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Sunseed Stories, Volunteer Stories
Sign welcoming new arrivals.

Arriving at Sunseed is an amazing experience filled with excitement at the opportunities that the project offers. The landscape is breath taking in its dryness but the valley of Rio Aguas is a green oasis. People are friendly and welcoming and there is so much going on and so much to see and learn.
Arrival can also be a little overwhelming. The other people seem to know exactly how everything works, and often they are already close friends, with a history of their time at Sunseed together. There is a lot to take in, most of it is incredibly positive and exciting, but it’s also normal to feel unsure or uncomfortable for a little while. There are things that will take more time to get used to, maybe it’s the compost loo, or sharing space with many other people, or the work hours and intensity.

Due to the nature of the project there is a continuous stream of people arriving, this means that there are hundreds of people who share this experience. We’ve all been in the same position of arriving at Sunseed, we all know how great it is and we have all had to adjust to the Sunseed way of life, we all know how intense Sunseed can be, especially in the beginning.

The street through Los Molinos Del Rio Aguas to Sunseed Desert Technology

First weeks at Sunseed will vary and each experience is unique. For instance, Peter, our Communications Coordinator, helped to collect drinking water before he had even arrived at Sunseed. After the bus ride from Almeria to Sorbas, he was picked up on the way to collect water. An extra drive and then filling the huge bottles with fresh water at the beautiful spring in a nearby village, and eventually carrying them from the carpark down Los Molinos main street to Sunseed, is a pretty unique way to arrive. Peter says that he got to know the people who had picked him up, he’d had a chance to ask them all of his questions about Sunseed while they filled the bottles and he felt that spending one on one time with them helped him feel like he was a part of the community. As did the Wednesday general tour of the property, which gave him an overview of the layout and departments.

Leon, Sustainable Living and Tech Team Assistant, came for a week in 2018. It was an incredibly busy week, he was working in all of the departments and got involved in workshops and skill exchanges, as well as helping out on some bigger projects, like installing a new water system and working up in the Drylands. He left with a knowledge of the many different ways that one can get a blister, including burning bare feet on hot desert roads. However, he came back this year, committed to be here for a longer time. He says that taking part in a sharing circle a few days into his stay helped him feel more comfortable and he really connected with the people in the circle with him.

For others the change of pace can be really confusing. Working at Sunseed is not like working in a city job. While the work can be really physical and exciting, the pace might seem much slower than a different job. As Sylvia, Education and Gardens Assistant, says that it can take a bit of getting used to. She also found all of the information that is available at Sunseed was sometimes hard to process, but exploring the land and swimming in the poza helped her feel at home in the project.  She now splits her time comfortably between the gardens and the office.

There are things that all of the arrivals will experience during their first week at Sunseed. Things like the welcome tour, where you will be shown the main parts of Sunseed. There are practical things, like getting to know the daily schedule, and putting yourself into the rota (preferably with someone who knows what they are doing and can help you). But there are also those illusive elements that make you feel at home, like meeting people that you connect with, or having something to contribute in the morning circle, or getting to know the land and the poza. Sunseed is an amazing place to arrive and though it might be overwhelming at first there are so many things that make the experience work for everyone.

The beautiful Poza.

Every experience of arrival at Sunseed is different with people finding some parts challenging, and others easier. However, there is a common thread that connects all arrivals and all people living at Sunseed; the community we are building, one person at a time. It is the connections made to the people who are already here when we arrive and those that arrive after us. It is working together for a common goal, it is in the land and learning to live closer to it. The threads that connect all experiences of Sunseed also spread out while we are here when we meet with local people and once we leave the project, to all the people we connect with.

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Drylands Management, Organic Gardening, Sunseed News, Volunteer Stories

The first rains of the season have been and gone… and they have left their mark on the land here. Our beautiful poza looks different from last week, because the water swept through the valley, knocking caña aside and carrying with it the dust and soil from the surrounding hills. The hills themselves look so much cleaner, the plants have definable and separate colours, rather than all being coated in the fine dust, early mornings are sweet with soft dew, and even the air feels fresher.

Before and After the Storm

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We knew the rains were coming days before they arrived, though the amount of precipitation was often in question: We were told to expect 40mm to fall on Thursday, three hours later that had gone up to 100mm and 200mm on Friday but over the next day the prediction dropped to 40mm over 4 days, only to shoot back up to 100mm in 3 hours. The weather warnings for the area were Violet. So, understandably, we doubted the truth of the forecast once or twice. How could so much rain be coming when we were enjoying such glorious sunshine? Still, precautions were taken and we spent a morning preparing Sunseed for the likelihood of a heavy rain. Gabriel, our organic gardens coordinator led a team in sand bag collecting. They lugged the heavy bags from the gardens to the main street of the village where they built banks to protect the road from the floods of water. Tanks were positioned to collect the rain, so that we could make the most of the precious water, and where necessary buckets were placed to catch the leaks in the roofs.

