Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A talk about community at Andanças festival

Plastering weekend at Miriem's house, Galicia, with our
"community" of growers
Honoured, I am, to be asked to talk, to give a talk, at a festival in the North of Portugal called Andanças.  An incredible event in its own right, an entirely voluntary event, set in the same community each year in a small village just South of Porto in the North-ish of Portugal.

I had been contacted following a description of a weekend get together and work I had with a bunch of local friends from Galicia and Portugal.

My family, in Scotland. A community of us, that I only really
appreciate when I see them from afar... Kim missing:(

So I will talk about what we are doing in this "community" or group of friends, but I also want to relate to my history of work and life in all those places I have worked until now in humanitarian disasters.  A life that seems to have been left behind, swept away by the present, the urgency of now, the next bit of building we have to complete, and so on.  But I find it is creeping up on me, this past. It has defined me after all. I travelled and worked as an aid or development worker from the age of 20 till that of 40, with spells of other things here and there.  The people and communities I worked with in crisis fill me with a great sense of being, of living. Of being alive and proud to have contributed in a major way. I think I need to start writing about these stories, these moments and these people.  Andanças will be a start, albeit a talk.

So here is a summary of the talk I have put together, that I'll give with no photos or electronic slidage and all that. Just talk. I need to work on my Portuguese, and an outline of what to say.  Or maybe I'll just think about it and fire from the hip...

Andanças 2010
Palestra on Community

I will talk about a community that shares an international landmark, the river Minho. Here, friends and acquaintances from Southern Galicia and Northern Portugal gather to help each other build our houses, or to create gardens for local schools, or just to talk and plan a future that is less dependent on industrialsed products and globalised trade, and more reliant on local economies. A future where buildings are made from natural, local materials, that require a fraction of the energy to keep warm , where food comes from nearby valleys and is free from toxins and chemicals.

But what drives communities to change, adopt new and unfamiliar techniques? How can we find cohesion in a modern Europe surrounded by the distraction of television, internet, computer games, cheap energy and food in supermarkets that come from lands beyond our horizons.

I will tell of my work in communities affected by war and natural disaster, from the confilcts in Bosnia and Burundi, Eritrea and Liberia; to recovery from tsunami in Aceh and the Maldives. How in these situations, as an aid worker, I found moments of incredible community unity, strengh, determination. Under desperate circumstances such as these, I found people were able to create great changes, achieve unthinkable progress, adopt new practices and skills.

Attempting to unite these two different strands in the knowledge of modern threats and challenges faced by people around the world I will discuss community as I find it now, in my new home in the Vale do Minho, the advantages and challenges of peace and prosperity, and the urgency for us all to find solutions to global climate, energy and ecological crises.


Rupert Wolfe Murray said...

Sounds genuinely inspiring and I wish I was there to listen to the talk, as well as help with your homes...

Stephanie said...

Can you take a recording of your forthcoming talk? What you are doing is what many of would like to do but can't always get the cooperation. What about people who don't have good communication skills, perhaps are not natural leaders but have all the eco credentials they need to live sustainably in every possible way?

Anonymous said...

The School of Doing is speaking for itself!...;-)
Be real!


Steven Gordon said...

can you blame Thatcher in any way?!
love to all and keep posting, love to see what your all up to

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