Archive for the ‘Volunteers Stories’ Category:

Volunteer stories – Florrie

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My name is Florrie and I am 12. I come from Devon, UK. I really enjoyed my stay here at Sunseed. I was worried that there wasn’t going to be very much for children to do here, but there were plenty of projects that we could get involved in.

My two sisters (5), (2) and I were given a special project while we were here which was to build a bug hotel.  We researched in the Sunseed library the habitats that different bugs liked and put together a general idea of what the bug hotel would include and what it would look like.

We created a bug hotel to attract more useful bugs to the gardens, keep the pests away and make them more colourful, productive and attractive.

The project was really fun and it took us all week to complete.It was good because it gave us something to do and gave us a target for our stay and it was great to see it through to completion.We only stayed for a week because we wanted to see how suitable it was for children, but it turned out it was really fun and interactive and I would recommend coming if you have children.

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Human Experiences – Dimitra

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DSC00241Hello future sunseeders,

My name is Dimitra and I’m from Athens, Greece. My experience here has been life-changing, so I wanted to write it down to remember. And then I thought what the heck… I might as well make it public, I can get credit for inspiring a couple of people…

Having visited a community in my island of origin in Greece (who themselves gave a good feedback of this place) I was expecting to go somewhere the same. So, when I arrived in a way I was disappointed. I thought I had more extreme ideas than everyone here and therefore, arrogantly believed there wasn’t much this place could teach me, other than practicalities.

But the reality of staying for six months on location proved to be very different than my initial impressions and taught me many unexpectedly new things as well as provided me with an environment to discover many surprises about myself.

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As far as my belief system is concerned, since my environmental ethics were already as strong as it gets, it was more of a personal development gain. I got initiated into the world of female empowerment through learning how we physically function by nature and recognising socially and economically constructed false images about our bodies. This had a huge impact on me. I started seeing my body with its cycle and its needs more as a gift than a burden and became less and less affected by pressures of how I should look, dress, speak and behave. When I arrived I found having to work and live by schedule, really hard and by the time I left, I had not only gotten used to it but consider it a very valuable tool that I implement in my life now even without having to.

I interacted with the most inspirational people of diverse background that its one of them opened my mind to a new view of life. The circumstances gave me time to get to know myself better by observing what does and what doesn’t make me happy and recognise, accept and face problematic patterns within myself and my relationship with others. For example for the first time in my life I realised that being around people all the time is not the ideal for me and I rather prefer a balance between this and spending time by myself reflecting. I had also the space which allowed my creativity to flourish (I am referring to learning how to knit, of course, my latest passion as most people who met me would remember hahahhaha).

Now, concerning the actual low-impact living education… I grew up in an environment where all these kind of alternative happenings seemed as far and foreign as following the plot of your favourite tv series. (Ironically I was even watching a web series about ecovillages named Living in the future.) So, it felt like I was finally at the center of all the action and could see with my own eyes what my ideas practically entail. For sure I had my struggles with the lack of comforts (certain I found unnecessary and others made me proud of getting used to) but no matter my complaints, I believe it was a living far more luxurious than what I’m used to in a capital city. Definitely the community has many defaults and is itself a learning experiment. After all it is created by people and as part it for however long you feel your very own contribution to its shape.

What I most importantly left from there with is the confirmation to myself that this way of life is what makes me happy and the confidence that it can be my reality in the near future. I’m highly motivated now not to let this remain a distant fantasy and to pursue it in similar places all over the world (and possibly Sunseed itself again someday…<3)

DSC00346Dimitra did her internship at Sunseed with the Erasmus placement grant for 6 months between October 2013 and April 2014.

Human Experiences – JeeYun

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Sunseed is primarily an educational project and investigation in how to promote a more sustainable way of life and more respectful connection to nature. But it is also a full human experience. So the question of the day is : How has Sunseed changed your relationship with people, and what did you learn about human relations ?

JeeYun’s experience, volunteer for one month in Sunseed June 2014.

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> So, tell a bit about yourself ?

“I am 38 years old, I was living in New York but I left everything to start a new page in my life and I was looking for an alternative life. For around 20 years I have been an artist and designer. I usually work with reclaimed materials especially wood and objects I’ve found .

> Why did you decide to come to Sunseed ?

I have been interested in alternative living since I was young. In the past I had some experiences but then I started a kind of business, I was making feather earrings, I was working all day long, and I was shocked about the contrast between me and my customers. I was just loosing myself with that business. I needed something new, something more simple and more relaxed.

> What do you think about this way of life, I mean to live in a community and about Sunseed’s philosophy ?

