Maria found much more than she expected in her experience as short-term volunteer
Maria-Lena decided to travel to volunteer in Brazil to take a distance from her routine in the Netherlands. And she chose the Eco Caminhos project as her new life experience. Her idea when volunteering as short-term was to seek a quiet place with beautiful landscapes and like minded people. In an interview for our site, Maria spoke a little about her experience here.
What did you expect before you arrived here at Eco Caminhos as volunteer in Brazil?
I didn’t really expect anything in particular, but I had a wish. My wish was to be away from my life in Netherlands. To really take a distance to find silence, nature and re-evaluate my life. And I was looking forward to be working in the project. Clearly defined physical work, instead of mental work.
Why did you choose our project instead of another?
I knew Bart (founder and managing director of the project) in Netherlands and I heard some really good stories about Eco Caminhos from others that have visited the project.
Did you get what you expected from this new experience as volunteer in Brazil? And what do you take home from this experience?
I got much more than I wished for. I turned out to be more tired than I realized. Before coming here I thought I could work hard and I wondered: “Why are they including days off in my routine? I want to work, I want to do things”. But I really needed the time off. And I am happy that there was so much space for me, for where I am and what I needed. I could fully reconnect to myself. That reconnection I will take home.
What do you enjoy most here at Eco Caminhos?
That is difficult to say. Because you ask me to compare many good things to compete with each other. There are many things that I appreciate here. I always look for silence. It is very hard to find in Netherlands. To be able to be in contact with silence, mountains, nature and a very new nature, a completely unknown nature, with unknown birds, plants and light is a good experience. Literally everything is different from my homeland. And I enjoy it very much.
This experience as volunteer in Brazil helped you to improve yourself?
Sure. After this experience life will be more about me. I have lived a life in service of others and I learned a lot from that and enjoyed it too, but there was a point that I knew that I had to make this turn and for me Eco Caminhos has been the right place to make this turn.
Sometimes it is hard to adapt to a different place. What is your advice for our future volunteers that could have some difficulties?
For me it took time to adapt. Especially if you come from Europe, I think it takes time to adapt to the climate, to everything that is new. It meant also an encounter with myself and that was very valuable to me. My advice would be to just go with the flow and trust that all is well.
Your family will arrive here at Eco Caminhos soon. How do you feel about that?
I look forward to share this experience with them. My daughter currently writes her thesis on different ways of farming. She will be interested in the permaculture, agroforestry and the way this project is set up. My husband is a builder himself. He will want to see the bioconstruction projects for sure. It is valuable to see that projects like these actually happen and function. This gives hope for and a perspective on a new way of living.
What do you recommend for new volunteers here in Eco Caminhos?
My first recommendation would be: “Do it”. And maybe: “Stay longer”. I am here for 6 weeks now and I feel more integrated than the first weeks. So it’s a pity that I am leaving now that I really start to connect to the project.
What were your highlights as volunteer in Brazil?
The people that embody this project. I encountered true hospitality, interest and integrity. And then I had beautiful moments just working in the horta and in the chicken coop and being very quiet inside. Doing simple work, but with a profound attention. I felt that I was here for me. The work I did here was part of a project, but I did it for me. Those were absolutely golden moments. The day we made the stone arch for the entrance of the chicken coop was a highlight too. We had so much fun together and to have it finished at the end of the day, knowing that it will stay here, imagining the chickens going through…makes me feel that I left my signature here somehow. And we should not forget to mention the food. Everyday the warm meal at lunch was good and healthy. And during the Volunteers Night the food was even more impressive.