Europe is our Region
‘Rural Centre of Non Formal Education’ Model – Vila de Marmeleira, Portugal
About 6 years ago, there was a small reclusive rural community, affected by environmental issues, competition from large multinationals hindering local organic producers, lack of citizen motivation, under-use of resources, unemployment, aging population, few educational, occupational and participatory opportunities for youth and as a result, their emigration to cities or abroad.
The community’s first step towards ‘Utopia’ or ‘EUtopia’ was a youth exchange, which led to international contact networking, awareness on the need to change existing practices, increased motivation to support local values, deeper intercultural learning for both the participants and the locals. Throughout these past few years, the Youth in Action and Erasmus+ Programs have been used for training courses, seminars, partnership building activities, study visits, which have resulted in larger-scale use and maintenance of local resources; local and regional policy making; creation of employ-ability; new and complementary production systems; development of educational tools; recognition of non-formal education, of the projects and EU funding. A few outcomes of EU funded projects in the local community thus far include: an international award, establishment of a ‘University of Non-formal Education’, involvement in three Erasmus+ KA2 Strategic Partnership projects, opening of a Bed and Breakfast with a second one to open soon, increased ‘intelligent’ tourism. The model is now being transferred to other regions in Portugal and abroad, with plans for creating an international network of such local projects.
One of the people involved in transforming the small rural community into ‘EUtopia’ has been a trainer in a TC organized by the Romanian National Agency under Erasmus+ Transnational Cooperation Activities – ‘TICTAC – Multilateral Training Course to support quality in youth worker mobility activities under Erasmus+ Youth in Action’. So, what is TIC-TAC? It is TACTIC, because once you identify a need, it is what you use in order to reach an outcome. It is TIME, because now is our time to make a change. And it is RHYTHM, because you have to make your own kind of music, but still be in tune with a metronome, to check if your notes are on spot.
Very shortly after arriving from my (180 km) looong journey 🙂 , someone told me ‘These guys are going to change your life’. I thought ‘I’ve been to this sort of TCs before and it was mind-opening, but not life-changing’. I was a bit discouraged at some point, thinking ‘but my reality is so different from yours’… I have been telling people back home ‘maybe that’s the wrong way of going for a project… or anything else for that matter… finding where the funding is, applying and implementing it for only that purpose’. I was saying ‘maybe that’s why projects fail, because it means flipping the pyramid upside down, if there’s no basis, it will collapse’.
I am now absolutely confident that the right way, which is the only way, is not utopia. The instruments are there. You can bring ‘EUtopia’ into your community or bring your community closer to ‘EUtopia’; you just need to pitch in with work and commitment. Everything is possible.
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