This year’s September volunteers from all over Europe gathered in Raches, Greece, to participate in the “From City to Countryside II“ project, which is co-funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.
In a camping site by the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by olive trees and mountains, we found the perfect place to escape our bustling daily schedules and reconnect with nature. We transitioned into a more balanced lifestyle, we set aside our daily routines only to replace them with new ones, all the while being surrounded by like-minded people with whom we were able to show ourselves without fear.
The program of this month was extremely rich and educational in the most non-formal way, in the sense that we did have a schedule, had places to be and things to do during specific times, but it was the Greek spirit of chalará that enabled us to run on positive vibes throughout the project. Every day was divided into a morning and an afternoon session, during which the group worked ambitiously on different tasks with a great sense of team spirit. What we found surprising was the project coordinator's relentless ability to come up with two different energising games per day. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to become the well-oiled machine of today.
To paint a better picture of our day-to-day shenanigans, we will walk you through the main activities we did each week. To start off, the first week was dedicated to the building of a greenhouse, the creation of a board game about composting, and educational sessions on globalisation and sustainability.
After gaining these first experiences in handcrafts and the art of using an electric saw, the second week was spent building a tiny house from scratch. Having different levels of knowledge in the field of construction – from none to somewhat decent – we rolled our sleeves, put on our sunhats and we set up camp in and around the spot where the house was going to be placed. Thanks to our experienced construction coordinator, everybody in the team managed to try out different tasks throughout the day and remain unharmed. We could say that after those building days, we peaked in our Unbothered. Moisturized. Happy. In Our Lane. Focused. Flourishing. state.
Transitioning into the third week, we got to meet a new kind of workplace: the olive orchard. That is where we learned a great deal about organic agriculture. We started the olive saga by picking them with our bare hands, just like people were doing it in the good ol’ days. Then, we packed everything up — ourselves, the olives we picked and, of course, our coffees — only to unpack later on, separating the branches from the olives but also the small olives from the big ones and so on.
These last few days mark the final week of our volunteering project. We devoted them to various workshops that included gardening, natural cosmetics, beach clean-ups, and cooking. We even had the opportunity to organise our own workshops, which ended up being a fun time exploring embroidery, photography and painting.
Some of our most exciting days were surely the expeditions we set out on. A day trip to Pavliani Park, as well as bathing in freezing waterfalls sure were a lot of fun, but what definitely made a splash was the hike up to Mount Olympus.
One of the most memorable and precious parts of our time here was the daily life which included staying in the hostel, housekeeping tasks, late-night conversations, cooking and eating together, petting cats, (water)sports, going to the beach and local farmers‘s market, and interacting with the locals.
What shaped our experience were the prolonged extreme weather conditions, which brought seven full days of heavy rain and storms — an alarming symptom of the destabilisation of the ecosystem. However, for the remaining time, we were luckily blessed with sunshine and blue skies.
After all that we got to experience here, we — the From City to Countryside II volunteers — can unanimously agree that this time spent in Raches had been a tremendous learning experience which enriched our lives. We shall have certain memories living rent-free in our hearts and minds for years to come. During this project, we learned to live and work together, to be responsible and respectful towards each other, to come up with ideas and transcend them into a physical realm and, most importantly, how to have fun and remain optimistic no matter the circumstances and downsides of life.
We highly recommend being part of such a project to every young adult who is willing to meet other bright minds and gain a new perspective on life. It was a truly special time that will leave a positive mark in all our memories, but why don’t come and see for yourself?