We should be living in a community ! When I was working in New York, with my feather earrings, I was alone and I realized how disconnected I was before coming here. I don’t feel anger anymore.I don’t feel any aggression against some people. I am feeling kinder and more understanding. Less judge mental.

I realized how important it is for me to work outside. I got again my artistic inspiration and my creative energy came out ! And, as well, I’m feeling healthier.

> Of your time in Sunseed, what are the experiences that you will share with your friends back home ?

It was my first community experience about the way life in a community should be ! Every aspect of my experience here has met my expectations of what an ideal community would be like

It is open to everybody. It is kind of like a new family, there is no weird religious aspects for example.

This way of life is a kind of revolution !”

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Southampton University´s Environmental Science Student Society´s Visit to Sunseed

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DSCF0094Sunseed just recently welcomed Southampton University´s Environmental Science Student Society for a full week of activities, workshops and learning at Sunseed. The society contacted us last year to inquire about a week of putting their environmental science studies and ideas into practice, as well wanting a sociable week away together. We are pleased to say that the week was a great success for both us and all the gang from Southampton.

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A full week was had. There were seminars for example on tea composting, cromotography of soil, the concept of appropriate technology and how to make clay masks. The students also got involved in the gardens, collecting cana, helping with the compost toilet renovation and the cleaning of our irrigation line.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACompost Tea Seminar 2There was also a lot of time for socialising, exploring our valley and local area. We really enjoyed having everyone from Southampton University. It was a special week and a great start to the Spring!

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If you are a member of a student society and are interested in organising a week of practical, informal learning about low environmental impact living in Spain then please do get in touch!

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Sunseed welcomes EVS volunteers

indexSunseed has just recently welcomed its first European Voluntary Service volunteers. For six months, Joanne from the UK, Claudia and Andreia from Portugal will be with us sharing in the Sunseed experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJoanne in the Sunseed gardens

To host volunteers from EVS is a positive step forward for Sunseed as a project, and hopefully something that will grow from strength to strength. The European Volunteer Service an opportunity for young people up to the age of 30 to receive a rich and once in a lifetime volunteering experience. Financed by the European Union, the EVS scheme aims to encourage active citizenship, informal learning through action and cooperation, the importance of promoting solidarity, tolerance and knowledge sharing as well as the development of international respect for current and future generations. Values and ideas which Sunseed fully share.

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Our philosophy at Sunseed is learning by doing, and is a source of knowledge for many people, especially young people, who after spending sometime in Sunseed, realise that they themselves are agents of change in our society. The various tasks and daily work that we do, from working in the garden to cooking for a group, to public speaking, to developing a project with the help of a coordinator, are factors that motivate and empower the volunteers. Thanks to the fact that all the activities take place communally with people from different backgrounds and origins, the volunteers have the opportunity to discover and experience the beauty and benefits of team work, as well as youth social participation. These ideas have been practiced for almost thirty years at Sunseed and it is great that the EVS scheme has recognised this.

So we welcome Andreia, Joanne and Claudia to our project and really hope that they have the full EVS experience with us over the next 6 months!

