Two months ago, me and my friends had a pleasure to visit continental part of Portugal. We spent two days in Porto and for a week we could live in a place, where portuguese statehood was born – in Guimaraes. If I can be honest, it was not how I imagined. Only one script “Aqui nasceu Portugal”, which is hanging on the huge, surrounding old town defencive wall inform tourists about this fact. The population of the city is 120 thousend people, but it seems to be even less.
Architecture of this place is stunning. Original medieval main square in the heart of the downtown, with a whole masses of tiny, stylish very typical for South Europe cafes, bars and restaurants. Meticulously preserved tenement houses proves, how important is legacy for the locals. Chapeau bas! Maybe that’s why that area is listed as UNESCO World Heritage. One thing surprised me totally, namely Guimaraes in 2012 became The European Capital of Culture. Before polish city Wrocław got this same award in 2016, had to beat the other candidates like Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk, Katowice and a lot’s of smaller cities, which had no chances, but were twice bigger than Guimaraes. I have been in Wrocław, I saw an endless festival of art, music, meetings and fun. The scale of the project was huge, so I couldn’t imagine it in five times smaller city in Portugal.
Out of architecture, there is something, what distinguishes this place from any similar one in the whole continent. That thing is or are people. One night I decited to do the shopping in my favourite supermarket chain store, so I asked receptionist from our hostel about a map. I knew everything, what I needed, how to get there, everything except opening hours… I was too late, thats why I had to change my plans and find another shop, but how? I accosted one couple on the street. I told them about shopping, but instead show me the road to supermarket they took me there, by their privat car. I was shocked, because they didn’t know me, they were very kind and embraced calmness. I thought , that it might be a game and finally they want to sell my kidney for an organ trafficking! Well, no. They were like normal ”People from the North”.
Finally, I bought long-wished pack of german gummys and bottel of wine, so 10 o’clock at night was ideal time for a lonley tour around city. I saw many churches, one big castle, portuguese social housing – that’s sounds great, but I got lost. My hostel was located on the opposite side of the city. I got stucked in a creepy park. One more time I started to ask people about fast road, in this case to my hostel. Some couple committed themself to go there with me. When we were walking I could not restrain myself and ask “Hospitality is something typical for citizen of Guimaraes, isn’t it?”. Then the man said ” Of course, people from the North Portugal are like that. Me and my wife wanted to run together. While we’ve met you, we thought we would help you.”
It’s wonderful, how folks want to disinterestedly help others . I’ve never expected, that one small decision to do shopping can teach me new stuff. Be open, keep short distance, put on smiling face and share it.
Kamil Swiderski, 21 years old, volunteer from Poland. Great fan of modern architecture, dance and travel.
Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.
Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.
In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3, which is for the support of reformation policies.
Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.
We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.
Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.