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End of First EVS Programme

posted 2 Apr 2017, 15:38 by Stella Ne   [ updated ]
Our First EVS-funded project has just finished!   EVS Project no: 2015-3-ES02-KA105-007134, dates 01/02/2016 - 30/04/2017 
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We are very proud of Maja & Nicola who completed an intensive year-long EVS programme with us. Here is a report on what & how they did.
Nicola did the whole year whilst learning to mother her first baby - a huge feat in itself, which delighted & inspired everyone around her -  & Maja used the experience to become a permanent member of our embryonic EcoVillage project, by setting up her ecobusiness during this time so she could be a financially independent member of the team here.

THANK YOU for being model students & volunteers, and doing a great job of leading our other interns here.



Two Great Interns

Originally we were planning to have Nicola from the UK and another volunteer from Slovakia, who however proved to be quite problematic so we had to ask her to leave.

Fortunately we had another application for volunteering here from Maja from Poland, who was very keen to work with us from time and was very suitable for this programme, so we asked our National Agency if we could change partners and fortunately they agreed. 
http://www.integralpermaculture.org

These two young women proved not only to be 
formidable members of the team but also worked very well together, and we are all very happy to have had the privilege of living and working closely with them both for such a great year!    

Below some of the things they achieved in all this time...

A great bonus that we offer to our long-term EVS volunteers is the possibility to complete the advanced PermaCulture curriculum offered by the Integral PermaCulture Academy.  Both did so well on that course that we enrolled them onto the Diploma-level course as an additional reward for all of their hard work & enthusiasm.

http://www.integralpermaculture.org




Their Own Evaluations

We had regular evaluation sessions where the volunteers described in their own words how they thought they were fulfilling (or not yet....) each of the objectives of the project.

Here are a few extracts (Nicola's in green, Maja's in purple):

Enterpreneurship

including accounting, team coordination, budgeting, mentoring and support of others, etc.

I am trying to work on my pro-active thinking. It is really important here, for morale that I try to offer constructive, creative problem solving suggestions instead of just critique.

One of the things that I am getting to practice is resilience, flexibility and perserverence, which are all very important for entrepreneurship. I am offering support to existing enterpreneuers and the team of people I work with, I am practicing organization and coordination and I am feeling more inspired.


<< Nicola, Romana (another EVS volunteer) and Zsofi (intern) creating a mosaic table

Learning to focus more on the big vision rather than being stuck with the everyday little challenges that can be discouraging. I am learning about the importance of people care. I am taking the responsibility for the hostel & that includes keeping record of who is here, whether and what they paid, soon I will have to take responsibility for managing the insurance. I appreciate the design class which give the criteria for good design in all 4 quadrants (2.1.). Which has given me some good ideas.

We had a mini class on transparent accounts & budget keeping. We are responsible for our book keeping & receipts. I am coordinating garden hour with a large team of people & this is going well.


When it comes to team management, I am coordinating 3 volunteers + work with them & there have been no problems. I've noticed that I've started to think in terms of well-being of other people and what they enjoy doing and what they are good at doing and to use this to our advantage. Also, I try to organise work that is interesting and diverse for these particular people.
Maja, Nicola and Zsofi building together a shelter for the sheep
Lama (one of my online supervisors) also pointed out in our interview- that I want to bring something new to this island, i.e. holistic grazing and that is enterpreneurial. In practice, it is still at the very beginning but I have quite a big vision with this holistic grazing on the island. It is still super exciting for me as the time passes.

I have started to feel much more initiative coming out of me. I can feel like my confidence necessary for leadership is growing. Recently I got to manage few volunteers and coordinate their work and I think I did a good job.


I am taking a part in a process of choosing new volunteers and participants for the next EVS project.

I continue to immerse myself in Re-evaluation Counselling theory and practice so I understand other people better and know better how to support them. Also, thanks to RC practice, I am slowly clearing the distresses that stay on my way to become fully intelligent and capable of effective leadership.


Learn and Practice Design

Especially building and all other aspects of the eco-technologies & living structures essential to any eco-village, which are best learnt by contributing to the infrastructure of the ecovillage project

I am feeling quite excited about the implementation of the chicken tractor. I made a sketch for how to connect each garden and for the fencing- and it was really satisfying to problem solve like that.

I am also taking more and more responsibility for the water systems here and I am feeling really good about the regular maintenance involved and my ability to problem solve and practically fix the problems.

I have been doing extensive observations on garden designs and the use of appropiate materials and where to put human energy and hope to display leadership in this area. I have installed a vast amount of automated watering systems, I am helping to construct a new nursery.

