Dec 16, 2016

SVE - This, That and Everything!

In the midst of being very busy with lots of different interesting and exciting things, it has unfortunately been a while since I have been able to update the Red Cross Blog. Deni, Carlotta, Alifya, and I have all been keeping ourselves very occupied, so I thought a good way to get things up and running again would be to provide you all with a quick insight of what it actually is we have all been doing.

So in no particular order, Alifya, like all of us, has been getting involved in lots of different things. One of those has been to take and edit the photos for a new campaign Juventude Cruz Vermelha de Braga has just launched entitled, ‘E Quê?!’ I am planning on writing a more detailed article about this in the near future but in a nutshell, this project is a series of photos that will be released through social media to show how the use of stereotypes is erroneous and misleading. As well as this, Alifya is also in the process of completing an application to the European Commission who have called for creative proposals that challenge xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, and other forms of phobia related to race. Alifya, who has named her project ‘Through my Eyes’, has come up with a really intelligent idea to utilize the new technology of virtual reality. The idea is for each individual to undergo a virtual reality experience, where they will step into the shoes of refugees and dedicate three minutes of their lives to see through the eyes of a displaced person. On top of all this, Alifya has also recently begun interviewing Romani from the different Roma communities across the North of Portugal. Alifya’s intention is to reproduce these interviews in a magazine which will also include photos and a brief insight to each of the Roma communities in the north of Portugal.

E Quê? Campaign
Now we turn to Deni who is also working with Alifya to complete the project proposal ‘Through my Eyes’ for the European Commission. As well as this Deni’s main focus has been on the Roma community. Deni’s intention is to present various aspects of Romani life such as their culture, daily life and the traditions of the various communities located around the North of Portugal. This will be carried out through the creation of an online platform where Deni hopes to present all these different aspects through various formats such as interviews, photos and videos so that people will be able to begin to develop a deeper understanding of Roma life and help to remove some of the stigmas and stereotypes levelled against them.

A group of Romani being interviewed by Deni and Alifya
Next we have Carlotta who has been doing what she does best and been putting her creative skills to good use. Carlotta spent a lot of time creating Cadernetas for the children at Geração Tecla, which included some beautiful watercolour paintings. The purpose of these booklets, as Carlotta has described, is to record the attendance of the children at school as well as recording their good behavior, if they learn anything new and if they make new friends; a really useful tool to help support each individual’s learning process. As well as this, Carlotta has had a couple of fun little things recently, performing at the Red Cross Dinner at the centre in Prado as well as taking charge of putting up the Christmas decorations in the various buildings within which we work. Despite her best efforts and enthusiasm, the kids at Geração Tecla unfortunately rebuffed all her invitations to assist in the decorating. Another activity that Carlotta has also just completed, is to paint a giant world map on the wall at Geração Tecla. Carlotta’s hope is to give the kids a better idea of where things are in the world, and she has already told me she has had some interesting responses from some of them regarding Portugal’s geographical location so it looks like it will have the desired effect.

The world as painted by Carlotta
Last but not least, it is on to yours truly! Firstly, I spent a lot of time on our application to host a youth exchange entitled, ‘What does it mean to be European?’ A number of us collaborated on this project, including Alifya, Deni, Cintia and some local volunteers for what was a very comprehensive process that included communication with potential partners from across Europe and the completion of a detailed application form. I am delighted to say we have received preliminary approval and we await official confirmation. I also spent some time helping to edit a video for the project +Atitude. This video provided a background of the project, what it hopes to achieve as well as some of the volunteers explaining the activities they had participated in, and their motivations for volunteering. We produced this video in order to enter a competition for funding of which we were one of the winners, subsequently receiving a prize of 5000. The main focus of my work the last few weeks has been my desire to develop a project to deliver in schools regarding mental health. My intention was to educate students further about mental health and it's importance whilst eradicating some of the stigmas surrounding the topic. Whilst I was very keen to develop this and believe it an extremely important topic, I have had the difficulty of realising that at this stage it is probably not the most practical path for me to pursue. It has been frustrating for me to come towards this decision as it was something I was very enthusiastic about, but a small consolation was the point made to me that it is also a valuable skill to have to realise when it is and isn’t best to pursue something. However I have not yet made a final decision and I will spend some time over my time away for Christmas pondering the issue. Additionally, the International Day of Human Rights is held annually 10th December, and following some conversations with Luis I produced a video utilising the concept of the mannequin challenge to portray how hate speech is an attack on an individual’s human rights. We then sent this to the No Hate Speech Movement who then shared it as part of their actions for the International Day of Human Rights.

As well as all our own individual work, we have all been continuing to help out at Ponto Vermelho on a regular basis. On top of our regular turns in the shop, three of us have helped with a couple of extra activities. The first was BUM – I will admit I am not too sure what that stands for – where we had a little market stall in the city centre. I have been reliably informed by Inês that this was a success and we sold a decent amount. Additionally, we also had a small stall in the Complexo Residencial de Santa Tecla for one week where we especially sold a lot of wool hats and scarves. With regards to this action, the key aspect was to raise the awareness of Ponto among the students. As the residence and the shop are on the same road the hope is that it will increase the number of residents who visit, may lead to more donations or even inspire one or two of them to join the team as a volunteer!

Another key aspect of all our schedules has been our return to the classroom for Portuguese; Alifya is studying Level A2 whilst the rest of are working towards B1. Alifya has described the experience as, ‘Bee’s buzzing in my head’ which certainly seems like a pretty apt description to me. It has certainly been a challenge learning the language at a more advanced level, and poor Deni and Carlotta do often find themselves having to deal with my high stress levels in class, but the difficulties I experienced were enjoyable to overcome. I’m pleased to say I’ve learnt so much now I can just about talk in the past, present and future tenses. Having attended class twice a week since the beginning of October we have now completed our courses and we are eagerly waiting to receive our exam results; we are all hoping to have achieved highly.

Finally, another action that we have all been getting involved in has been ‘Venha Embrulhar uma Causa!’ Every day since the 25th November a group of volunteers have been outside the Continentes at Nova Arcada and The Minho Center respectively, wrapping presents in the build-up to Christmas. This is one of JCV’s biggest fundraising efforts, with members of the public able to give donations in return for our wrapping services if they so choose. All of us have been involved with this, taking turns to try our hand at some wrapping and whilst at times it can be somewhat stressful, what with the pressure of wrapping other peoples’ gifts for them, it has also been enjoyable. As well as giving us a chance to practice our Portuguese, it has also been an opportunity for us to meet other volunteers from across JCV who we had not previously encountered.

So there you have it! As I am sure you will agree, we all seem to be following interesting paths and are all achieving and learning some fantastic things. Soon I hope to add some more articles about the campaigns Juventude Cruz Vermelha has been undertaking recently as well as more information about EVS as a whole and its benefits. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about what it is that each of us EVS volunteers are currently up to and that you like what it is that we are doing!

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