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The isolated capital of the pearl of the Atlantic

Funchal is, depending on whom you ask either a big or a tiny city. The capital of Madeira counts more or less 112.000 inhabitants and is the largest city of the island. But what is Funchal for me?

I have been in Madeira for one and a half month now and had enough time to get the first impression of its landscape and also its capital Funchal. When I arrived here I thought that Funchal has everything one could wish for. And that is right… at least when you are a tourist. Here, you can find a bunch of souvenir shops, a lot of cafes and restaurants and a mass of hotels. Furthermore the city which is home to around one percent of Portugal’s inhabitants offers nice views and a lot of interesting museums. And the location between the ocean and the mountains is amazing.

But when you live here for longer it starts to feel like the city is designed for the tourists which are coming. The young tourists mainly just sleep in the city and spend their time with outdoor sports while the retired enjoy the slowness and the comfort. Cultural events are rare and international bands are not playing in Madeira. When it comes to sports, Funchal is not the best place either. Since the start of my voluntary service I have been searching for a basketball team in which I can play as an amateur and so far I haven’t found one. Additionally I go out to the same places every time but this is probably a self-made problem. And also the fact that I see a familiar face almost every time I’m on the streets has positive aspects.

All in all Funchal is a beautiful city but I totally understand why young people want to move to the mainland with its mass of opportunities. But in my opinion it would be healthy for the city if more young Madeirans would stay and form the city more after their needs.

Short bio of the volunteer:

Julius Sax, a volunteer from Germany with interest in basketball, tennis, scouts and playing guitar, read and meet friends.


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.

European Voluntary Service

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.