Local activities and volunteer blogposts

After 6th partner meeting in Romania, March 2014.


Pam in Romania
When I was told that we would be staying in Călimănești, a health spa resort near to the route to Transylvania, my imagination piqued. Transylvania for me is synonymous with Vlad, Dracula, Nosferatu, vampires, shapeshifters, the cult Hammer House of Horror movies featuring Peter Cushing, Blade, 30 Days of Night, so I said to my husband, Vincent, I need to take a cross with me or some garlic, or both. As I did my final case packing check the night before departure, Vincent presented me with a cute wooden cross he had made. Phew, for those with my imagination, I would be safe and also it was something made from love, so also nice to keep close to me. For those without imagination, have you got a sense of humour then? Passed on the garlic idea, although good for deterring vampires and colds, it would just pong too much in my bag.

I also thought of the traditional Romanian dancing and liked the idea of that, of staying at the base of the mountains in a more remote part of Romania, surely picturesque, and well, if there was snow, it would look pretty, of exploring the natural area around us. I thought of meeting people from other countries and exchanging info on their cultures and about where they worked, their hobbies, would there be similarities or differences. I tried to learn a few Romanian phrases beforehand, just the simple stuff to try to get by and show willing. I was excited about the whole prospect and hoped that we would give it our best shot for Manchester. Also, I took some Blackpool Rock and postcards to show off Blackpool Tower, which was designed by Manchester architects. I didn’t really know my co-travellers, Linda, Lee and Ray and so thought, it will be nice to get to know them during this shared experience in a country unknown to me….

So, post Romania, I have happy memories of a different cultural experience. I enjoyed the International Lunch, the entertainment and amazing variety of food from each country. How we all take the same ingredients globally, but yet turn them into different recipes. I enjoyed the hospitality of Rux, the wonderful Romanian co-ordinator. She is so informative and goes out of her way to explain so much. Oh yes! I loved the traditional dancing every evening, linking arms and dancing in circles and being whisked away to the rhythms and tempo of the music. We all joined in, amazing how music can break language barriers, on the dance floor the dance was the language. I enjoyed visiting the medieval Cozia monastery, circa 1388, so well preserved and atmospheric, the trip to the Salt Mines. I was enthralled by the chapel down there, the dance areas with quaint bars, go-karting, sculptures, eating areas and the natural displays in the walls of the cave, left by the sea eroding away into the caves.

I enjoyed visiting the Vâlcea County open air museum. Real ancient farm and domestic buildings from all parts of Romania have been reconstructed to great detail in the museum, complete with original artefacts inside them. So interesting, and the sun shone down on us so gloriously, overall the temps were not that bad during our stay. I enjoyed the meal and dancing in the former toppled Communist leader, Ceaușescu’s personal villa. There were some gorgeous contemporary artworks on display. It felt strange to be in there, given the political connection, but then it felt moving to be there, not many English people could say they have done that and to just know now that ordinary Romanian people now have the freedoms that many other citizens of other countries have, and we all sometimes take that freedom for granted. I had a huge laugh from the Dracula rehearsals and the genius of the person who came up with the idea to make Dracula fangs from flip-chart paper, spontaneous improvisation should not be knocked.

I did get to know a little more about cultural differences from the participants from the other countries, a little about that area of Romania, even in that short space of time and I did get to know a little more about Linda, Lee and Ray. We had some laughs and there were some organisational difficulties out there, which can be expected hosting an event for different nationalities. But, the good times made up for the slip-ups. I also came to know, that when put together, people from other countries can get along well and share some good times together. I am glad I went to Romania and have been part of the Grundtvig experience. By the way…I can still see my reflection in the mirror, for those who know and yes! I aim to return one day so I can visit Castle Bran, Dracula’s hang out and of course, monument of historical significance and take in the beautiful surrounding countryside and more of traditional Romania.

Pam Armstrong, March 2014

After 3rd partner meeting in Lovech, Bulgaria, May 2013.

Kate, Arnold and Barbara went to Bulgaria and stayed in a Town called Lovech.

This is what happened.

The town of Lovech is an ideal spot to provide a glimpse into the rich culture of Bulgaria.

Lush mountain scenery and pretty villages, the landscape dotted with architectural gems giving clues to its history.

It seemed like the rest of eastern Europe joined us in a feast of food and ideas and shared vision of the future.

