The volunteer program is a major component in the social poly-culture we are so passionate about growing at La Donaira. Like the hotel guests, volunteers are travelers with a diversity of backgrounds and interests, all sharing something special which brings them to this place, all taking something special from this place with them when they leave. They are cross-pollinators, enriching our cultural landscape with a constant flow of physical and intellectual movement. Many find their stay here a transformational experience, as revealed by the interviews and articles in La Donaira Journal.

-Please introduce yourself with some information about your background, where you grew up, etc.

I’m Brigit and I grew up in a small German town and, before coming to La Donaira, had nothing to do with farming and permaculture whatsoever (apart from a growing interest in more sustainable ways of living on this planet than what we are globally mostly pursuing at the moment).

-What brings you to La Donaira? Why did you choose to come here out of all the possible options?

I was looking for a way to have a break from what I did at home for a living and do something different, and at the same time participate in a useful project, get to spend time in Spain (a country I really love) and get more in touch with nature than I usually do at home, where I have an office job. I also had done horse-riding as a teenager and for some reason felt a strong urge to work with horses again, although not with an emphasis on riding, but more on being with them. When I read about La Donaira and their permaculture and Natural Horsemanship approach on Workaway.org, it seemed like the perfect place.

-How would you describe your experiences here? How would you describe La Donaira to someone who has never been here?

I honestly think it’s quite impossible to describe in a way that someone who has never been there gets a realistic picture – I’m afraid you’ll have to see for yourself!

-What did you do here? How would you describe your work? Have you accomplished what you wanted to?

I worked in the gardens for about 3 weeks, which gave me an interesting insight into different aspects of permaculture, before there was a free place at the stables, where I wanted to stay for the rest of my aprox. 2.5 months at La Donaira. There, I spent the mornings cleaning the paddocks, and afternoon work depended on what was there to do, e.g. bringing horses from or to their paddocks, preparing them for being ridden by the stable staff or clients, helping feeding them, doing more cleaning, sometimes driving down with someone to the mares out in the field to administer medicine, etc. Sometimes I was able to have a hack, and twice I got a dressage lesson. The best part was when I got to accompany Seamus, who is responsible for getting the young horses used to working with humans, has endless patience with animals as well as people, and is really good at explaining things. I learned a lot about horses and Natural Horsemanship and especially enjoyed the two times when I got to work with the foals. I would have loved to do that a lot more, and also have a little personal project where I could work with a specific horse and see some achievement by the end of my stay, but for a plethora of reasons (and my time there being limited), this was not possible, unfortunately.

-What is your current goal/mission in life? How has your time in LD affected your life, your ideas and your future plans?

I think goals and mission can change throughout life – when I was 20, they were in some ways similar, but in others a lot different from what they are now at 40. My current mission is studying psychology in order to become a therapist. I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to find out what could be my personal contribution to the well-being of this world, and I’ve come to the conclusion that helping people to overcome their personal problems is the most suitable way for me to do that. LD actually affected my life most before I even got there! I organized my stay there, among other things, because I needed some space, some time away from my job, in order to clearly see what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. When you’re completely immersed in your daily routines, it’s often hard to free your mind enough so new ideas can come up. But as soon as I had organized everything for going to Spain, this actually happened automatically – the mere prospect of being away from everything for a while was enough to open up my mind and finally enable me to decide to go back to university, which I had been pondering for a while, but somehow I hadn’t been able to make up my mind until then. So LD has actually changed my life and future plans in unexpected ways before I even set foot on its terrain and started volunteering. :-)

-What changes, if any, have you experienced in yourself since you stayed here?

It’s often very difficult to attribute changes to one specific thing – life is so complex, and I’m not sure my stay produced any of the changes that happened afterwards.

-Feel free to share your thoughts about the way we live today in modern society. How did you start to develop an ecological consciousness?

Oh boy, this would probably take a whole book (or at least a very long rant). How exactly it all started I don’t remember, but over the years, I started reading more and more about sustainable living and alternative ways of building communities. In very few words: I find the state of the world quite frightening, both in terms of how we treat the planet and of how we treat each other. I think the solution (or one of them) might be becoming more conscious, each and every one of us, of what (and how much, and from what sources – oh, and why!) we consume the quantities we do and our general environmental footprint, as well as of what we feel, how we express it and how we can learn to communicate non-violently and regulate our own emotions instead of just dumping them on other people.

-Any other thoughts or message you would like to share?

Don’t believe everything you think!

Two volunteers have fun at ‘El Nido’, the resting and lodging area of the volunteers. Photo: Anna Maria Indra

The Volunteers are working in his garden. Photo: Anna Maria Indra

MAIN PIC: Our volunteer Valery is playing with a sheepdog in the henhouse. Photo: Anna Maria Indra