ourselves and the unknown.
Eco Caminhos stands out among many other community organizations, operating as a social enterprise. Our personal NGO experiences have taught us that relying on external donations is very difficult and that shared ownership creates a high level of complexity, which can easily lead to misunderstandings. NGOs often depend on the goodwill of others, making them vulnerable to, for example, economic crises, when governments and private entities tend to reduce donations, leaving NGOs with no resources. As a social business, Eco Caminhos hopes to maintain its independence and achieve a high level of stability and sustainability.
FREEDOM TO DEVELOP YOUR OWN PROJECTS
In our ecovillage we try to unite the best of both worlds and together make the planet a little better, while looking for ways to sustain ourselves. Our main goal is to give people the opportunity to learn all the skills we have developed at Eco Caminhos. However, before helping others, we need to help each other.
Eco Caminhos is in the process of creating a series of income generating projects, and yet we seek to encourage volunteers who want to stay with us to develop and manage their own projects, that is, they can be projects that already exist in Eco Caminhos or made by the volunteer. It all depends on each individual’s preferences, needs and desires: we encourage people to do what they like, not forcing them to respect a guide to organizational rules. We believe in this freedom to be healthy as it allows people to direct their energy so that they can flourish.
GET YOUR OWN INCOME
Are you concerned about how to sustain yourself as a long-term volunteer?
Well, our idea is for volunteers to be able to generate their own income. This is not easy, but we feel that there are many projects that can generate stable income in a short period of time. Depending on the volunteer’s needs, we organize meetings, discuss potential projects, and help volunteers create theirs. Execution and implementation depends on the volunteer, those who have initiative and the ability to develop and execute a project will succeed in the first, second or third attempt and, with the income generated, can guarantee their permanence.
From that moment on, we stimulate independent living; renting or buying their own property and eventually build their own house. People who cannot earn an income will eventually quit because they will need the financial resources to survive. This may seem difficult, but we believe that it is impossible to sustain everyone and this process of natural selection is what sets us apart from the collective communities.
WHAT WE EXPECT ABOUT THE FUTURE
We will live as neighbors, cooperate in projects, share resources, skills and friendship while maintaining our privacy. For some, the sense of community will be stronger than for others; it all depends on what the person really wants. The more you contribute, share and change, the more you become integrated with people, and the less you interact, the less you will feel that you are participating in a community.
We invite tourists, organize courses for students, welcome people with depression for rehabilitation, and offer quality, free training for low-income adolescents. It is very important for us that our neighbors in the local community can also join the group. We imagine a future in which there will be a strong exchange of products, services and knowledge, where all participants will benefit, functioning naturally as any market, but with the only difference being that we intend to maintain and promote our values of preservation of the planet, in self sustainable development in food, energy, construction and even helping educate teenagers in social vulnerability.
If you want to join us, visit our volunteer pages.
MEET OUR TEAM
Eco Caminhos is part of Grupo Caminhos, a three-pillar organization that offers education services, social work, life, and ecotourism.
Caminhos Language Centre offers Portuguese classes in Ipanema, in Rio de Janeiro. We also offer accommodation, visa advice, assistance and student services.