The Travelling Heart

Dedicated to my EVS friends

Have you ever taken the metro from Syntagma Square to the airport in Athens? It takes long. Long enough to go back in time through memories and have a deep reflection about the days I spent amongst a group of extraodinary people…

Syntagma Square

Man is the main problem himself. We’ve modified the Planet in pursuiting development and a better standard of living. Capitalism has globalised residues, air pollution or degradation of ecosystems to planetary scale presenting environmental problems such as desertification, climate change or water shortage that threaten the survival of millions of people. Even worse, we’ve lost our capacity of reflection and criticism. It is not just a financial crisis, but a crisis of values, a crisis of the occidental life style. We live in a markets’ society, where everything is worth a price in terms of economy, beyond its real value. At present Europe is, but is not what once we dreamed it should be about.

And still, I do believe in a truly human society, driven by the values of trust, solidarity and mutual respect between cultures and nations. Amongst them, there is a group of ordinary people with extraodinary abilities and huge hearts, promoting cooperation, encouraging participation, fighting for human rights, preserving nature, contributing to the well-being of society as a whole. Their work, so many times hardly recognized, cannot be measured in terms of economic return and however they don’t give up, becoming the active participants in change that society needs. They are called volunteers

…Volunteers. Men and women. Several generations. Different accents and languages, from different countries and backgrounds, but identical purposes in defending dignity, democracy and freedom for a better and sustanaible world, out of free will and in a spirit of solidarity, without expectation of material reward.

dedicated to my EVS friends

Again, I met this people in Athens. And again, I left the city with my heart on one hand, and a handful of good reasons to believe there is space for hope.

For these and many more, let me say THANK YOU for your support, for the work you are carrying out, for the role you are playing, for being who you are. No matter the reason that brought you to this point, thank you.

We are the energy that makes the world move. We are volunteers.

*EVS=European Volunteer Service

The European Voluntary Service (EVS) provides young people with the unique chance to express their personal commitment through unpaid and full-time voluntary activities in a foreign country within or outside the EU. In this way, it seeks to develop solidarity, mutual understanding and tolerance among young people, thus contributing to reinforcing social cohesion in the European Union and to promoting young people’s active citizenship. Further info here


Dreams beyond the dense thickets

I could say my interest for environment comes from a combination of a parental education based on the respect for nature, my childhood experiences at Ebro riverside an a critical reflection of how the world is changing drastically. Since I was a child, I grew up reading with great admiration the naturalistic descriptions and observations of those first adventurers who explored  the impenetrable rainforests of a recently discovered America; I was a devoted reader to meticulous observations of naturalists who dedicated their lives to the study and conservation of biodiversity. Unfortunately, by that time I started becoming aware of global environmental degradation and how economic and social development was putting an unbearable strain on our environment.

Alexander Von Humboldt, botanist and explorer, in Chimborazo

Such admiration for Nature and my will for doing something else were the main reasons to become a membership of WWF (organisation whose goals are conservation of endangered wildlife and their habitats) in Spain. First, as a membership; later as an active citizenship, taking part in diverse environmental activities, such as birdwatching, treeplanting, river ecosystem’s restoration, cleaning-up days, etc. Today, emulating that little anxious-to-adventure dreamer boy remaining deep inside me, I walk throughtout the dense vegetation of Dadia Forest Reserve everyday, putting my energy and motivation at WWF-Greece’s service as an environmental volunteer.

The Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park is one of the most important sites for birdwatching and conservation of birds of prey and vultures in Europe. Dadia, in the center of the Park, is the location where all office’s staff, local workers and volunteers live and develope our activities, within the numerous running conservation projects. Volunteer’s field work is quite tough, specially during winter. Long hours in the outdoors, mostly in pairs or alone, exposed to the sun, freezing cold, strong winds, rain or snow. We monitore migratory birds, study vultures’ behaviour, record windtags using a telescope and binoculars or stand in the middle of the night listening to the Owl and other nocturnal birds, just to mention a few. However, Nature, always magic and kind, frequently rewards our efforts to care of her: the elegant and powerful flight of the Golden Eagle, the surrounded sound of Black Vulture’s wings, one of the biggest bird-flying raptors in the world, or the heartbreaking howl of wolves somewhere hidden in the impenetrable thickets, are feelings quite hard to describe and only possible to experience if you decide to reconect with Earth and yourself, and be ready to listen to the sounds of the forests.

Michael Fay, ecologist, crossing the Congo Basin during his Megatransect trip

Somehow, I can’t avoid to take a look back in time, remembering the young boy I was, who admired those first explorers and adventurers, some kind of heroes for me; people who dedicated their lives to Wildlife’s conservation. Today, these heroes are ordinary people, like you and me, though with an extraodinary developed sense of nature, willing to work hard to safeguard our only home, Planet Earth. Some of those heroes work in WWF. Some of them, live in Dadia’s forests.

There are many reasons for what I would encourage you to join WWF, my friend, whether as a volunteer or a membership: you can share your skills, make new friends, gain experience in the environmental sector, enjoy nature at its greatest expression, make a positive impact in the community, escape from daily routine, feel good with yourself, work for what you really love and believe in, be part of a team…or just for fun. But if something I’ve learned during the last years is that ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. That is the reason I am proud of being a volunteer and put my time, knowledge and skills at WWF’s service, where people understand the relation between technology and values, economy and society, and the connection between human being and Nature Conservation, to keep on working with energy and hope FOR A LIVING PLANET.

Dadia Forest Reserve. Greece

Gorillas in the mist

7.30 am I don’t see you, but I can feel you. I know you are there, amongst the shadows, staring at me from the distance.

I’m gonna find you. I don’t surrender.

Dense thickets, cold and low clouds are your allies. I have patience, hot coffee and a HD Swarowski ready to catch you.

You speak the language of nature, I learn fast. You soar the skies, I move in a rush…

9.54 am My boss calls me asking what the hell I am doing on the field with this bad weather. Little humming-bird is back home. This is not the end, dear vulture! =P

Black Vulture

We are volunteers. We are EVS

Forget what you read about. Forget your prejudices. Forget your fears. Just do it.

We are volunteers. We don’t pay with money, love is our currency and when we give we don’t expect anything back.

We perform an important role promoting nature and human rights protection. We are part of the solutions, advocating for changing reality, having expectations that things can change.

We know a lot, we do little. That is the drama of our time.

Somebody said once “In the evening of life we will be judged on love”. Adapting the sentence, we might say: “in the evening of life, we will be judged on our works, not our plans”.

We are the energy that makes the world move. We are volunteers. We are EVS.