We are a group of international volunteers, coming from different countries to promote, preserve and present the material and immaterial heritage of Madeira. The sweatshirts we wear whilst doing this read „Madeiran Heritage – Sharing our legacy“, because that is what we are doing, sharing the legacy of Madeira. The heritage and culture of the island. But it’s not our legacy, it’s someone else’s legacy.
When I told my friends that I would leave Germany to talk about the history, buildings and personalities that shaped an Island on which I had never set foot beforehand, they were a little bit confused and wondering.
But, how will you guide people through a city that you don’t know at all?
And to be honest, I was wondering the same thing. Of course, dates and names can be learned, but isn’t it a little bit strange to have a German/Polish/British/Spanish/Finish person telling you about the history of Madeira? Or to walk into the Jesuits College, a Portuguese National Monument, and be welcomed by a person who doesn’t understand, let alone speak the countries language? Furthermore, something tourists seem to be after whilst on vacation is “authenticity”. The term promises intensity, reality, originality and … is yet rather vague. Can I as a foreigner present Madeiras History in an authentic way? I was worried about this aspect in the beginning, but soon found out that my doubts were absolutely unnecessary.
First of all, hardly any Portuguese tourists come visit the monuments we work in. And all the foreign tourists that come are more than happy to find people who speak their mother tongue. As for the authenticity, I found out that the experience they were looking for was not limited to the dates and facts I would tell them, but that my person was actually a big part of it. People turned out to be very curious and wanted to know why I chose to come here, what I did beforehand, what my plans were for afterwards, how I saw the island, what my impressions were on the people etc. etc.
It is said that the history shapes a people, and I do not want to doubt that point of view entirely. But I think the actual influence that historic events of the country I was born in have on my personality are very small. Not to say insignificant. As we mostly base our knowledge on history and stories, our job can be also seen as the one of a storyteller. And in that profession your personal appearance, rhetoric and social interaction are the key factors which make history vivid and tangible. And authentic, if you like.
Ina comes from Germany, where she studied cultural education. Looking for practical experience in her field, she first did a voluntary service in on Reunion Island, which is where her love for volcanic islands and practical fieldwork were triggered. Following these preferences and being curious for learning another language brought her to Madeira. Since September 2016 she’s one of the European volunteers of AAUMa, realizing guided tours in historic buildings and throughout the city and helping the cultural department with translations.
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.
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.