Volunteering in Beja, Portugal

Impact: 9
Support: 10
Fun: 9
Value: 8
Safety: 10

Spending two weeks in Beja, Portugal was an opportunity to enjoy the rhythm of this small city in the agricultural region of the Alentejo. This is a journal entry I wrote one day on my trip. I was assigned to teach at an elementary school in the nearby town of Cuba - the true birthplace of Christopher Columbus!

"Another day in beautiful Beja and team 10 will scatter to our varied assignments. Trains, buses, and sturdy feet propel the Global Volunteers on their mission to wage Peace and Social Justice by helping to teach conversational English.

Our school has primary through 9th grade classes and today started with a small group of 3rd grade students who reviewed their counting skills by making a tally of the tables (14) and chairs (27) in the classroom. They then learned to identify the pencil, its home the pencil case, the rubber and the pen. One boy observed that the pencil used to live at the Stationery Store.

The fifth graders have a better understanding but appear a bit shy about speaking. Questions are numerous showing great curiosity if not always in English.

We had another wonderful lunch with the Director and a few of the teachers. This is very convivial time with easy questions from us and them. We’ve been invited on a tour of Cuba Monday afternoon and a meal of wild rabbit at someone’s house. This should be a memorable event that strengthens the friendship growing between us.

The evening started with another Portuguese lesson from Joachim. This was a bit more challenging with some tricky pronunciations! At the end of the time Joachim looked at the coffee table and exclaimed, “What’s this book doing here!?” It was a copy of his collection of short stories based on life in Beja. I wish it were in English so I could read it.

Dinner was a great mix of pizzas and fun conversations. We close another day with a sense of well earned sleepiness and possibly dreams of great adventures to come."

I've been volunteering with Global Volunteers since 1998 and have been on 11 trips. This trip to Portugal was like all my other experiences as far as logistics. The hotel was very comfortable, the food excellent and plentiful, safety is never a concern. Global Volunteers works tirelessly to ensure the volunteers have the best opportunity to participate in the program and make the most of the experience.

The community in Beja was welcoming and gracious.

I've recommended this location to several friends and wouldn't hesitate to suggest this for a first-timer or returning volunteer.

Timothy Cunniff

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would