A Rocha was invited by Secondary School Júlio Dantas to attend celebrations of the international day of human rights. We presented a small lecture on environmental volunteering, the European Voluntary Service and the experience of volunteering A Rocha. In the final part of the presentation three EVS volunteers spoke: Olga Mikhaleva (Russian), Hannah Roberts (English) and Lieske De Wilde (Dutch). They had the opportunity to share their experiences with students of the 9th, 10th and 11th years (aged 14-16).

Hannah Roberts: “I found it encouraging to share my experience of volunteering with A Rocha at the school. We were asked to talk only for a few minutes; preparing firstly what we had studied (including whether we did a masters). Then secondly and more importantly, how and why we came to volunteer with A Rocha and the EVS program here in Portugal. Although the students did not want the available translation, I managed some of my talk in Portuguese. There was also the opportunity for us to hear from “Centro de formação Rui Gracio”; part of the school to train teachers. We heard about the exchange experience with schools and teaching in Cameroon.”

A Rocha had been invited to share the exhibition of the week of biodiversity of the Algarve until the second week of January 2013, in the school library. Below is a copy of roughly what each volunteer said.

My name is Olga. I come from Russia, Siberia, from the city called Irkutsk. My city is located 8000 km from here. I am 24. I graduated from Linguistic University in Irkutsk. Now I am a teacher of German and English. I studied 5 years to do my degree, which is some more than bachelors but not enough for a masters.

After graduating I decided to do EVS – European Voluntary Service. It was a nice thing to do between studying and job. And the concept of volunteering was not new for me. So I’ve chosen an environmental organisation and it happened to be in Portugal. That’s why I am here. I am with A Rocha, helping with some research about moths, and also doing a scientific project with plants. I also had a big organic farming project, but it was in summer, and now it is finished.

As you all can see, the theme of my volunteering is completely different from what I studied at University. All these things I’ve learned here. And that’s why I think that it is a great opportunity to go to a new place, learn new things, see what you like or may be don’t like, and travel abroad. It is wonderful and it is paid by European Union.

Of course being a volunteer is important not only for you, but also for the community, for people and for nature. You help others and at the same time you learn a lot, you develop yourself. I am absolutely happy with everything that I do here and I feel sad that it is going to finish soon.

Hi, Im Hannah, English and 24years old. At university I studied Maths and Physics, joint honours course. But after one year, I changed course because the two subjects were separate, even though they clearly relate. Therefore, I was only able to change to Theoretical and Computational Physics, without re-doing a year of study. After this I stayed on as I wanted to learn more about computers, and different types of programming. So I completed a full year’s taught scientific masters in Information Technology.

I was able to get a full time job, where I had worked in many of my university holidays. This was through a part sponsorship agreement. They gave me some money towards my tuition fees and I would work for 1 year after with them.

My answers to “Why did you decided to volunteer, Why Portugal / (A Rocha), Why EVS scheme” are not straight forward and come more from the result of what I will say next:

The work had moved away from my preferred area of web design and since I am also passionate about people, I began looking for a new job. After seeing many office based web design jobs, which would still be simply a computer and I, almost every day, I looked on only two Christian websites.

I had heard about A Rocha, through my church and the environmental protection they had been trying to encourage. I was impressed and share similar views. Thankfully there was an advertisement for a web designer, for A Rocha, Portugal. I applied and was accepted; only later hearing it was voluntary and with this thing called the EVS scheme. I was not unhappy; I could live in and experience a different culture and country. Although I had initially thought it was a job, I can see there are many benefits of volunteering. You can work hard and live in community with others in the same situation and not for the money.

Therefore I have been improving the current web design and am involved in creating an entirely new website for A Rocha Portugal.

I am Lieske, 24 years old from Holland. I have my masters in forest and nature conservation, specialisation ecology.

I do this year of EVS between my studies and a future ‘normal’ job. This year at A Rocha I am studying the water quality of the Alvor Estuary. The estuary is important for nature and people, for example it is used for shellfishing and swimming. Therefore good water quality is important for the health of the people and nature.

I volunteer at A Rocha because I like the organisation and I would like to gain some more work experience. What I like about volunteering is that you help others, but you learn a lot as well. For example, you learn what you like to do and what not, and you learn to work together with people of different nationalities.