A family holiday at Sunseed

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DSCF0333So what’s it like going to Sunseed if you are the parent of young children? The website tells you that, “children are welcome but they are the responsibility of their parents”, which doesn’t really tell you that much so I thought I’d put down a few thoughts based on two short holidays (one and two weeks on consecutive years) with our daughter who was 4 and then 5 years old when we stayed. The first point would be to say that both holidays were outstanding successes. Maybe the second is that the website speaks true – children are welcome and are very much made welcome, but the project is set up for adults and you will probably be the only parents on site. However while your children do “remain your responsibility”, I’d say Sunseed (and the whole village of Los Molinos) works on an ‘alternative’, human-centred ethos, which means there is an unusually high proportion of child-friendly people there. It also depends on what sort of family you are – if you feel at home going camping with your children at a music festival you’ll feel right at home in Los Molinos. On both visits, our daughter was semi-adopted by gardeners and disappeared for hours planting, weeding and watering. You can’t demand it’s going to happen but it happened to us. There are no cars in the village (the roads are too small) so you really don’t need to worry if children wander off and explore on their own – the village tumbles down a beautiful valley side to a small, slow-flowing river at the bottom and is criss-crossed with dozens of little paths, steps and gardens which children are free to run around and discover for themselves. The river itself is mostly accessed from the project by gates which give a natural boundary for parents to give to children – not past the gate! Although if they can swim and you think they are old enough, there is wonderful wild swimming where you will almost certainly be accompanied by wild turtles and of course dragonflies. I loved Los Molinos every time I’ve stayed there but here are the Pros and Cons that might help you decide if it’s somewhere you should visit with your child or children DSCF0224Pros The Food. Especially if you are vegetarian (it’s a meat-free project). Delicious, organic and lots of it. Come in the autumn and you and your children will be eating figs, pomegranites and grapes straight from the tree. All year round they (and you) will be eating food they’ve helped harvest from the gardens. The ‘Festival vibe’. The village of Los Molinos is small but there’s always something going on, a workshop, a jam session, a talk, a tour. Or sometimes just some impromptu flamenco on one of the terraces. You’ll find a lot of friendly open people passing through Babysitting. Certainly not a given but we have always found a friendly young volunteer who we have been happy to trust to babysit our daughter if we’ve wanted to go out. Are you unconventional in some way? A single parent? A vegan parent? A gay parent? It’s hard to imagine somewhere that values the ‘conventional’ less than Los Molinos. In our experience you are a human being first here. Nature. Do your children love the wild? There are lizards, turtles in the river. There are little watercourses, old Moorish acequias running through the village with frogs and pond skaters and so on. There are birds – hoopoes, bee-eaters, nightingales. If they love being out in the wilds they will love Los Molinos. If they are very indoorsy maybe not. The Sociability. Parents’ social lives are often pretty limited by having children with them but Sunseed and Los Molinos are places where there are plenty of people from all over Europe passing through and hanging out. You’ll meet a huge variety of people on the patio right outside the project’s Main House. Cons Maybe food? It depends what your children are like. Our daughter is going through a relatively picky phase but she’s done ok. We bought little top-up snacks at the local town – breadsticks and so on which she can eat when she needs them. If yours are being super-picky they might not like the veggie platters, but if the worst comes to the worst you can always cook them something in the kitchen although I think that’d get a bit tedious. Part of the point of communal living is only having to cook a meal once a week. The weather. It’s pretty cold in the winter and very hot in the summer which can both be a bit much for young children, especially fair-skinned ones. Best times are March-April and October-November which are often a bit like English summer’s days. If you or your children are disabled you might find the village of Los Molinos a struggle. There are a lot of steps and steep slopes. Harder to pull your weight? It depends a bit on your personal psychology this one. Volunteers at Sunseed work on the project for half a day during the week and it can be tricky to feel that you are really pulling your weight if you are trying to fit a certain amount of childcare into that process. In our visits I’ve never felt that we were a burden but others might. Not many other children. When we lived at Sunseed 5 years ago our daughter was the only child in the village. As of this year (2014) there are three children aged between 2 and 3 and this will probably increase but Los Molinos is not full of children so it depends how good yours are at entertaining themselves and interacting with adults. But it’d be a fantastic place for families to come together and share the adventure together. You’re a long way from modernity – if you think your children can’t live without constant internet access, 24 hour mobile contact with their friends, spotless tiled bathrooms with limitless water and many of the other trappings of modernity then Los Molinos and Sunseed might be a step too far.

A day in Eco-construction

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Hello, I’ve been a volunteer in Sunseed for the last 4 months but only last week I decided to join the ecoconstruction department. I always had in my mind the image of the ecoconstruction site as a place full of men doing heavy physical labour and was unsure whether I’d be able to keep up. But I discovered, it is so not the case…
Today, after clearing out some areas by removing away stuff (which warmed me up and gave me a good wake up), we continued with rendering. Rendering is putting a semi-liquid white mixture on rough walls to give them that smooth feeling and typical look of the houses in the area. The materials we use differ depending on whether it’s the outside or the inside surface of a wall. For the inside surface, we mix water with gypsum, a material with properties that regulate the humidity coming from the outside climate.

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In our case, the surface was on the outside. So we used a mixture of marble, lime and water. This is absorbent, which makes it ideal for avoiding ersosion from the rain. The area in which we were working was the roof of the kitchen in Isabella’s. On a sunny day like this, there couldn’t be a better working spot. The only downside to that was that to get up there, we needed to climb up a ladder, which with the weight of the materials and my fear of heights, wasn’t an easy task at first. But after getting the hang of it, I can now proudly add it to my list of newly  learned skills. In addition, the view of the valley from up there was amazing. And at some point, while waiting for Mirko (he’s the ecoconstruction assistant) to clean the tools we were going to use, I got absorbed to the sounds he was making and along with focusing on the singing of the birds, the neighbours’ working and the occasional trucks passing by the near road, I dived into a short meditation.

