Volunteers gain skills while living in an ecovillage

Lucia, Katrin and Carolin with Esther Hirsch, office manager at GEN

Carolin Waldmann, Katrin Hasselwander and Lucia Roque are volunteers in Scotland making a difference by working towards a more sustainable world.

They are spending one year in an ecovillage located in Findhorn, Moray, taking part in a project called Sustainable Skills for Ecovillage Development, run by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN).

Since 2019 is the Year of Green Action in the UK (a year-long drive to get more people from all backgrounds involved in projects to improve the natural world), we invited these volunteers to reflect on what they are learning, what life in an ecovillage is like and how communities could live more sustainably. 

Improving language and IT skills

Carolin Waldmann
Carolin Waldmann

German volunteer Carolin Waldmann, 19 years old, had taken part in several climate change projects, but wanted to spend a longer period in an ecovillage. Without previous work experience, she is now learning organisational skills, as well as how to communicate with colleagues who work remotely. Carolin tells us how she feels part of a likeminded and inspiring circle:

‘I wanted to get more insights into the work of an international NGO in the area of sustainability. I also wanted to improve my language skills, and going abroad is obviously the best way to do this! The European Solidarity Corp seemed to me as the perfect possibility to fulfil my wishes and needs. I feel privileged to participate in the project without paying a fee, because my costs are covered by the Solidarity Corps.

In my placement, I have learned more about project management and basic administrative tasks, community life and approaches for a more sustainable and resilient world. In the community and with my colleagues in the office, I’ve learned how to communicate and maintain relationships in a clear and loving way, allowing us to support each other and work through any personal issues that come up. All the skills I have gained are of use for my future, because I want to continue living in a community, and my professional future will also be in the field of sustainability and the restoration/healing of human and ecological systems.’

A sense of belonging, purpose and hope

Also from Germany, Katrin Hasselwander is 21 years old, and studied Ecology and Environmental Planning in Berlin. After spending a month in a spiritual eco-community in Thailand in 2018, she felt a ‘strong calling’ to live in a community and contribute more to the world. Katrin says she feels part of an inspirational movement and can give back to the place and the people she meets:

‘After participating in GEN’s online summit, I realised once again how uncomfortable and disconnected I felt with my studies and the city I was living in. However, I felt too hindered by my insecurities and money issues to walk my path. When I saw an info sheet about the Solidarity Corps placement, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity for me. I wanted to be part of the ecovillage movement and a community, because it gives me a sense of belonging, purpose and hope.

Katrin Hasselwander
Katrin Hasselwander

I wanted to experience work in an international NGO and acquire relevant professional skills, enabling me to dive deeper into the ecovillage reality and grow personally.

We have caring mentors (both work-related and for our own wellbeing and empowerment) and sessions on sustainability, herbalism, emotional literacy skills, possibility management etc. I’m involved in different areas, such as networking and communication. One morning per week, I work in the garden, which is very fulfilling.

I learn about using different tools (Google Drive, task management systems etc.) that can be useful for future employment. Through theoretical and practical input, I learn more about the dimensions of sustainability (social, economic, cultural, ecological). 

Living in a spiritual community helps me to become more in tune with myself, learn how to communicate consciously and show myself authentically. It’s an intense place to be, but I find ways to empower myself and see this as learning for life experience.’ 

Empowered citizens

Lucia Roque is 29 years old and holds both French and Portuguese nationalities. Since completing her Biomedical Engineering studies five years ago, she has been travelling around the world. After living in a village in north Sweden, Lucia was looking for a place with more opportunities – and she found it:

‘My strained financial situation gave me very few options, apart from moving to a city (when I would rather live in the countryside) and looking for a job with little chance of fulfilling me. I came across this European Solidarity Corps opportunity by chance, and it fitted my needs exactly.

‘I could move to an exciting ecovillage in the countryside and take part in professional activities that were in tune with my values and interests – and all this was independent from my financial situation.’

Flexibility, diversity and freedom are very important aspects of life for me, and I have found it while volunteering at GEN. I can contribute to different projects, and there’s plenty of ways for me to grow. I’m surrounded by a living community and natural environment, which bring me a lot of inspiration, deep encounters and peace. 

I’ve learned about networking, social movements connected with climate resilience, education and ecosystem restoration, the contribution of NGOs, permaculture and practical ways of living with nature. I’ve learned that cooperation between empowered citizens can really make a difference, and about how to integrate spiritual practice into community life.

For the future, it gives me a clearer understanding of how I can carry forward my own professional projects, how I can network with supportive individuals and how to integrate a more holistic approach in my professional life. And it gives me hope.’

Read more young people’s experiences on the Stories section of our website

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