My Weekly Schedule as a Student Volunteer in Ibiza, Spain
As my first week as a Greenheart Travel volunteer at Casita Verde in Ibiza, Spain comes to an end, I feel nothing but joy when reflecting on all the experiences I have had so far.
Here are some of my favorites and a typical schedule for the week:
A usual work day at this ecological and experiential center for permaculture techniques begins at 8am. We have breakfast together and then a meeting where tasks are designated. Around 9:30, we start working, in the summer at least, because it gets very hot as the day goes on.
My time at the project was initiated by partaking in the day-long ordeal of making Carob syrup. This syrup is a popular substitute for chocolate as it is vegan and often helps avoid the questionable production of traditional chocolate as well as being naturally sweet, while cocoa needs lots of added sugar to counter its bitter taste. Carob trees grow all over the island and Casita Verde is encouraging its production because it envisions the farming of these trees as an interesting industry to make Ibiza more sustainable, since most of the farm land has been deserted as the population hoarded into the tourism business. However, as the effects of the 4 million annual visitors take its toll on the resources of the land, new ways of living will have to be considered.
The process of making the syrup begins by soaking the broken pods of carob and then boiling them for 10 minutes. Once they have been boiled, we put them through a hand-operated press and a brown juice comes out. The juice is then boiled for four or five hours until all the water has evaporated and a syrup is formed, which resembles molasses and tastes like it as well. We sell the product at the local market and use it on site as well to make desserts and drinks.
A few days after my arrival, we had our weekly beach clean at a touristy beach in San Antonio, the notoriously Mini-Britannia of Ibiza. First, we enjoyed a swim in the amazing turquoise water with a view of the ocean and the many yachts anchored in the bays here, and then we got to work.
We picked up an unimaginable amount of cigarette butts on the beach, and then larger pieces of plastic caught in the rocks. The resident volunteers explained that when they began cleaning that beach, there was so much garbage, but now, the quantity of actual debris wasn’t too alarming.
After the clean-up, we enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed over the ocean while eating the home made pizzas we had brought.
The usual week days are usually comprised of work, mainly up-keeping the installations, from 9:30-2:30pm, and then we break for lunch. In the afternoons we usually have some free time, often spent napping. However, during my week here, I’ve already been to the beach five times.
On Friday, I also went on a kayaking adventure in an old fishing bay and it was magnificent.
The tasks the student volunteers do are so varied. I have nailed and sanded tables on the terrace, worked in the gardens, pruned the trees, painted some furniture, raked the pathways, learned to make a lot of delicious foods including Casita Verde’s infamous Aloe Vera juice. (Aloe Vera is the sacred substance of anyone who comes by here.) It is used for everything and the residents apply it all over their skin at least once a day. Plus, the juice is the most refreshing drink you could imagine!
Overall, we work very hard and do all our tasks meticulously, but we also have so much fun and the directors are such good teachers. They truly care about the students learning and getting hands-on experiences. We are included in everything and encouraged at all times. Also, music is always playing and our activities are diverse. Nonetheless, I have learned that you have to genuinely care about what you’re doing and believe in the importance of environmental stewardship or you will not enjoy the volunteer experience at Casita Verde.
However, work days appear to only be Tuesday through Friday and on Wednesday evenings we do the beach clean-up. Also, Thursdays we host fund raising parties for Casita Verde 2 being built in Granada! On these occasions, we invite the public and serve a meal and then dance.
On Saturdays, we go to the local products market, where we talk to people about the center, invite them to come visit it on Thursdays and Sundays, plus sell aloe vera juice and carob syrup as well as a few other Greenheart products. The market is so eye-opening. It was initiated by Casita Verde and is filled with organic products and vegan/raw food stalls. I was so impressed to see all that is going on on the island. I was reminded by my team members that this is only a small side of what Ibiza offers. Most of it is high rise hotels and frenetic tourists, surrounding some of the most beautiful beaches in the world of course.
The ecological center is open to the public on Sundays. We serve an incredible vegetarian meal made by the chef of Casita Verde and then offer a tour of the dozen or so buildings here. Each one is so cleverly engineered and architecturally mind-boggling. Plus, the irrigation system and water re-use at the center is unique in its ingenuity. In normal conditions, all the water comes from the rain, and all the energy comes from the sun. However, with the effects of global warming hitting even the most prepared here at Casita Verde, there is a water shortage because of a drought. We use the water so carefully, but even so, we must buy a truck of 16 tons of water about every two weeks.
For the week to come, there is much to look forward to. A British TV Series is coming to make an episode about Casita Verde for their series “New Lives in the Wild” which will be broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK in the fall.
For the occasion, we are doing many of the most iconic eco-traditions of the center. July is definitely an extremely intense and fun time to be at Casita Verde, surrounded by the most passionate and genuine ecologists I’ve ever met, as well as by the breath-taking nature and waters of this Balearic island.
*Photo credits to Scott McClelland, fellow volunteer at the project.