The next day we watched as the rain clouds gathered at the edges of the valley, laden with their blessing of much needed water they drew nearer and nearer. Most people had found inside jobs to do during the day to avoid getting wet, and we sat around the house, trying to use as little electricity as possible. The clouds meant that the solar system wasn’t working at full capacity and once it dropped down to 90% we could not charge any devices, despite this the atmosphere around the main house was one of excitement.

Waiting for the storm

And then the rains came. They hammered, heavy and hard into the dry earth, the first few drops sending little flurries of dust into the air, until everything was soaked. It was only minutes before the main street of the village had become a river, flowing over our bare feet where we stood soaking in the water, just like the plants.

Soaking up the rain

In the evening the storm picked up. Lightning flashed across the sky, illuminating towering cloud formations and thunder rolled through our valley. We stood huddled in the doorway of one of the buildings, watching the water run down the main street. We laughted as we tried to avoid the rain, splashing through the streams and puddles and even pausing to dance under the torrent. That night, warm and dry once more, the rain beat a comforting rhythm against the roofs and, after a summer of heat, blankets were pulled from cupboards and onto beds.

On Friday in the pouring rain Gabriel, Tom, and our neighbour Dave Dene fixed the floodgates of the acequia with yeso, which sets underwater. So now all that we needed to do was clear the new mud from the acequia. Luckily, Saturday was the communal acequia maintenance day and we were joined by our neighbours to clear the acequia. We were up to our knees in the water channels scooping mud into buckets with our hands. Squeezing between caña and under hanging brambles we cleared the areas of the acequia that were worst affected by the rain and the silt that it had carried with it.

Cleaning the acequia

Once finished we trouped, muddy and tired, back to Sunseed’s main building. But, because the acequia wasn’t running yet, the village ram pump wasn’t working, and we had very limited water for washing. Using water collected from the rains we washed the mud from hands and faces and then settled in to enjoy our Saturday.

Later on, when the river was once again crossable, our drylands team went to find out what the rains had done to all of the hard work that has been poured into the area. We all wanted to know whether the walls had held or if the force of the water had knocked them away. To our delight, when the team came back, they had photos of the walls not only standing strong and proud, but having worked fantastically to slow and even stop the water. Areas of the drylands were all puddles and mud from the soil and water which had been stopped before it could flow away. It was cause for celebration and the main house was filled with our smiles of joy and relief.

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The heavy rains have gone now, but the season is turning from summer gently into autumn. Since the storm we have had small showers of rain, the ground is still damp enough that we haven’t had to water the gardens for the last few days, giving us an unexpected luxury of time. But it’s not only the weather that is different, the landscape has changed. The poza is now far more open and elongated, as most of the caña were swept away or flattened, it gives us a view further down the river that is more open. Sweetcorn that we have been nurturing and growing through summer was knocked down by the power of the storm. The ram pump is not yet up and running, but our wonderful maintenance team are working hard to get it operating. By now the turtles have returned to Rio Aguas and the silt is settling out of the river. The trees, plants and people are all refreshed and rejuvenated by the downpour.

The land love the rain
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Volunteer Stories

Why I came to Sunseed:

I arrived in Sunseed to do an internship. Last October I got my degree in business economics and I wanted to acquire practical skills and make experiences.

I was scrolling down in the list of possible partnership and suddenly the name “sunseed desert technology” fashinated me.

When I first had a look at the web site I said: that’s my place!

The vegetarian diet, the goals of the project and the ethic beyond it really suited with my vision of life.

I didn’t like to study economics, I found it outdated boarding and greed, and sunseed looked like an alternative place where people were trying to create something different, sustainable and beautiful. So I came to experience all of it.

Expectations:

I doesn’t like to create expectation so I tried to do it the less.

But I was sure sunseed was gonna be a challenge.

Just the simple fact that I couldn’t use my hairdryer or my hair straightener for 5 months was something that was gonna push me outside my comfort zone.

As I was already on the path for a more sustainable, conscious lifestyle, I expected that sunseed would speed this process and would open me new perspectives and gave inspiration.

Expectation VS reality. What I learnt:

After 5 months I can say that my expectations are more than satisfied.

I feel that this experience nourished me completely under different levels: practical, social, comunitarian and personal.

