On the first of December 2018, several volunteers took part in a reforestation project in our local Parque Ecológico.
In the beginning, we were given a short introduction and learned of the variety and numerous species residing in the ecological park. Moreover, we learned of the devastating wildfires, which were the reason for our activity.
Shortly afterwards, we were allowed to start planting young trees under the supervision of an experienced park ranger. This planting task was very enjoyable, as we were able to combine enjoying a beautiful scenery with the fulfilling sense of being able to take part in something long-lasting and ecologically important.
Especially nowadays, as we as a global society become more and more attentive of how wasteful and damaging we used to handle our environment and the terrible effects it is causing in terms of global warming, this experience was more than gratifying. – Helen Bruegge, a volunteer from Germany.
The reforestation activity
The Funchal Ecological Park was created in 1994. It covers an area of 10 km2 of mountainous terrain in the north part of Funchal municipality. The abundant fauna and flora of the park provide optimal resources for a geomorphological and biological education. Its main objectives are to preserve nature and promote environmental education. It is also an excellent place for enjoying leisure, where visitors have access to many recreational facilities and can do activities like cycling or canyoning.
On the 1st of December 2018, I with a group of other volunteers participated in a reforestation activity. At the beginning, one of the staff members presented us some basic information about the Ecological Park of Funchal; its history, plants, and animals. The main problem of the park are fires that already devastated over 92% of the park’s area. Many of endemic for Madeira Island plants need a long time to grow. An area destroyed by the fire is constantly invaded by non-native plants that are propagating much faster than the native species. This is why the reforestation project is essential to maintain biological diversity in the park and to protect endemic species.
After the presentation, we had a walk to an indicated spot. The park guards explained us the details of tree planting and then we started to work with hoes. To let the plant grow it has to be well positioned and stable so it’s important to dig a hole deep enough and to keep at least 1,5 m distance between them.
We planted many trees that day and I feel happy to have a chance to participate in the activity that helps to protect the environment. – Martyna Krupinska, a volunteer from Poland.
Planting trees in Parque Ecológico
Our group of volunteers planted trees in the Ecological Park on the first of December
We started this month doing something different than before. Instead of making tours, we planted trees together with Students’ Union volunteers and employees of the Ecological Park. Madeira suffered from wildfires during the last years. Especially the fires of 2010 in Madeira changed the landscape significantly. One of the most affected areas was the Ecological Park. Reforestation is a chance to bring primal conditions back there.
Even though in the downtown of Funchal was really warm and sunny, when we got to the place was much colder and foggy. We started our activity with a presentation about the Ecological Park and its wildlife. Afterward, we took a walk to the hill where we planted our first trees. Mostly we were doing this in pairs because we wanted to keep a distance between saplings. Some of us were better at digging holes, others at holding saplings in hand
During this activity, I tried to capture other volunteers working, holding my camera in one hand and a hoe in the other. Surrounded by the fog and with hands dirty with soil, volunteers worked pretty hard to plant all trees. When all saplings were planted we came back to the center of Funchal, happy that we could help. – Magdalena Zawadzka, a volunteer from Poland.
Fotografias captadas por Magdalena Zawadzka, voluntária da Polónia, ao abrigo do programa Erasmus+.
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 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.
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.