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The work itself is a true form of art. First with a sponge you wet well the surface you’re going to work at. You put some material on your palet and then using a trowel you apply it on the wall. The idea is to give it an, as much as possible, harmonious shape. You wait for it to be just a little bit drier and then using a slightly wet sponge you move your hands in eight like motions to give the surface a more homogenic look. Even the most skilled renderer cannot do this in one time only. The process is repeated until the shape is satisfactory to the eye. Ah and very important, always remember to clean the tools after, before leaving for a long time like e.g. to eat lunch.

And to do all this under the warmth of the midday sunwhile having nice chats and laughter. It’s great working amongst friends. During breaktime, Leo (the ecoconstruction coordinator) told me and my friend Nacha a beautiful story about the origin of the materials we use and their creation inside the earth. Actually it was more encyclopedic information but being said in  Spanish (out respect for Nacha who’s not very comfortable with English just yet) and combined with my pride of managing to understand almost all of it, made it incredibly beautiful to my ears.


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And to think that I didn’t  want to get out of my bed this morning…

By Dimitra ( intern at Sunseed for 6 months (all winter)!)

Story of Rabbiya

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Life at Sunseed – Rabbiya Naveed

rabbiya1At the first glimpse, Sunseed appears like a rather ordinary not-so-well maintained place. At Sunseed, we bake our own bread and jams, harvest our own crops, use seasonal fruits only, exploit the solar energy, use urinals and compost toilets, use organic products, recycle our waste, use limited Internet and say goodbye to a chemical-enriched life. For anyone, this package is a bit hard to digest initially. To be honest, I kept delaying using a compost toilet till my intestines gave up. I regret that.

However, in less than three days I had adapted to the lifestyle and started enjoying the tranquility of the place. Sunseed is located in the middle of mountains and caves, and has been blessed with a natural swimming pool which is an absolute delight during the summer. There is no such thing as ‘working’ at Sunseed. What we are assigned is our responsibility and what we do is what we owe to nature. All the staff members and volunteers live like a family in a community with the motto of minimizing the impact on the environment. Sustainability first! 

I can write a w2013-07-05 23.38.19hole journal about my experience at Sunseed and how little bits from every single day have taught me one thing or the other. At the Appropriate Technology Department, I have worked on a few projects like Fuel Gasifiers, Establishment of a Compost Toilet Light System, Maintenance of Solar Panels etc. I always had a strong inclination towards Sustainable Engineering and working on these projects has only strengthened my resolve and reinforced my belief that Engineering techniques can indeed push technological development further whilst staying within the shell of sustainability. I can’t help thinking that if such a lifestyle was implemented on a larger scale, global problems like energy crises could be tackled to a substantial extent.

Sunseed has taught me that every individual has his own niche in the environment and something unique to contribute to the world. It has taught me that writing and speaking about sustainability and environmental conservation is one thing, but taking a step to bring rabbiya6a real change is a completely different ball game. It has taught me to value nature and it’s products and has reinforced the tranquillity of the natural world in my mind. It has taught me that low impact living extends from our kitchens to our toilets and is perfectly viable. All in all, my experience at Sunseed has taught me how to minimise my carbon footprint without compromising on my comfort and ease. 

I already feel guilty by the thought of the lifestyle I used to have. I will always value the time I have spent at Sunseed and given an option, I would’t exchange it for any other opportunity. I would highly encourage everyone to spend some time of their lives dedicated to a similar cause. It will be an extremely vital experience to put things in perspective. I want to thank all the Coordiantors at Sunseed for their guidance and for making all the volunteers believe that ‘Yes, we can!’, all the volunteers who turned out to be amazing friends for the absolutely lovely time I have spent with them, and Chitto for being the best demonstrator one could have.  

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Lucia´s Story

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I guess you people are expecting a long recounting of all the things that happened to me during my six month stay, some sort of big walk down Memory Lane, but I won’t do that.

I’m going to tell you a different kind of story.

And so here it goes, here’s how Sunseed changed my way of viewing life…

There is a point in life in which you may feel like you are not going anywhere and you don’t have anything to give anymore: that usually means that you really need a change. That’s the situation I found myself in a few months after graduating from college, more than a year ago.

At that time, when thinking about my future, I used to get really scared – sometimes I would tell myself I wouldn’t even get a real one. Now I’m not afraid anymore. Now I’m aware of what I can do. Now, when that word comes to my mind, I can actually see one and it’s thrilling, it’s exciting but most of all, it’s real.

