A year in the field

4 October 2012

Young Friends of the Earth activists Marci tells us about his year on European Voluntary Service placement

Here on the Young Friends of the Earth Europe website we like to profile some of the activists who are part of our network and share what they get up to in their day to day campaigning. This time we hear from Márton Török, member of Friends of the Earth Hungary and the Young Friends of the Earth Europe communications working group, who is currently doing a one year European Voluntary Service (EVS) placement in Slovakia.

Stepping into cow manure is not much an enjoyable experience. But if you are collecting it for putting into the plaster on an adobe house, using your bare hands is the most convenient method for picking it up. This is but one thing you might learn during an EVS term.

If you are on this site I'm quite sure you already heard about EVS – if not, just get in touch with your national agency of the EU Youth programme. Anyhow, now I am spending a year at our northern neighbour Slovakia, in a village so small that goats are outnumbering the people.

The aim of my hosting organisation is to lead and teach an environmentally and socially sustainable lifestyle. I felt I had been quite isolated from the fundamental, physical reality, staying in the theoretical or digital-virtual domains of the schools and offices. How can you claim you are self-sufficient if you eat but cannot even grow your own food? So after spending years with various environmental organisations, I took another step towards being in harmony with nature and with my own principles, and searched for a project where I can learn about... earth. And water, and fire, and air.

Learn how to use a scythe. How to get water from the stream and not from the tap. How to make a fire in the stove. How to manage the time so that you can do your shopping during the open hour – that one hour every second day during which it is open. There are not any big towns nearby either, not that there would be any public transport in the weekends.

So we also forget a lot. We forget stress and hurry, the ocean of never-ending impulses, pollution, traffic, crowd, that you have to buy everything ready-made because it has to look nice and that you could not repair or make it yourself anyway. Moving to a place far away can bring you closer to yourself.

Right now we are preparing for the winter, and go out in the beautiful forests around to get some firewood. For splitting the log, we use wedges and mauls – we avoid deploying machines as much as we can, even if the jobs take a longer time this way. We volunteers seem to have a talent in building electric fences for the goats and cows too. And once we are able to tell the difference between a potato and a giraffe, we will dig deeper into the main course: permaculture.

Oh, and as for the plaster, horse manure actually works even better.