Barbara in Bulgaria
Our Week in Bulgaria (and an alternative European Union)

(In no particular order)

We flew across Europe arriving in Sofia at 23.00. we took a taxi to our hotel in the old quarter of the city.

The next day we travelled by bus for 2.5 hrs. passing through 5 tunnels in the mountains.

We reached Lovech at midday and were shown to our fab hotel, our rooms as big as apartments!

We  walked across the town square and the famous covered bridge.

We  watched as clay and paint were organised into beautiful pottery

We sewed, using plastic strips and plaited wrist bands from strands of wool.

We gazed in awe and lit candles at the Troyan Monastery, guardian of the third hand.

We were welcomed by the Mayor and  warmed by the sun.

We shopped.

We all cooked together in a community kitchen, uncertain of the results!

We tasted and ate lots of amazing food.

We tried speaking in  many languages as we met people from Bulgaria, Roumania, Poland, Croatia, Lithuania, Iceland, Portugal,  Bosnia and  Macedonia.

We laughed and we sang.

When the music began, we danced and all languages dissolved into one.

This is us, our place, our culture.

Our Europe.

Arnold in Bulgaria
My Lovech Blog

 This was a very rewarding and stimulating trip that was intense at times but always extremely enjoyable. There is something very special and exciting about meeting people from other countries and learning about and trying to appreciate their cultures. Sharing volunteering experiences was a major theme of the week and there was an enthusiastic desire to exchange ideas. English was the communicating language throughout the group but several, who spoke and understood English well, apologised for creating a new type of English but I believe that listening to different pronunciations helps to improve our own English. Each of the leaders gave a presentation highlighting the projects of their organisations. Some, like ours, focus on developing the skills and confidence of the volunteer, whilst others focused on how volunteers can help their community and environment. It was alarming to learn of the present condition of some of the Balkan countries and the massive reconstruction job still to be undertaken but reassuring to know that volunteers are playing their part. I hope to develop some of the contacts I made and learn a lot more about their countries and languages. At times this was a challenging experience for me after a recent health scare but it helped enormously in restoring faith in my ability to undertake and participate in such projects.

Arnold Bradshaw


After 2nd partner meeting in Gondomar – Porto, Portugal, March 2013.

Back from Portugal

It’s been a month since our visit to Portugal and we have learned a lot and brought back skills and experiences that we aim to use on our volunteering programme here at the Manchester Museum.



We even brought back a piece of Eucalyptus plant from our trip which is now in the Manchester Museum herbarium!

Here’s Lindsey’s account of our visit to Lipor (photos by Gina):

We certainly didn’t expect to see beautiful gardens and farm animals at Porto’s waste Management Plant.  We thought it would be a rubbish dump.  And it is both, actually.  Lipor, Waste Management System for the Greater Porto area, Portugal, was a breath of fresh air.  In the modern lecture theatre, we were shown a film about the rubbish sorting process, and calmly informed that Porto and the surrounding towns recycle a whopping 96% of their waste!  I have since found out that my town, Stockport, recycles 60%.  We’ve a long way to go.



In the Lipor Rubbish Sorting Plant, we saw truck loads of rubbish (carefully sorted by 972,000 residents) dumped in a huge warehouse, forklifts moving it onto the conveyor belt and men whizzing it down various shoots, each for a different kind of plastic or cardboard.


How about these Lipor facts:

  • ·         every day, 40 tons of paper are processed and shipped, the equivalent to 700 trees.
  • ·         Lipor processes over 15 thousand tons of glass yearly, allowing for the fabrication of 45 million glass bottles.
  • ·         The 860 tons of plastic bottles recycled in 2006 would take 500 years to be biodegraded of they were deposited in the soil.


Lipor achieves its high level of waste management by the 4 R’s policy – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover.  There are 22 Drop Off Sites, (rubbish tips), 3000 eco containers placed in residential areas, schools, restaurants and hotels, door to door collections for remote villages and free waste collection for catering and service industries.  What cannot be recycled is burned to generate energy.  Only the ash is buried in a landfill site.  High quality compost, Nutrimais, is recovered from organic waste, and sold to the locals.


Lipor also makes schoolchildren and the public aware of Environmental issues through fun activities, school events, workshops and  holiday camps.  Upcoming projects include Kitchen gardens, prevention of waste, and vegetable gardens in schools.



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