16 abril 2012

Um mês de SVE em Lisboa...

I arrived in Lisbon one month ago to begin a European Voluntary Service Project at the Junta de Freguesia de Carnide, working with retired people in the Gabinete do Idoso.  Even though I know the city very well after having done my Erasmus here, my first month has been a mix of the unexpected and the unusual…but in a positive way!

When I arrived, I had a few days to settle in to my new home in historic Alfama, to get to know the other international volunteers and to refresh my Portuguese vocabulary.  Then it was time to start work, beginning with a meeting with the President of the Junta.  We learned a bit about how the Junta is organised and how the different departments work together, and everyone gave us a very warm welcome.

I am working principally in the Academia Senior, which provides older people with lessons in languages, history, art, IT etc.  The first lesson I observed was about “advanced Facebook” and I was surprised to see that some of the students know more about social networks than I do!  My hometown in the UK doesn’t have any centres like this so it has been both interesting and inspiring to see just how active the older people in Carnide are, and to be welcomed into their environment despite the differences in our ages and backgrounds.

I was invited to spend my second week in the Algarve, accompanying a group of 100 old people on their annual “acantonamento”.  This was a great opportunity to get to know everyone but it was also a challenging way to start my EVS: it was often frustrating not to be able to communicate and participate in the way I wanted, and it was strange to spend so many days without seeing anyone of my own age!  Nonetheless, it was a very funny group of people and I feel that I saw another side of Portuguese culture.  Highlights included the fashion show, gymnastics on the beach, learning some traditional dances and singing karaoke in a local bar.

Before I came to Portugal, I wasn’t really sure what my EVS would entail but I was confident that it would be a worthwhile experience.  So far I am enjoying the variety of my work and feel that I am learning more about Carnide and its residents every day.  EVS is a chance to try new things and I have already experienced my first Flashmob and my first political demonstration.  I already know that my nine months here will fly past too quickly, but I can’t wait to see what other surprises EVS has in store!
Theresa Hall

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