I have learnt in Moura that if you want to get to know an area, you have to spend time with nature: not only with the people in the villages, but also to go for walks to see not only its positive side but also its problems, to experience the physical elements as well. Rota Vicentina fits with this view, and it is also an answer to the dream I had when I was studying: to build a project with a community, to participate in the development of a region. Rota is a good way to enjoy this beautiful area and to be able to participate in creating it is a huge privilege.
I started a European Voluntary Service (EVS) project here in Portugal, in Moura, a village close to the Spanish border, in 2005, and I stayed on another 10 years after the end of the project. My project was about environmental awareness, working with kids at schools: we created activities with different themes, such as water, mountains or animals. The aim was to give local knowledge to the students to help their general studies and to be able to zoom in within a wider theme.
I studied Political Science in Lyon, France, and I wanted to work on humanitarian causes for international associations around the world. I believed EVS could be the first step in Europe, it could be the beginning. The first project which chose me was this one in Moura, it happened by chance: I moved to Portugal because of the project, and I never went back to France. I always felt my path would lead me abroad. When I was studying in Madrid on the Erasmus Exchange programme, I felt lonely even though I was constantly with other Erasmus students. I wanted to get to know the life of local people, to be surrounded by them, to live in a community and I thought EVS could be an opportunity for this. Erasmus is a few months in your life, but I wanted to build something for a lifetime.
I am happy in Odemira. I love the place I’m living in and the people around me, even though I feel less security here, and have encountered some difficulties, because I had to build up everything from zero when we moved from Moura to Vila Nova de Milfontes. I truly hope we can put down roots for my son here, our life belongs to here now. I believe French and Portuguese people are very close to each other culturally, I see many similarities. I travel back to France 2-3 times a year, and it feels like a holiday. Maybe I could convince Ryanair to create a direct flight between Beja and Montpellier to see my family more often…
The song was created to illustrate a project which wanted to encourage people to participate in citizenship, a project promoted by ADCMoura: https://adcmoura.pt/participo/adcmoura-participa-no-projecto-my-smart-quartier/
The photos were taken by the castle of Vila Nova de Milfontes.