🧳✈️ Stories | Elena, Poco a poco – ESC in Spain

Elena, Austria, 22

It‘s all about initiative; in the end, you decide where and how you put your efforts in.


It all started when I decided to quit my job back home. I had already known about the ESC and had been longing to do long-term volunteering.

During my 12-month project in Burgos, Spain, I collaborated with three different associations: Asociación Brújula Intercultural, Huerteco, and Asociación Abrego.

I spent my first six months working with my host organization “Huerteco.” Huerteco is involved in various projects related to environmental education and ecology. On the one hand, we had our ecological garden in a small town close to Burgos, with about 200 chickens, a greenhouse, and other plantations. On the other hand, we did therapeutic gardening projects and collaborated, for example, with the Autism Center of Burgos and ADACEBUR (Association for People with Acquired Brain Injury). We also worked with schools and the town hall of Burgos, implementing workshops on organic gardening and other environmental topics.

There, I learned the basics of eco-gardening, such as how to prepare the soil and set up a watering system, tricks for dealing with long periods of dryness, planting in different seasons, composting, and taking proper care of chickens and breeding them. During the therapeutic gardening sessions, I could learn about different disabilities like autism, etc.

On some days of the week, we also collaborated with the association “Ábrego,” which is dedicated to organizing rural development activities. My volunteer mate from Hungary and I accompanied them in their interesting workshops, for example, on bioconstruction, cheese production, or aromatic plants.

All of this might sound very intriguing, but of course, there were some downsides to the project as well. Huerteco was struggling with some internal problems, which made the structure and our day-to-day activities quite chaotic. At some point, I felt too uncomfortable with it. After six months, together with my coordinating organization (Brújula Intercultural) and Ábrego, I decided to work fully with Ábrego. However, on some occasions, I could also assist Brújula, for example, in organizing their Erasmus+ youth exchanges and European projects that also interest me a lot.

So, some important lessons I learned this year: it’s crucial to communicate your needs to the people involved, not be afraid to speak openly, and actively search for ways to improve your situation. Especially as a volunteer, it’s all about taking initiative; in the end, you decide where and how to put your efforts in.

Moreover, the people you share the experience with (co-volunteers, workmates, etc.) play an essential role. That was the part I personally enjoyed the most: meeting many new and diverse people with different backgrounds and stories, and learning from them.

In case you are considering a long-term ESC, go for it! Volunteering is never a bad idea!