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I literally landed in Sunseed last June with no expectations or plans or anything of the sort; I only told myself to keep mymind and my heart wide open and ready for anything because I thought it would be the best and most sensitive approach. Well, after half a year, I went back home with so much more that I’ve bargained for or that I would ever imagined or dreamed of gaining.

Also, I arrived with a friend and left on my own; according to some weird logic of mine, I got to experience twice as much and consequently, I have gained double because it felt like living two different “lives”, one over the summer and the other in autumn, with two completely different mind sets that gave me the opportunity to experience things in different and marvellous ways.

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During these six months, I have met so many people from every corner of this strange and beautiful world, each one of them with their own life and personal background, and every day I feel blessed and lucky to have shared even just moments with all of them. Because when you meet these people, see them coming into your life, staying for a while and sharing their time with you and then leaving, people that you learn to call friends and even family, you have the chance to dive into this endless ocean of humanity, appreciating even the smallest things, and then you come up to the surface feeling richer, refreshed, wiser and with a bigger heart each time.

Seeing as I have been working mostly in the gardens, now I tell you this. Imagine yourself as an onion, or if you wish – something else equally made of layers. Each one represents something that you think it’s important in your life. Once you get to Sunseed, you find yourself slowly stripped of all these layers, because you gradually discover that a lot of what you needed before is not essential after all, and the only thing that remains is the core, the centre. It represents who you really are, what you really want and what you are capable of. This place has the amazing power of showing you your real potential, your true nature in a simple way. You find out that at the centre, at the core of it all, there is just you and nothing else. Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

On a more personal level, I have to say that all the experiences I have had at Sunseed made me go through some serious emotional transformation, and because of it I had the chance to discover a part of myself I didn’t even know it existed. I have always felt like I was made of stone because of my supposed incapacity to connect with my feelings. Now that this part of me finally came out, it almost feels like a Pandora’s box has been unlocked and with it, all these deep and enveloping sensations. It might sound scary and new – in some ways, at least for me, it is – but I have to thank Sunseed for letting me reconnect with a side of myself I have always thought I didn’t possess and for showing me something I thought it was forever lost.

So, dear Los Molinos and my dearest Sunseeders all, remember that I will always keep you in my thoughts and my heart and be forever grateful because you showed that a different way of life is always possible if you really want it, because you are an example of how you can have so much more in life with a lot less to worry about, because you have been a home and a family for me for a long time, because you sent me back home with an incomparable personal and cultural baggage.

This, in the end, is my short story for you.

Someone that I hold very close to my heart once told me that life is like a book. Each experience or moment of your life is a different chapter and every time you finish one, it doesn’t mean it’s completely forgotten. It’s still there, for you to go back to and enjoy with a smile on your face anytime you wish to.

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Emma’s story

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My Sunseed Experience

Emma Stewart from Scotland, short term volunteer from 9-23rd July 2013

I arrived to Sunseed this summer looking for a different and nurturing holiday experience. I was in the mood for learning new things and meeting new and interesting people, something to blow the cobwebs away! I have always been interested in environmental and social issues. I wanted to to experience sustainability in action and get inspired again about how to make the world a better place by people really trying to do it. But I was really also needing a holiday, and the time and space to relax and take time for myself. Luckily, for me, Sunseed satisfied all those needs and more.

My two weeks in Sunseed were incredibly special and I ended my holiday with more knowledge, laughs and great experiences than I could have wished for. The two weeks just flew by and I left feeling refreshed and ready to look at the world with different eyes all over again.

There is always something to do and learn at Sunseed, and always the space and time to be busy if you want to.Everyday is different. But, as a short term volunteer, the timetable really managed to balance my holiday needs exactly : learning and doing in the morning, relaxing in the afternoon, Perfect!

I learned so many new things and worked with some really great people. In two weeks, I tried all of the six departments and worked with all the assistants and coordinators, who do a great job in keeping Sunseed well organised and getting everyone involved. Some of the tasks I helped out with were: making bread; making jam on an alternative technology gasifier; making carob powder; cracking almonds; working with wood; making posters for a festival; collecting fruits; working in the gardens; helping cook for 40 people…it was a full experience. Seminars also take place every week which were really interesting and great for getting the brain and debate going.

Sunseed is also very international and there are plenty of opportunities to have a chat in a foreign language you might be learning. During my stay there were Spanish, French, German, Italian, English, Arabic, Dutch, Finnish and Urdu speakers, a great mix of people, languages and cultures.

If you are interested in coming to Sunseed, you have to do it! It’s a really inspiring, healthy and happy place to be. You will guaranteed lots of fun, great conversations, great people and loads of learning. It’s great for the soul and great for the planet too, the perfect holiday.