Our Community Culture
At Eco Caminhos our intention is to become fully self-sustaining in food, energy and building materials, and to create a healthy and active living environment. We believe this is the ideal setting for humans to develop themselves, as we learn to live, work, evolve and resolve our problems together. Having had different community life experiences, we realised that community living based on shared ownership is extremely complex. At Eco Caminhos, we try to overcome these challenges. We believe that the majority of communities fails because the idea of sharing and deciding everything collectively is hardly realisable. People with different (cultural) backgrounds, life experiences, and dreams often see and feel things differently, a diversity we try to accommodate. We are also committed to breaking down the virtual walls that often exist between such communities and local people living nearby.
Eco Caminhos further distinguishes itself from many other community organisations by operating as a social business. Our personal NGO experiences taught us that depending on external donations is a fragile basis and that shared ownership generates a high level of complexity, which can easily lead to disagreements. NGOs often depend on the goodwill of others, making them vulnerable to, for example, economic crises, when governments and private entities tend to cut donations, leaving NGOs empty handed. As a social business, Eco Caminhos hopes to maintain its independence and to attain a high level of stability and sustainability.
Freedom to develop your own projects
At Eco Caminhos we try to join the best of two worlds. Together we attempt to make the planet a slightly better place, while at the same time finding ways to sustain ourselves. Our main objective is to offer underprivileged people the opportunity to learn all the skills we develop at Eco Caminhos. However, before helping others, we need to help ourselves. Eco Caminhos is in the process of setting up a number of income generating projects and we stimulate volunteers wanting to stay with us to develop and run their own. These can be projects in the Eco Caminhos’ pipeline or projects devised by the volunteer. It all depends on one’s personal, preferences, needs, and wants: we encourage people to do what they like best, instead of forcing them to abide by an organisational rulebook. We believe this freedom to be healthy, as it enables people to direct their energy in ways that allow them to flourish.
Generate your own income
Are you concerned about how to sustain yourself as a long-term volunteer? Well, our belief is that volunteers have the possibility to generate their own income. This is not easy, but we feel that there are plenty of imaginable projects that could generate a stable income in a short period of time. At the volunteer’s request we organise meetings/brainstorm sessions where we discuss potential projects and help volunteers to set up theirs. The actual implementation of projects depends on the volunteers. Those who have the drive and capacity to develop and execute a project will succeed at the first, second or third attempt and, with the generated income, will be able to guarantee their stay. It might take up to a year to actually start earning enough to get by. From that moment on, we stimulate independent living; renting or purchasing your own property and eventually building your own bioconstruction house. People who are unable to earn themselves an income will eventually leave, as they will need some financial resources to survive. This might seem harsh, but we believe it is impossible to sustain everyone and this natural selection process is what differentiates us from collective communities.
What we expect to happen
We will live as neighbours, cooperate in projects, share resources, skills, and friendship, while maintaining our privacy. For some the community sense will be stronger than for others; it all depends on what the individual person wants. The more you contribute, share and exchange, the more you get out of it. The less you interact, the less you will feel like you are participating in a community. We will invite tourists, organise courses for students, welcome people with depression for rehabilitation, and offer free quality training to underprivileged teens. It is very important to us that our neighbours from the local community can also join the network. We envision a future in which there will be a strong exchange of products, services and knowledge, and where all participants benefit from one another. It will function as naturally as any market, with the sole difference that we intend to maintain and promote our values of preserving the planet, being self-sustainable in food, energy and building materials, and educating underprivileged people.
If you feel like joining us, please visit our volunteer pages.