I was mostly involved in sustainable living department and here I learnt:

  • First of all the art of bread making. I just love to make bread and explore this world with all its secret and tricks.

I consider it an art as it embodies my mind, my body and my soul. The sensation of using my hands to work the loaf, the exploration of different techniques and tastes, the satisfaction of creating something for the benefit of all the community was priceless.

  • I learnt how to make natural cosmetics and I introduced this new consciousness in my life. As before I wasn’t very keen with the kind of products I was using. Here I realized that the skin is our most extensive organ and as we take of our stomach by selecting an organic food, the same work has to be done with cosmetics because it has a big impact on us and on the environment.
  • I have deepened my knowledge in the production of ferments and I tried to motivate people to introduce them in their diet.
  • I immersed myself in the wide world of medicinal plants. I studied their properties and use, I took care of them in the medicinal garden and I admired the miracolo us effect of water and love on plants.

Then I did something more releted with my course of study and so I worked in the office and here I learnt how to register purchase and sale invoices, how to calculate stipends and how to relate a report for the Trustees.

On the social level I learnt how to work in team, collaborate in harmony and to appreciate the value of sharing; knowledge, informations and emotions.

A crucial role of my experience was held by the people I met.

People from all over the world, with different age and background.

Incredible, unique, inspiring (and bit crazy ) human being.

Every single one has a place in my heart. I am grateful about your teaching, your support, your example.

The community life teach me that we all are one.

We all are in the middle of a continuous flow and we have to learn how to move on the wave.

You may need balance while you’re keeping the focus. But things could g   wrong when you live with other 20 people (at least).

A good amount of patient helped me in this case. Release the control, let things go. Everything is gonna be fine.

In stressful moments I used the power of yoga to reestablish the balance, or a walk, or simply sitting by my own listening the nature was useful.

I feel sunseed will teach me a lot more, that’s why I will come back in October.

I would like to develop a research about alimentation and experiment new things.

And also, of course, come back to my second family ❤️

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Organic Gardening, Volunteer Stories

I had been here for little under a month when I was granted the great pleasure of having a small part of Paradise under my care. Diego III, is a small 12sqm vegetable plot in Sunseed; managed by the Organic Gardens team. It currently comprises of beds fruiting aubergines, potatoes, and buckwheat as well as the odd pumpkin, now glumly dying off for the winter.

keep reading
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Once upon a time, a young Belgian girl left her country in search of adventures in an eco-village in Spain. Sunseed Desert Technology was now her new shelter.

This little girl’s dream was to learn about sewing. It started to become true when she met an Ecuadorian woman with whom she restored life to damaged cloth transforming them into new things such as sweet handkerchiefs or tablecloths.

The story has been spread and a new project was suggested to her: to continue and finish the encouraging work that previous sunseeders had started of building a new dome. The girl knew the importance of seizing challenges and opportunities when they appear to her. So she soared and jumped deeply into this wonderful new adventure.

A couple who build yurts helped her to bring her project to fruition. Their combined knowledge and sense of humour made this experience unforgettable.

Each day the tiredness built up and made its way through the arithmetics and the different attempts to achieve the end result. However, the more days that passed, the more their team became a real family and the dome started to take shape. The girl could stay hours contemplating the shadow of the trees reflecting inside the spherical structure. Once the fabric was ready, other volunteers came to help. That is how on a beautiful day of the end of April, the dome was completed.

Each day the tiredness built up and made its way through the arithmetics and the different attempts to achieve the end result. However, the more days that passed, the more their team became a real family and the dome started to take shape. The girl could stay hours contemplating the shadow of the trees reflecting inside the spherical structure. Once the fabric was ready, other volunteers came to help. That is how on a beautiful day of the end of April, the dome was completed.

Right after being accomplished, the sphere became filled with a new air. An air with the softness of a loving gaze, with the perfume of laughs, with the lightness of liberty. It was the ideal timing to welcome the permaculture course on our land. The participants elaborated distinctive designs to spread the dome’s soul around its surrounding area. Their remarkable work touched the girl.

Everyone did their part towards it. Together we go further. Together we grow up. Together we build. We build a better world where we can share knowledge.

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Volunteer Stories

Hello everyone, my name is Maurizio. I’m from Italy and one of the two EVS volunteers in Sunseed Desert Technology at the moment. For those who doesn’t know what EVS (European Volunteer Service) is, it is a mobility program funded by the European Commission to give the opportunity to everyone to perform a voluntary service abroad for a maximum of 12 months to young people between 18 and 30 years old.

