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Wild abundance project. My first 2 months as a volunteer. Linda Frevel

Hello, my name is Linda. I am 19 years old. Since the beginning of this year, the idea to go to an English-speaking country for a period when I am finished with my A-levels had gradually solidified in my head. To be honest, the idea of ​​going to another country where I don't know anyone and where the language is not my mother tongue had always been frightening me. But in the end, the urge to overcome this fear and have completely new experiences was just too big. After a few weeks of being overwhelmed with all the different opportunities to do a voluntary service abroad and the fear of being too late to find a suitable place, I got finally selected by The Night Orchard in Ireland. I was so happy and now, after being here for more than two months, I can say that I got the very best project and that the ESC is the perfect program for me. You ask why? I will tell you now!

I think what I love the most are the people here. I live with four other volunteers in a beautiful stone house. They come from Croatia, Italy, and Ireland and all of them are super nice, funny, and by the way much older than me. Our coexistence has worked out very well so far, we can tell each other everything and love to spend time together. At the same time, however, we also respect the limits of each other and it is perfectly okay to retreat to your room when you have had enough. Our mentors are also great people who try to give us the best time. The motto is "Everything has to be fun!" This includes that they integrate us into the wider community in Cloughjordan (that's the name of the little village here). During the first few days, and especially when I walked through Cloughjordan for the first time, I was downright surprised at how openly and warmly people react to us newcomers. Maybe it's because there aren't that many people and so every new face is a great joy ... Again and again we go to parties or other gatherings where we always get to know new people and have a lot of fun.

In addition to the privilege that my voluntary service is fully funded by the EU so I don't have to worry about anything, I love that the ESC focuses on me as a volunteer and my personal development and that I'm not just here to work. But I think the latter is a particular strength of my project. We learn broad skills that are important for life, such as cooking, building things, and handling the tools that are needed for that. We take kickboxing lessons as a team because "well-being" is one of the principles of the project.

For the first few weeks, we practiced Feldenkrais weekly, this is a kind of movement that helps us to become more aware of our bodies.

Another highlight of our weekly routine is the session with Jeanne (one of our mentors). She works with plants and art together with us: We are making our own natural medicine and learning about the plants in Jeanne's lovely garden in an artistic way. Also here the focus is on getting to know yourself and your constitution to find the optimal way to support yourself with the plants.

But still, The Night Orchard is a social ENTERPRISE, which means there is real work that needs to be done every day. There are a lot of chickens in the location where our house is. Each day one of us is responsible for collecting, cleaning, and packing the eggs so they are ready to be sold. Moreover, the chickens want to be fed and watered. Once a week we clean the chicken coops all together and move them as well as the fences so the chickens always have fresh grass under their feet. It is always wonderful to watch these funny little creatures, who sometimes like to be petted and never stop "pecking" you curiously ...

There is also a polytunnel, where we grow oyster mushrooms. Common tasks are preparing mushrooms in buckets, collecting the bad mushrooms, or dehydrating the mushrooms, as The Night Orchard sells both fresh and dried mushrooms.

We recently finished the apple season. For a couple of weeks, the focus was very much on the apple juice pressing. So we visited different orchards and collected apples there. We pressed them, pasteurized the juice, and bottled it at the end. It was very nice to go through the whole process from climbing and shaking the trees to the finished apple juice bottle -a chance to connect with the product.

We are also involved in social media work. I made an Instagram account for The Night Orchard. There I will post photos and videos about the project. I have a lot of fun with video editing, and I am very happy to do it as part of the project and that I can certainly learn a lot more.

Our mentors are very keen to show us other beautiful places in Ireland. So we make trips now and then. We went to the famous Cliff of Moher for example. The day on this impressive coast followed by watching the sunset on the beach was one of my favorites so far.

Of course, I am confronted by challenges from time to time; for example the language barrier or me learning to be more open and to accept if I just don't always manage to be like I want to be... But all in all, I'm just happy and grateful to be here and to be able to participate in this project of which I am convinced.

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