Nov 24, 2011

Let’s MEET at a Magusto party– tradition, chestnuts

On November 11th, at the Luz Natural restaurant , the Red Cross volunteers  who represent the project MEET along with many international students celebrated one of the oldest traditions in Portugal-o Magusto, a feast of the roasted chestnuts. At 7pm the participants entered the room and were handed cards with the objective of finding another person with the same card.

The celebration began with a brief welcome to all participants, a presentation of the Project MEET and dynamics enabling people to get to know one another. Each person using the previously given card had to find someone with the same one, learn as much information as possible about that person and afterwards present the new “friend” to the other participants.
After the integration part it was time for the meal - Caldo Verde and Bifano, the two traditional dishes served during Magusto. After the meal, six volunteers, presented a short play about the legend of St. Martin. There were, of course, linguistic misunderstandings and problems with synchronization, but thanks to a big deal of improvisation and a sense of humor, both the volunteers and the public were amused.

Finally, after the theater, the guests were served with what everyone was waiting for: the Jeropiga and roasted chestnuts. With music in the background, nuts in one hand and a cup of Jeropiga in the other, some people started a party on the dance floor while others were just talking. Meanwhile, the volunteers responsible for preparing a project-film "One Day on Earth" asked the guests to write on a sheet of paper one of their biggest dreams in their native language, in order to capture the dream in a picture.

In the end, the volunteers prepared a fashion show of Ponto Vermelho, the Red Cross shop, where anyone can buy good quality clothes-very often well-known brands, at a low price. The action was aimed at presenting the guests the idea and offer of  Ponto Vermelho. The show went really well and models received a standing ovations from the audience.

Photo by: Joana Lucas (a volunteer of MEET) 

Nov 23, 2011

Geraςão Tecla- learning through playing

Many scientists and philosophers have described education as a difficult process that takes time. But I believe that learning doesn’t have to be a boring process. The Red Cross Youth through the project Geraςão Tecla proves that learning can actually be fun. We take care of children and young people who want fun,  therefore we take this desire and combine it with learning. The project Geraςão Tecla involves working with children with school problems, lack of motivation and cases of school failure. At the headquarters of the Red Cross Youth, our volunteers work with the kids on the material that is more difficult for them. Mathematics, English, Portuguese - are some of the other “nightmares” they face.

Our volunteers come every day and are available for children, who begin to do their homework. Afterwards they provide explanations and individualized support in the subjects the kids find more problematic. Here the role of a volunteer is not solely based on school support, but rather on establishing a relationship of proximity and complicity with the children, motivating them  to study.

My job is to teach English, but I often help with history, geography or mathematics. This, on one hand, is a big challenge for me because of the language, however it is also a great opportunity to practice Portuguese. I find myself obliged to speak the language, without resorting to English. Children also have an important role - some days they are willing to work and learn new things, on other days they have no desire. This requires a great deal of creativity to motivate children to work, using dynamic strategies like games and pictures. One of my ideas is using characters from fairy tales to help learning new verbs, making puzzles of body parts, learning about the clothing and education through fashion shows. It is definitely hard work with the little “devils”, who are full of energy, but at the same time it gives great satisfaction when I see my students making progress.


Ponto Vermelho-shopping for every budget

Zara Dress - 3.5 euros? Lacoste shirt - 1.5 €? H & M t-shirt - 50 cents? A good conversation with the salesman - priceless. This is not a new advertisement from Master Card- it happens every day in one of the Red Cross Youth projects – Ponto Vermelho. This is a special store where everyone can find something for themselves without worrying about the price. The idea of ​​Ponto Vermelho is simple - provide the most vulnerable customers with clothing items and other products of good quality at a symbolic cost. The store is designed not only to respond to the needs of the people dealing with poverty, but also to promote human dignity and alleviate economic differences in society.