I arrived in Sunseed two months ago but I feel like having been here for much much longer. The nature, the peace of the desert, the super starlit sky, the super positive, energetic, welcoming and friendly people, the long weekends on the beautiful beach, all those things helped me to let me feel peace and like being at home, very soon and easily.

Apart from that, we have our working activities which are organised in a very interesting and motivating way for all those who live at Sunseed. In fact we can choose among many different activities every morning in all the different Sunseed’s Departments according to our interests. Furthermore we even have the opportunity to develop and work on our personal project which in my case is to build the new geodetic dome for Sunseed!!!

Another amazing experience during these two months was the EVS arrival training in Aguilas, a coastal place close to Murcia, where me and Bilgesu (my EVS colleague from Turkey here in Sunseed) had the oppotunity to meet all the other lovely EVS volunteers from Murcia and Madrid region and spend all together 5 interesting and funny days, learning how we can make the most of this unique experience (rights, duties, insurance, how can we be the best for our hosting organization and for our learning, who can help us in case of need etc.) and moreover so many games from which some of them were to help us know better each other and to create a very united group despite the short time available, the different personal and cultural backgrounds.

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With other EVS volunteers in our EVS arrival training.

In the end of our 5-day arrival training, me and Bilgesu, we had the honor and pleasure to be hosted for the weekend to our new friends in Murcia, to discover the nice city and its powerful nightlife. Eventually we said goodbye promising each oder to meet again all together for other crazy and intercultural adventures!!

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Aguilas.

I want to conclude this small article to say a big THANKS to those who gave me the opportunity to participate in this EVS program and to those who contribute or have contributed to make so nice and magical this little corner of the world!

Maurizio

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Volunteer Stories

I wanted to go back to Sunseed for many years now. It had been 7 years from my last visit and 8 years from when I was uprooted from the valley after having spent there the best year of my life until then as Sunseed’s Sustainable Living Coordinator. A year to surpass that is yet to come. Many times I have tried to gather the old crew together and arrange a visit but have repeatedly failed. Lucy rarely looks at her emails, Tomi is transcending, it is the wrong season for Linsday’s veg, Matteo replies with goat songs, Enrico just says how much he loves everyone etc etc. So when my pal Toni showed interest in visiting Sunseed, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip away. The greatest coincidence of all was that the time that suited us both was Sunseed’s special 30th Anniversary week.

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I booked my tickets early on and just the thought of going back to this extraordinary, magical place filled my thoughts all through the summer with joy. The time came and I had to prepare for my pilgrimage, a trip back to my happiest memories, so unique that going back was making me nervous. After planes, trains, buses, and coffees, we arrived in Los Molinos with Toni, Hugo, one of the Sunseed Trustees and Lara.

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The first thing that hit me, was the smell. The Main House, still smelt the same. I went into the house looking around with awe. New roof! New stove! Office looking swish. But the same beautiful smell lingered on. It was pommegranate season, numerous trees in the valley heavy with this perfect fruit. Kostas, Sunseed’s Education Coordinator (Greek!) said they had recently found the little book I had made about them. Bound by string I did not expect that it would have survived the time. Many things in Sunseed do not.

I spent some time taking it all in. Exploring the Sunseed houses and gardens. Memories forgotten kept bubbling to the surface of my psyche. At times I felt uncomfortable, possessive. What are all these people doing in my house? They are not doing things like we did. And how is it possible that they don’t know me or any of my crew? Not long after, I came to realise that this one year that affected my life so much, happened 8 years ago, and that in that time people I will probably never meet (but would love to) also experienced Sunseed in profound and meaningful ways. Just like I did. Sunseed was not only mine, and that made it even more special.

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The 30th Anniversary Week, was full of workshops, talks, seminars and some serious fun. From cob house building, to Hugelkultur, talent show, cooking and perhaps the most emotional of all the “night with the elders”. Shirley, Graham, Hannah and Martin, shared with us amidst laughs and tears, tales from the past, Green Deserts, times with houses with no windows, and the true belief that Sunseed was there to change the world. I cannot say if Sunseed changed the world, but I know for a fact, a lot of people whose worlds were changed because of Sunseed. As Graham described “Sunseed is like an ever changing painting, that keeps being painted by the people who come to it. And it is not seem to be finished yet”.

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As the week went on I planted carob trees, collected pommegranates, foraged saltbush and forgotten onions, cooked lunch, swam in the river pools, found out about the intensive olive plantation upstream of El Rio Aguas that threatens the valley, prepared olives, had great chats and amused my self with my numerous deja vous (when the rota goes around they still tell people to put the lid on the pen while thinking of what chore they want to do :)). The current Sunseed crew, bright, genuine, welcoming, inclusive, full of energy and connection. What a joy it was to spend 9 days with them.

