What are we?
We are planning to develop a volunteering experience of the special kind: after a few years without receiving volunteers we are back with fresh and ambitious ideas. To counter the desertification of our region and answer current environmental and social challenges in a positive way, we are going convert our farm into a space of learning, teaching and experimentation, for those who want to develop a sustainable business on their own. This can encompass the full range from the simplest handcraft like handmade textiles to high tech activities like drones and sensor technology. We are planning to support the experience by setting up a curriculum that consists not only of lessons about how to run a business, but will move into areas like psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, science, sustainability and technology. Our trainees will be encouraged to enrich the curriculum with own ideas or to suggest additional study topics that we can explore together.
We do not just want to provide the framework for you to develop your business ideas, but we aim to question the very foundations economy and business are based upon, want to experiment with new ways of organizing work and decision-taking in groups, and through a regional network of mutual support mitigate the risk of self-exploitation and failure that threatens those who dare to try and leave the well-trodden path. One foundation of this is our vegetable garden. In the last years it has fallen out of use but we believe that the independence of knowing how to grow your own food can be an important element of an independent and dignified existence and of a more healthy work-life balance. We are aware there are many different approaches to run an organic garden and plan to experiment with various approaches in a systematic way to find out what works and what doesn’t. You are welcome to bring your ideas to be put to the test!
Our project is in the beginning stage and to get it going, we need your help. There is some cleaning and tidying to do before we can leave our old horse stable to the builders to renew the roof and transform it into rooms. The garden has been used as pasture during the past years and needs to be set up, together with a composting station. During this phase, you can opt for a shorter stay to help with some of the simpler tasks before the definite start of the project. You get to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the Serra da Estrela foothills. There will be already a lot to learn, and we would love to be inspired by your ideas for such a project, as we are currently defining our ideas in weekly meetings. Some of the organisational steps for our project: finding the legal form for our project, set up a website with our vision, mission and philosophy, try to get financing and start working on a curriculum. What would you want to learn, what to teach? How would you run a regional network of sustainable businesses? If you had the choice, where would you want society to move to? If you can identify with our approach and if we are getting along, you are of course welcome to extend your stay and become a longtime volunteer/trainee.
With a project of this scale, frustrations are bound to appear earlier or later. We plan to address the birthing pains of our project with black humour and a daily mindfulness practice without religious affiliations, in which we would like our volunteers to participate. (We welcome people of all kind of religious traditions, as long as they refrain from proselytizing)
Who are we?
Pedro is an agricultural engineer and a former teacher, whose subjects stretched from chemistry over biology to farming and ecology. His teaching mode is fueled by pure passion and has no OFF-button, so the best way to keep him happy is to keep him teaching. He has been riding and training horses for years and builds and flies model airplanes. Might appear stubborn at times, but his criticism is seldom out of place, and if you take the time to get to know him, you will be surprised by his open-mindedness.
Sarah looks back onto several impressive careers as hobo, radical eco-protester, artist and mediocre carpenter. In her current reincarnation she appears as translator, student of electrical engineering and drone racing enthusiast, and gets constantly scared of her own schedule (and life in general). Many years ago, she used to live in an eco community and would like to build on this experience to develop a more successful and grounded approach to leverage the power of community and develop a positive impulse for the region.
Karl is the son of Pedro and Sarah and still in school. He is at home in the internet, and if you need to buy a soviet era tank or want to find out what happens when you run 12.000V through a pickle, he will google it for you. He races drones like his mother, just faster
While Pedro is living on the farm full-time, Sarah and Karl are there only on weekends, but with the work on the project progressing, this is planned to be changing over time.
Where are we?
The Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in continental Portugal, and at its southern side stretches Cova da Beira with the City of Covilhã. Textile industry used to be the driving force in the city, nowadays it’s the local university that attracts people. Unfortunately the region suffers the same problem like other parts of rural Portugal far from the beaches: despite the beautiful surroundings and a great quality of life, it is very difficult for people to actually settle here. Work is hard to find and usually badly paid, and many students opt to move away after they finish university. We understand that changing this requires creativity and courage, and believe that the benefits can be immense. Therefore we want to join and increase the small network of pioneers who have started to appear in the area and contribute to the robustness and success of local sustainable business initiatives.
Where and how will you live during your stay?
We have several comfy rooms in our house, although in the summer heat it is usually better to sleep outside - often we put beds and hammocks on the terrace. There is a small apartment that can be prepared for long-term volunteers. In either case, we recommend bringing a mosquito net! Vegetarian and vegan dishes can be provided, but we do eat meat sometimes and will enjoy barbecues on the weekend. For your comfort in summer there is a small tank with fresh water (too small to call it a swimming pool, but still great when temperatures reach 40°C). The university town of Covilhã is not far, and Sarah will open her apartment once a week for guests who would like to discover the city nightlife.
Cooking / shopping
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
Help with Computers / internet
See the description above. There is a lot to learn here! If you are open-minded, curious and inquisitive, you will definitely grow here!
Our project is in the beginning stage and to get it going, we need your help. There is some cleaning and tidying to do before we can leave our old horse stable to the builders to renew the roof and transform it into rooms. The garden has been used as pasture during the past years and needs to be set up, together with a composting station. Along with the usual cooking and cleaning.
English, German, Portuguese, little Spanish, little French
We offer simple, but comfortable accommodations in three guest rooms (bathrooms are outside) or a small apartment for long-term volunteers. Warm water is available, Internet is available in and around our house.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
(max 25 hours/week) 5 hours, but sometimes more on one day, less on another. We don't exploit people, though, and have an open ear to your needs!