The theme for the third day was ‘hands’ and was dominated by doing practical work. The Council gave us (free of course) a one year lease on an unused building that was a real mess. The building had formerly been used by a motorcycle dealer and had some very interesting interior spaces, a big mirror wall, what might have been a bar, a raised platform, and several tiled rooms that might have been workshops. The floor was rough pieces of slate, which I felt would be very difficult for dancing.
One group spent the day at the building and cleaned and painted it, while others stayed in the park to make furnishings for it. By the end of the day, most of the exterior was painted, but I don’t think the interior had been started. The furnishings included tables and sofas made from wooden pallets and cork, a marvelous wall hanging, and some cushions and curtains made by a sewing group. Everything was made of reused, donated materials. A local sculptor spent most of the day making a wall plaque for us.
The atmosphere in the park was very relaxed. Lots of people were busy making stuff for the building. We had a great picnic lunch, with all sorts of food that people had donated. In the afternoon, to accompany the work, was a series of music and dance performances by local artists on the bandstand near where we were working.
My overall reactions to AJUDADA
I was totally blown away by the event, and still haven’t come down to Earth. Perhaps most powerful for me was the depth of connection I found with people, so many of whom I now think of as very good friends. And such interesting, intelligent and committed people they all are! And of course everyone came and contributed at their own expense, out of commitment to the idea of the event.
The largest proportion of the people who attended were from all over Portugal, more than from Portalegre, with a sprinkling from around Europe and a few further afield, but many of the volunteers doing the detailed work and making the food were from Portalegre. There was a sense of like minded people from the whole country coming together, to help Portalegre and also to find out how they can work together afterwards.
And of course there were many inspiring and informative workshops and presentations, as well as lovely entertainment and lasting works of art (like a wall mural painted by school children). The programme was huge and wonderfully creative. The details, like the cork badges, and all the signs and posters, very artistic. It is hard to believe the group of organisers could manage so much in such a short time.
We don’t know what this will all lead to in the future, but we had a taste of a living gift economy, and the unpredictability of it is a large part of its charm. The mood and openness of everyone was wonderful. I am sure that it will have a wonderful effect on Portalegre, on Portugal and on all of us who were there.