Sunseed still feels like my home and the whole valley like my garden. I walked around all day in bliss, feeling totally safe, with nothing but my camera on me. I needed no money, no keys, no nothing. Just like I do when I am at home. I don’t walk around with my bag on my shoulder inside my house, that would be a very odd thing to do.

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I left Sunseed with the late bus to Almeria. It was not as painful as the first time, but it was a bit sore still. I spent my last night in Hugo’s house. “Good morning Manolia” he said as he was leaving for work. “You smell like Sunseed”. With a heart full of joy I begun my journey back home.

Lizzie, Andreas, Gabbie, Etienne, Michael, Jon, Errica, Hannah, Martin, Hilda, Pauline, Eva, Tania, Morgan, Rory, Lesha, Toni, Saska, Gorgie, Carol, Luke, Vijan, Siggie, Kostas, Jef, Dave, Shirley, Graham, Barbara, Bob…how nice to be with you all.

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By Manolia Vougioukalou, Sustainable Living Coordinator at Sunseed 2008-2009 and the biggest fan ever since.

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Volunteer Stories

Pauline, 26, Lille (France)

I was following an Italian teaching formation before I decided to volunteer with Unis-Cite in France. I raised awareness on sustainable living and energy saving. 

I found out about the European Voluntary Service (EVS) program which offers funded placements in organisations across Europe. I was looking for an environmental project in Spain, and I came across Sunseed on the online database; and I’ve now signed up to be here for 6 months!

Before coming here I felt the need to explore manual work; Sunseed has enabled me to discover what I can make with my own two hands. I like that I can experiment with different departments (particularly in organic gardens, appropriate technology, eco-construction and sustainable living) and that I have coordinators to guide me. Aside from this practical aspect, Sunseed offers a variety of seminars and workshops; I’ve particularly enjoyed yoga, meditation, dancing, notebook and origami making, and drawing. I feel like my time here has given me a chance to focus on developing my social, creative and spiritual sides.

My self-motivated project is to expand my knowledge of permaculture. Luna, the Organic Gardens Coordinator has given me a plot of land, my garden, where I can transform theory into reality! Facilitating and witnessing seedlings grow into plants and subsequently provide us with food has been a huge eye-opening experience. I’m always looking for what I can do next, how I will answer the question «what are you going to do later?», and Sunseed is shedding light on what this could be… I’m growing increasingly curious about naturopathy, and as I learn to enjoy living in the present, I will naturally follow the steps to my next adventure.

I have two favourite aspects to Sunseed – the heavenly landscape (particularly the pozas, the natural swimming-pools) and the staff and volunteers team. We know how to balance the work and have fun (parties in caves, pizza parties, festivals)!

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Volunteer Stories

Skye Lei, 28, Macau (China) and California (USA).

I’m an engineer specialised in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industry.

I’m at Sunseed for approximately 4 weeks. 

I came across this project through online research of ecological and educational communities in Europe.

My decision to volunteer with Sunseed was rooted in several objectives:

  • To creatively explore a sustainable lifestyle with lower impact that at the same time offers inspiration and stronger spiritual fulfilment.
  • To learn about technologies and methodologies for minimising external resources and maximising local energy and food production
  • To heal from personal struggles and reconnect with nature.
  • To live in a community setting with like-minded individuals from different countries and cultures, consequently creating unforgettable and life-changing memories
Volunteers with Solar Panel

I joined a project in the Appropriate Technology Department to build a Solar Energy Demonstration System, which consists of solar photovoltaic, battery storage and inverter components. With guidance from our department mentor, I collaborated with two other volunteers to design and build the system using reclaimed materials. We’ll use it for educational purposes, but it also has the capacity to be a small device charging station!

I also plan to assist with the improvement of the bicycle washing machine that is about 90% complete (there is room for improvement to further secure its mechanical stability and usability). When the machine is reliably usable, we’ll be able to enjoy a healthy exercise while dealing with laundry!

There’s way too much I love about Sunseed, but to name a handful of my favourites, they would definitely be the vegetarian diet, the permaculture way of life, the fruits and veggies from the gardens, the dedication of the volunteers, the pizza parties, the homemade/cultural dishes, the Friday reflection moments, the haybox and solar cookers, and of course, the compost toilets! It’s my absolute fortune to have met so many bright minds and beautiful souls at Sunseed. 

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Volunteer Stories

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.

bug home

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