Really enjoying using mindmaps, I feel my eyes are open a little bit wider, I feel quite enthusiastic, the course is very useful, also the environment here.



Nicola and Luka are improving our solar shower
Maja repairing a stone wall in one of our gardens
I just took the responsibility for animal system design. This is quite big and complex and has a lot of loose ends. I'm just starting to take care of all of them, I feel quite confident in my abilities in this field, also in my ability to improve the design. I also feel quite excited about doing so.
With the animals though, it can take time to implement changes.

When it comes to construction, I spent quite a lot of time lately building the Domo.

This is mainly working with ferrocement. I am getting more and more confident with this material. I also made a few silly mistakes while building and now I will always keep them in mind for the future.


Community Living

Nicola and Jose preparing ferments from local produce
I have witnessed the displacement of the pedretea project which was designed to investigate the emotional aspects of living in community as well as practical.

It is interesting for me to have witnessed the large amount of people care that is required in community, the importance of shared values, the importance of group celebrations and appreciations and that in some way living in community is integrated as a part of a broader spiritual practice.

I am learning about the importance of discussion and living without dogma. It is also interesting designing the community that there is a time for everybody to do what needs to be done to make a progress in infrastructure and yet, to have enough time for people care.
Nicola in the garden she supervised
I am experiencing and witnessing emotional and mental challenges that we face when attempting to form a living community. Closeness required to live and work with somebody and the synthesis required is not one that is easily attained. I am enthusiastic to meet these challenges and work together to overcome them.

In charge of domestics with Maja I am face with the difficult task of creating a timetable that fulfills the needs of mothers, children, busy founders and new members. A timetable that provides for the PeopleCare needs for our physical needs of nourishment and relaxation and also which is productive and offers everyone adequate chance to contribute, this is though.


Maja, Giovanni, Eloise and Phil (interns) doing an artistic interpretation of the past week
By observing, analysing and engaging with different members of community, I learn not only what a community actually means in practice, but what is necessary to build and sustain it.

I am learning on my own example how critical in building a community is commitment and focusing your energy on one place and time, quite often leaving the past behind.

It is very difficult for me, sometimes feels heartbreaking, but every little step in this direction feels right.

I am learning how to form relationships with everyone present in the community, not only people with which I naturally 'click', and that is sometimes quite difficult.

I am learning a lot about creating and keeping my boundaries and in the same time to stay open for people around me. I learn how to think in terms of bigger 'we' - get out of strictly individualistic thinking.

I am being close with people with which I would not try to form any relationship otherwise, so I am learning how to move beyond personal differences and work together towards common goals.

I am learning how to overcome any difficulties that arise in relationships instead of running away. All of that learning is quite difficult, but what is going well is that I am doing it and I am very committed to go through all processes I have to.


Leadership and Teamwork Skills


The atmosphere at present is one where courage and leadership are needed and there is a space in which each person has to step up and fill. For me this is really exciting and is a chance to explore my ideas, blocks, inspirations and dreams.

Giving this chance I am attempting to take the first step, not to wait for prompting and to do so with wisdom and child-like enthusiasm.

This exercise means that I have to be open to receiving feedback, to questioning my ideas and actions and to strengthen my backbone.
Nicola and Romana transplanting tomatoes

Maja leading group work on a nursery - learning scaffolding
Recently I've been given a responsiblity to coordinate and manage a pair of volunteers. They left after one week. I noticed that I didn't give them enough attention and was not engaged enough thinking that they don't really need it. Also, I am still being shy, especially at the beginning and with new people, I am limiting my communication to necessary minimum.

I am really eager to gain those skills that I was always lacking and for the first time in my life I am interested inI was later coordinating another group of volunteers and I think I did pretty well. I got a feedback at the end from the oldest of them that I should dedicate more of my time and attention to them, check on their well-being and their work. He was right. I still have this really un-easy feeling about having small talks and making people feel comfortable, I have quite a few distresses about that. The volunteers keep coming and I am the coordinator, so the opportunities will come to develop this further.


Bioregional Perspective

Thinking / contributing to an ethical and sustainable bioregional economy and network of exchanges with skills and produce. Collaborating with and supporting other local projects, NGOs and charities so they can have a wider range of experiences and enrich the local collaboration network.

Given that the eco-village is designed to be as pioneering and sustainable as possible, that we have guests and students that come to learn and enjoy and see this - this feels like a good start to contributing to our local economy.

Also, the biodiversity and pioneering systems that we have involving animals, greatly add to the regions ecosystem and fertility. Through observation I’m learning that launching bioregional project need lots of dedication and time.


