My ESC volunteering experience in Mõisamaa

Hi everyone!

Nelly here – an adventurous, joy-filled and colourful girl from Bulgaria who is about to tell you about her European Solidarity Corps volunteering experience at an ecovillage in Estonia called Väike Jalajälg. Quick disclaimer – it’s extremely difficult to put into words all I experienced, felt, witnessed and took part in within the span of a month so keep in mind everything you read is only a speck of what was my reality in this lovely piece of paradise by the Baltic sea.

I will start from the very beginning – my heart felt heavy like never before for the first half of 2020 in regards to what was happening in the world. Confusion and suspense were on my mind daily. One day I saw a facebook post about this project happening in Estonia and instantly I knew I needed this – to be away from the big city and close to nature instead, to shut down from the rest of the world so as to find peace. Other reasons that motivated me applying were sustainability, community life, flexibility, permaculture, cooking and intercultural dialogue – all topics dear to my heart. If you find within yourself any of these valuable perhaps Väike Jalajälg is the place for you. :)

I will try to structurally put together what a normal working day at the ecovillage looked like: morning circle at 9am, first working shift 10am to 1pm, lunch and break until 2:30pm, second working shift from 2:30 to 5:30pm. There is a 15min break at every working shift.
Afterwards rest, dinner, perhaps a workshop, chill time.

Something I very much appreciated while working was that we had a saying and our voice mattered. Before each working shift began the work leaders would enlist the tasks that needed to be done this morning/afternoon and we would each choose a team. I feel most productive when I don’t get into too much routine and I kept myself interested with doing different jobs. As the days went by I realized I have done almost everything there was a possibility of –  raking, mulching, painting, gardening, destroying bathroom tiles, cleaning, crushing coal, jam making, sanding, picking berries and a ton of cooking. I am a strong believer that a small community (and society on a larger scale) works best when every person contributes with their own passion and talent so there is no wasted potential. Upon asking myself how can I best contribute during the working shifts? cooking and creating art stood out from the rest of the options and even though I tried all the enlisted tasks, I focused my energy into the activities I thoroughly love.

During my stay two words seemed to occupy my thoughts a ton – openness and abundance.
Openness is two aspects. Anywhere I am in my motherland I am almost always surrounded by mountains. Mountains are something my soul needs, the mountain is my happy place. As I look out of my window in my hometown the view is predominantly gorgeous mountains. And then I went to Estonia and the richness of endless fields revealed so much sky to me, the beauty of its openness and depth hit me and I looked up more than ever – at the stars, at the moon, at the blue. And loved it so much I spent many nights sleeping outside like I’ll never get to see it again.
And openness in the meaning of the result of opening one’s heart when living in a community. It was very new to me to share in front of people how I feel on a daily basis. It takes courage to open up and voice one’s feelings but openness brings deep bonding and that’s one lesson I will never forget. And even though a big chunk of the day was focused on working and recharging, this didn’t prevent friendship from coming into our group like a wave.

Abundance. Such a beloved word. Abundance was so present at the ecovillage. Abundance of food, of colour, of laughs, of freedom, of experience. I couldn’t get enough of it. There was such abundant time spent in impromptu dancing, singing. There were abundant learning opportunities – especially relationship wise. We got to hear first-hand how sociocracy works and gives every member a saying in all community matters. I will bring awareness about this method of decision making both at home and at my workplace. Also something I was pleasantly surprised to experience was how normal it was to speak about consent and boundaries. And believe me, living in a community teaches you abundantly about yourself and others. I come from a big family and thought not much would surprise me yet communal life turns out to be a constant teacher through which countless opportunities for bonding and enriching rise up.

I encourage every open-hearted person to try this experience for only through an open heart one is able to experience the beauty of Väike Jalajälg. Immense gratitude fills me up every time I think about Estonia. One month doesn’t sound like much, it flew by in a blink of an eye indeed but the memories I get to keep in my heart, all the lessons learnt, all the bog swimming and barefoot walking left a permanent footprint on my life.