After a few life changing days at Tamera we launched off in our home on wheels with a new shift in perspective also now onboard. Tamera had put something new on the table, an option, a life, a gift maybe. After such a short visit lots still remained unclear and this played with my mind over the coming days as the community, still largely unknown found its way into our ponders over our future. Meanwhile a strong attachment returned to my mind, fixated on a final destination for our family, a conclusion to this quest. Was Tamera it? The consequence of such an attachment found me unavailable to the children and overwhelmed by their simple need to play and push against limits. It all felt like despair as I searched the inner capacity of my mind for the answer. It wasn’t there. Guilt returned as I longed for our children to have stability in their lives and a place to call home, a final destination.
We travelled across Portugal and into Spain where our experience mostly mirrored my internal state, complicated and unpredictable. After a few days with a very dear old friend in Orgiva, 4 hours east of Portugal, we made our way north to the city of Granada. I had found what I believed was a community and school for those socially outcast on the workaway site. After an initial enquiry we were warmly welcomed to come and stay and volunteer at the foundation.
The foundation is the result of the love and devotion of Dora and Ignacio, a local couple who in spite of no government funding are managing to keep the project alive.
The foundation is Located in the small village of Sierra Elvira, 15 minutes outside of Granada in southern Spain. The central area consists of 8 residents houses, the flat where Dora, Ignacio and their 1 year old daughter Elvira live, a pool, 2 straw bale buildings, a small bar, a bakery, a large dining room, several study rooms, vegetable gardens, chickens and a central courtyard space, all within less than 1 acre of land.
We arrived on a Friday afternoon to a bus of the commnity’s children returning from their day at school. We were invited into the dining room for a 2:30 lunch and an opportunity to meet some of the other volunteers and residents. Unable to speak much Spanish, we anticipated that we would be facing a barrier. We were welcomed with warmth as we followed the flow and enjoyed watching everything unfold.
We were shown to the volunteers house 300 meters away in the village and informed of the very exciting summer inauguration of the swimming pool later that afternoon. Basil and Wren began to engage in the unspoken language of play with some of the children while Tom and I began to sink into another perspective shift.
We started the following day in the dining room with the community sharing in breakfast of fresh orange juice, bread and a delicious tomato jam. The sun blazed as children ran wild in their Saturday’s free time. 2 youngsters dominated the space with violent, out of control play and no one in sight to stop them. Crying out for love, attention and limits, we all jumped in and navigated the best we could, helping the little ones whilst keeping Bas and Wren safe. Four hands soon became three after a young mother asked if we could care for her 8 month old son Hadi while she spent the morning in the kitchen with the lunch team. It was frantic and unpredictable but we were practicing our knowledge of the Hand in Hand approach, Parenting by Connection, we were glad to draw on some trusted skills.
We only had 4 days at the foundation with one of those being a Sunday rest day. It was wonderful to find ourselves back in the old yet familiar territory of the ‘workaway’ experience and for our children to have a few days in a space where they could wander away from us. We love community and to see Basil and Wren engaging in and learning from the lives of others. Work wise I did a lot of painting of tables and chairs and we engaged with the foundations children as much as possible. We were very fortunate to gain a further insight into the project from its extremely busy leads Ignacio and Dora on our last afternoon.
We learnt how the project had began with Ignacio as a younger man with 8 foster children. Once turned 18 the government expected Ignacio to surrender the children to the streets to which he fought and kept the children on in hiding. His journey and resentment of the government system continued, later resulting in the creation of ‘The Foundation of Solidarity’ an independent body, alive to serve the people. The abandoned shell of a building, that once stood where the bustling community now does, has been lovingly transformed over the many years. Operating without any government funding, the foundation relies and survives on the generous donations of others and its positive reputation in the local community.
Unable to take children alone without being associated with the government, The Foundation now focuses mainly on mothers and children in emergency situations or abused, young immigrants, people with disabilities without family, teenagers in situations of risk or people needing a home. The foundation is now home to over 50 people.
After signing an initial contract residents have responsibilities and obligations whilst living in the community. I was lucky enough to attend one of the daily afternoon community meetings which is a compulsory meeting. We all sat on the floor in the little African house, a cosy straw bale round structure. Ignacio led the discussion introducing the weeks theme of intimate relationship in the community. Many giggled whilst others revealed deep feelings as we each took it in turn to share. I sat and observed the unity in a group from such diverse backgrounds all discussing how to better live together. I wondered the horror that each beautiful being had had to suffer to bring them to this place. Dora kindly translated the gist of what each person shared and then translated my offering back. It was such an honour to be a part of.
With a 1 year old daughter of their own and a second baby due in just over a month, Dora and Ignacio are busy! Their ‘school’ is a school of life, of honesty and deep generosity. The children within the project bare signs of the trauma that they must have endured but they are embraced in the hands of a loving organism that is there to ensure their well being.
The experience changed something in us. The project re-connected the dots between school and community, life and learning. The project showed us what it means to be all inclusive, the raw and the messy, the devotion and the simplicity. When asked about raising their own children in the community, Dora and Ignacio shared their belief that growing up in such an environment was nothing but a gift to their children.