Nicola tending to chickens >>

I am learning that having good relationships with neighbors is crucial. Planning for the future with animals I can see how we will need to develop it further.
I am observing with interest the exchanges we make with other farmers, lately exchanging mostly animals.
I am trying to socialize with other people on the island to establish relationships outside of the farm.
We have an ongoing deal with the butcher in which she gives us animal produce and we give her our garden produce. I keep learning spanish in hope of developing more relationships with local people.

I get opportunities to attend to Gaiofas, which are an events for work exchange between neighbors. I do not attend all of them, but recently for example I was taking a part in a collective sheep shearing where I have met a lot of people involved in creating a local community and economy.
I look forward to find more events like that, attending them, making connections with people and searching for opportunities in which my participation would benefit us all.


Documentation of the Designs

I am doing well at drawing maps and diagrams and using mind maps for creating designs. The wiki system and the weekly design meetings at brunch are very effective for documenting design for collaboration and visioning for the future.
They also include holopticism so it is great. I feel inspired about documenting designs and I start to see the importance and benefits of it.

Using the newsletter as an excuse to record the progress of the garden with photos and videos thanks to Maja (B).

Also, the opportunities for dialogue in forming relationships and in taking leadership in a transparent way have led to great documentation of requests, emotional processes and thought clearing.


<< Maja on the fields with the sheep

I am documenting my design on Holistic Grazing, I'm a bit overwhelmed with amount of pictures I have to be making for that and uploading them and putting together in a nice story.

I do that though with the garden we are working on (recent newsletter).


Becoming Permaculture Designers!

Acquire knowledge of permaculture design.

It is great because we started to watch the classes together again in the library. We are now watching classes on design techniques and principles. Given that permaculture is just a design science, that's pretty good start. I am helping with the chickens and seeing the cycle of compost and food that they are involved in. Here at 8thLife, everything from brunch meetings to sacred rituals to the garden to the kitchen are permaculture design projects, so I have many examples and ideas to learn from and implement and enjoy.

Maja, Nicola and Luka making guttering from recycled materials
I very much enjoyed M3 on the soil and I find it very useful to solidify my knowledge of SoilCare and to enthuse me when it comes to designing a garden and caring for it.

I have almost completed M1 on People Care, for me one of the most inspiring things about this module was to know that people who I live with aspire to using their intelligence and design to create healthy environments and healthy humans. The fact that this is module 1 is brilliants, because it is a recognition that forming healthy relationships and giving people good tools and education on relationships and community building is the first slice of the cake in nourishing the world and our communities. Without healthy inspired, committed individuals who work together, nothing can change. The fact that Permaculture Design is an integral process which focuses on the internal aspects of being alive, the external aspects of living together and integrating this with the environment, culture and science to create greater collective consciousness was news to me. The best news I have heard for a long time, because finally we have a subject where system of design which could save humanity and a world. I have just started M2 on design techniques and I'm excited.


Maja preparing for some grinding!
I have done few classes form M1 and now I am starting M2. The classes are very comprehensive and rich in information. I enjoy doing the mind maps, I would like to take some time to review them later and read some materials in the e-book, to go deeper into the subject.

I am just in the middle of class about integral model. I really enjoyed it, it's amazing work that has been done to create this model, I can't wait to finish it, hear about applications and think about them myself.

I really like doing the classes, they are all very inspiring.

In the meantime of doing the classes I learn about permaculture design in all its aspects while listening attentively to the teachers that take every opportunity to explain things extensively.

The most interesting part for me at this moment is about building community and leadership skills, what I learn in practice and read helpful materials about it that I find in the library. Can't wait to start doing the classes!


Future Employment

The project envisages gaining new skills and knowledges by the volunteers which will help increase their chances at the labour market and provide good opportunities for career growth and thus contribute to the development of their own country upon their return.

I can feel my enthusiasm and boldness regenerating which is brilliant. Taking leadership, finding the energy to do what needs to be done, creating effective teamwork.... They are all in sharper focus at the moment and I am enjoying it. Certainly, these skills are some of the most fundamental ones for the labour market and this is a great place to practice them. Also, the course, Stefania's open sharing and high standards give a great place to refine a sense of aesthetic and morality in these areas.

<< Maja got very good at metalwork & taught lots of others to do it

I feel that I grow with every day. I have never felt ready to even enter the labour market, after graduating from university I found myself full of theoretical knowledge and no experience in even simple human communication.

Here I grow stronger, more confident and clear about my values and what I want to do in life. That in itself makes my chances everywhere, not just the labour market, increasing.    As I will develop my design, learn more and gain more experience it will get better and better.






