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Through appreciation to change

A testimony by MISEREOR young supporters Johanna, Madita and Nadja.
Listening to the rustling of the leaves and the chirping of the crickets in the grass. Feeling the sun’s rays on your skin. Being called by the living sound of the bell. Having inspiring conversations. Living, creating and enjoying in connected community. That is Casa Velha! A place in Portugal where we – Johanna, Madita and Nadja, former MISEREOR volunteers – spent a week at the beginning of May.

Casa Velha is a farm in the small village of Vale Travesso, located in the centre of Portugal, about 20 minutes from the pilgrimage site of Fátima. The farm has been in the family for generations and was once an important agricultural property in the region. Today Casa Velha is an open space for meeting and personal development. Through direct contact with nature and cultural, social and spiritual activities, the growth of healthy relationships with oneself, God and others is encouraged. The NGO, registered as “Casa Velha – Ecologia e Espiritualidade”, aims to contribute to the ecological conversion called for by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’.

Experiencing this way of life first hand was made possible for us within the framework of “Change for the Planet, Care for the People”. This campaign has been run since 2015 by CIDSE, an alliance of Catholic organisations in Europe and North America working together for social justice. As a member organisation, MISEREOR sent a three-member delegation to Portugal for this year’s international youth camp with the motto “Do coração à terra” (translated: “From the heart to the earth”).

We started with our joint “slow travel” journey by bus and train to Portugal! The three of us travelled from Cologne via Paris and Hendaye to Fátima for about 35 hours through 5 countries. We experienced colourful hustle and bustle in Paris, community through playing the ukulele, physical exertion with luggage, warm sea air in Hendaye, pain au chocolat for breakfast and much more. Conclusion: This form of travel was not only more climate-friendly than a flight, but also allowed us to perceive the journey more consciously and to experience it with all our senses.

At Casa Velha we felt welcome from the very first second. Every morning we started the day together by introducing the theme of the day and then spending some time reflecting on it in silence. We called this “spiritual time”. Another fixed point in the programme was the daily “Sharing in Groups” before dinner. Here we exchanged ideas about the day within the respective country delegations in our first languages and personally shared what moved us and occupied us.

Our highlights of the first two days were the guided tour of the beautiful grounds of Casa Velha and the subsequent work on the land. Divided into three groups, we did useful, practical physical work that is required on such a large site: Digging a trench for a water pipe, planting and watering vegetable plants and collecting too much undergrowth in the cork oak forest.

In addition, we dealt with the always very stirring and moving topics of climate crisis and justice from different perspectives, by watching a documentary, listening to various presentations by guests and discussing them in detail around the campfire in the evening.

Together we went on pilgrimage to Fátima. Even though the actual destination was of course great, the well-known saying “the way is the goal” was confirmed! During the 20 km walk, we exchanged ideas and reflected on everything we had heard and experienced over the last few days. This simply welds a group together in a different way.

On Sunday, the focus was on our outdoor service. In small groups we all prepared something for the service, which made it so special and personal. The celebration together was a magical moment for us that made us all pause again in a special way.

In the evening there was another surprise for us: Some inhabitants of the neighbouring village came to Casa Velha and performed traditional Portuguese dances (some even known exclusively in the village). We were even able to dance along ourselves – an evening with lots of joy, laughter and fun.

On the last day, the question: What seeds did we sow for ourselves and our future life during the last days at the camp? What ideas and inspirations do we want to take with us from the week into our everyday lives?

An international evening rounded off the camp: from English jelly to Belgian chocolate to Slovakian non-alcoholic wine, there really was everything! The best part was, of course, eating together, laughing together, sharing together.

Original article (in German):


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