13 agosto 2012

SVE em Lisboa – Theresa Hall

My EVS project is based at the Gabinete do Idoso (department for senior citizens) at the Junta de Freguesia de Carnide. I work mostly in the Academia Senior, which offers educational classes and social activities, and with ARPIC, and independent organisation for retired people. I am really enjoying this project because everyone has made me feel very welcome and a part of the community. My tasks are quite varied but are generally connected to helping with social events and assisting with classes or workshops, for example: participating in trips around Portugal; organising lunches; a soup festival; arts and crafts; meetings with local groups who work with the elderly; learning the “cavaquinho” with the music group; and even a bar crawl!

The best activity so far has been the summer camps which we run for four weeks, taking 100 people to the beach in the morning and a cultural activity in the afternoon. I am constantly amazed at the energy these old people have, and their enthusiasm for silly games! I had never worked with old people before, and I am definitely changing any preconceptions I had about old age being boring. Most of the people I work with are still very active, so I rarely have to “look after” anyone; my role is more to provide company and conversation, and a willingness to join in with whatever activity we are doing.

I think the atmosphere of the project is generally very relaxed, except for when we have a big event. I work 9.30-5.30 every weekday, so it is structured almost like a job, however the pace of the work is quite slow. There are 2 full-time staff in the centre, as well as some temporary interns and the teachers.  I think the most important thing for the next volunteer is that you make an effort with learning Portuguese. Without the language it is still possible to contribute to the project and to help with almost all the activities, however you won’t be able to take as much from the project – a really valuable part for me has been communicating with the older people and they have lots of interesting stories to tell about Portugal and about their lives.
Theresa Hall

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