Final Presentations

<< Not all of it was work! One of our days at the seaside nearby

So, as described above, the primary objective of this project was to provide the volunteers with the opportunity to learn basic entrepreneur skills, inclusion and participation, as well as acquire knowledge of design, build and all aspects of the eco-technologies & living structures essential to an eco-village, whilst living and working in community, also thinking of how to contribute to an ethical and sustainable bioregional economy.

In Integral Permaculture we call all of this 'integral design' and we ask all of our interns to create an end of project presentation where they summarize what they have learned through the practical designs that they have worked on.

Nicola's & Maja's presentations were done on the farm in front of their peers and tutors, with simultaneous broadcast on google hangout live stream so that Stef & Pepa could also see them, as they weren't on site at the time. This also meant that the presentations were recorded on video. Here you can see the full recording ... but because it is very long (one hour!) we have edited the two parts into two shorter videos below:

Nicola's spanish improved a great deal whilst with us and so was able to do hers in two languages!
Whilst giving attention to her one year old Luka ...

Nicola's Presentation

Video


Slides

Nicola EVS Presentation




Maja's Presentation

Video
 

Slides

Maja's EVS presentation






Permaculture Design Portfolios

This project was also designed to document all of their process so it can be shared with other practitioners worldwide through their design portfolios (which will also serve as proof of their capabilities in design, implementation and especially leadership and teamwork skills).

Although many of the designs that both Nicola & Maja have worked on are still in the private spaces (not yet ready for publishing), some of their designs are, and all will, with time, appear on these, their respective online design portfolios:


Nicola's portfolio link coming up soon ...


Maja's Design Portfolio

Maja in particular had a very clear idea right from the beginning of her time with us that she was most interested in soil fertility, and she was delighted to find out about holistic grazing, a science we teach on the course which is very important for reversing climate change, and which we practice here with our small herd of sheep.

None of us had had the time and dedication however to document this process, and Maja started doing so in a very thorough, scientific and well-presented way, also thanks to the deep affection and connection she developed with the sheep.

That is the most developed and impressive design to date in her design portfolio & it started with her mapping the various paddocks we use throughout the year to rotate the sheep through (see map).



Social Media Outputs

https://sites.google.com/site/gaiabigsis/when/volunteering#TOC-Media-person
Even though we had set out to produce an abundant of multimedia to share the learning and results of this project, it actually proved quite difficult to get our EVS volunteers to make videos or write articles, mainly because the work schedule, their doing a quite intensive permaculture course during this time, and taking on multiple real responsibilities tended to push this extra task to the bottom of the pile ...
(although, on top of that, not having much experience or particular interest in video-making was an important factor).

From this we learned that it would be a good idea in the future to have one EVS volunteer who is interested in focusing on media work to join the team and fulfill that niche ... 

But despite these setbacks, by the end of the year we did have some videos produced by the EVS volunteers, as they bravely learned to make & upload - but unfortunately not to edit - videos.

For example Nicola very kindly made quite a comprehensive video manual for our internal design wiki (mostly of videos like this one), as part of her handover of the garden coordination role she had been taking on for the year, just before she finished her time here.  Coordinating the gardens included teaching many people basics gardening skills like sowing, planting & plant identification during that time, and making new garden structures, as well as some keys for successful growing of abundant vegetables for the whole community.

Maja bravely battled with her shyness in order to make various videos of the design projects she was coordinating,
like this one introducing the camping site, for which she also designed & created this additional page in our web.

The camping site will eventually be part of her eco-business here at the ecovillage, as she worked on improving its infrastructure in the forest garden area during her EVS project time here, whilst she also practiced doing the administration work required to process guests inquiries & bookings.  
And later, she - very capably - took on the additional job of supervising volunteers to help her with this project.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/8thLife/permalink/1132564740114484/
But the main way in which Maja & Nicola enriched our media output  
- very important in fulfilling our mission of inspiring and informing others to make positive changes in their lives and communities -
was by collaborating in creating our project newsletters,
like Spring BlossomsEVS Experiences and Growing GardensSpring News & others...

as well as adding regular photos & short descriptions of their work to our ecovillage Facebook group
like these ones below
- click on each picture to see the corresponding Facebook entry, where you can also comment or ask questions.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/8thLife/permalink/1261104600593830/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/8thLife/permalink/1241466525890971/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/8thLife/permalink/1256373921066898/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/8thLife/permalink/1253256831378607/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/8thLife/permalink/1170211123016512/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/8thLife/permalink/1249088461795444/












.... there is more to this story .... coming up soon!


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