How do we do it? Any items that appears in the store comes from donations that arrive almost daily. We get different things - clothes, toys, books and sometimes household equipment - dryers, irons or even radios. The task of the volunteers is to make the selection of the products in order  to get the top quality material. The things that we regard as unsuitable for sale are sent for recycling or to other charities. Sounds simple, but actually requires a great amount of work from our volunteers to satisfy our customers. Our work does not end on selection - all things need to be sorted, counted and organized in the warehouse. In addition, we have to make sure that every day new articles are placed on the shelves.
Each volunteer can find a suitable job for himself or herself. For volunteers who enjoy working with people customer service can be a challenge. Personally, I do a bit of everything - when the store is empty and calm, I work on selecting the clothes for the store.
When we have many customers, I usually “run” the aisles in search of an appropriate sizes, or put out the clothes on the shelves. As with any job, there are better and worse days- there are days when I just want to hide in the selection room, but at other times I enjoy helping the customers and making sure that everyone leaves the shop satisfied.  And to tell the truth, apart from being a volunteer, I'm a steady customer of Ponto Vermelho. Who said that only devil wears Prada?


Nov 10, 2011

The Red Cross wraps Gifts

During the weekend of the 5th and 6th of November, at Continente in Minho Center, the Red Cross organized a campaign of wrapping the toys. Since there was a 50% discount on toys, our campaign has had great support, although November has hardly begun. Armed with wrapping paper, sticky tape and a smile on our faces, we wrapped several articles that would soon be placed under the Christmas tree.

The activity seemed easy, but at times proved to be a challenge, especially because for some of us it was the first time. We received gifts in various shapes and sometimes we needed imagination to make the parcels nice and pleasant. Large sheets of paper made some customers laugh, so they  helped us when the packing did not go so well. Others seemed impatient and dissatisfied with the results of our work. However, everyone was helping each other with ease.

At first I was a little scared and would rather help my more experienced colleagues, but after a few wrapped gifts, I started working on my own. Although my shift lasted less than two hours and was just before closing, I was able to practice enough before the next mission – wrapping gifts in December.


Thank You Red Cross Youth

It was a warm, rainy afternoon, when autumn announced its departure, and I- surrounded by the sound of Adriana Evans and her poetry of winter, was assaulted by pleasant memories. I am no longer on my cozy couch, but rather on a beach, a street, dancing, smelling salt air, recognizing smiles. Intoxicated by a nostalgic tranquility, I browse through some albums - the environment is good - and photos of Trashore emerge.
I'm not sure what was the feeling that came over me at that moment: melancholy, delight, absence, maybe. 

Absence of: laughter, the sidelong glances, sharing, and above all living today, now: no economic crisis, no unemployment issues, none of those and a few other problems; being genuine, simply, being yourself. 

It has been little over a month, yes, one month after completing the Trashore. It’s possible to describe day after day, but what I think is most important, is what was left after 15 days lived with great intensity. The various activities, the long and intoxicating conversation, the games: these memories last, however now with different feelings. Regarding the environment, an edgy sense of commitment - a sense of duty.  All are responsible and we all have the utmost ethical duty: from  preserving, to protecting - through a pragmatic and incisive approach.
Certainly, it is necessary to speak the language of knowledge, but also to communicate desire. Willingness to share, willingness to know, willingness to learn. The gestures showed more and more each day the cumplicity and the binding of intense ties among people who did not speak the same language. One writer wrote that arriving is a transitional state between two parties, everything ends up in arriving - and when we arrived to Braga, the Trashore ended. In the first days that followed there was a deafening silence. I didn’t hear the noise in the hallway, while waking up, no longer could smell the sea or speak English. Time is running too fast. Suddenly we were in Braga, at home, back to study, work - certain that the environment experienced cannot be repeated. However,  we surely were much more enriched and emotionally fulfilled.

I would lie if I wrote that nostalgia is not what I feel. Red Cross Youth thank you for this opportunity, thanks to the fellow travelers who were surprisingly fantastic, I believe that without them this experience would not have been so rewarding.
Maria José Pires