European Solidarity Corps participants learn new skills for work, and how to combine them with a sustainable lifestyle, in an ecovillage in Scotland.
Within the Sustainable Skills for Ecovillage Development project, run by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), volunteers take part in the daily work of the organisation for one year, developing skills that increase employability while fully collaborating to the community.
The project is located and developed in Findhorn, a village in Moray, in partnership with the Findhorn Foundation Community and Ecovillage. GEN has hosted volunteers for four years now – previously, via the European Voluntary Service (EVS), and now thanks to the European Solidarity Corps.
‘This project will offer participants a structured, experiential learning journey over the course of 12 months, to support the development of a range of skills, knowledge and tools that will lead them to a diverse array of meaningful and sustainable livelihood opportunities, and enable them to become effective and inspiring leaders able to bring about positive change in their communities’, Esther Hirsch, office manager at GEN, tells us.
The project aims to support young people in gaining experience in project delivery, whilst developing communication and cooperation tools. The volunteers have the chance to experience working in an international and multicultural environment, as the organisation is composed of five regional networks around the globe.
Apart from learning about sustainability and topics such as permaculture and herbalism, the volunteers have sessions for their personal development – from emotional literacy skills to possibility management.
Volunteer Carolin Waldmann, a 19-year-old from Germany, is in a placement in the ecovillage with two other European Solidarity Corps participants. She does office-based tasks, mainly supporting the project management in the areas of education and consultancy. In between, she also does tasks such as taking parcels to the post office in the village nearby.
Carolin feels embedded in a wide circle of people that are ‘likeminded and inspiring’. She also highlights the support offered by her placement – from a social mentor, a work mentor and the people from the Findhorn Foundation. She says:
‘It is a unique opportunity for me to work with an international NGO without any professional background. It really feels like “learning by doing”, which catalyses my learning journey’.
Esther adds that the volunteers are also ‘able to bring their fresh and unbiased point of view to the team and work’:
Through their creativity, different opinions and experiences, they help the whole organisation to think outside the box. Their work effort allows us to move the project forward. At the same time, all participants have been a great addition to the Findhorn Foundation Community through their community and social engagement during their year with GEN and in Findhorn.
A charity organisation running several projects in developing countries, the organisation is also aware of the importance of making their projects inclusive by supporting people with fewer opportunities and greater needs, such as those with difficult economic conditions or experiencing social discrimination (gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnic background).
‘Through additional mentorship and an educational programme, we are supporting them to deepen their skills and knowledge, as well as strengthen their self-confidence and engagement’, says Esther.
At the local level, the participants bring their cultural background into local Scottish environments, leading to greater cultural awareness in the community. By supporting these volunteers in areas of personal development, as well as skill building in project development that is geared toward addressing sustainable development, the organisation expects that the profile of pressing global issues at an international level will be raised.