We enjoy hosting folks who come and participate at the Mount of Oaks.
We are open for applications for 2019/2020.
Here is the information you will need when considering coming to help. Our practices are based on several years of receiving people coming in different capacities. Sit with a drink and have a good read!!
At the project we speak English and Portuguese (and some Spanish and French too)
What is our life project about?
For the last 12 years there have been people at the Mount of Oaks. We have been evolving as a community where we are practicing off-grid living, with little harm to nature, and with an attitude of service, creativity, conscientiousness and prayerfulness/mindfulness. We live in the countryside and are very well-placed to be an educational and nurturing space for people interested in living more resourcefully; people who want to spend some time closer to nature, and those who want to learn some new skills and make some new friends, or make friends with themselves!!
All of the people who have been part of the project as it has developed have been volunteers – some for shorter periods, and some for as long as a couple of years all the way up to Barbara who has been here since the start! The land is owned by a cultural association called ‘White Stone’. The mission of the cultural and social association is to promote alternative lifestyles that seek to discover wholeness, healing, and good health – in and within our diverse local community. Our motto is Collaborate, Create and Transform.
Our aims are to continue to develop our sustainable and meaningful income streams over time, and connect the local Portuguese community with the new people moving to the region.
What kinds of activities happen at the Mount of Oaks?
As part of our aim to provide educational experiences for off-grid and low impact living, we teach ‘hands-on’ natural building courses; fermenting foods and drinks; spiritual renewal; and other experiences that contribute to personal and social development – such as silent and guided retreats. We are also a part of an exciting movement of local organic markets in the region, and are constantly looking for ways to grow this movement in our area and beyond.
Much of what we do is host and model a simple lifestyle – we are aiming to bring more income to the project by offering camping space, and renting out our straw bale guest room. We already have the facilities for ‘off-grid’ camping and have been promoting our educational experience alongside the rest of our activities. The life here is dynamic and certainly not boring!
What we ask from volunteers?
For those who come to help us, we ask you to participate with 6 hours of community work a day, 5 days a week.
What will this look like? There will be 2 blocks of community work, 1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. We ask our volunteers to take part in the daily tasks and be available to help in the garden, building, maintenance, or whatever requires attention in that week.
As we are a little farm, we might need help with gardening, transforming our products, drying our herbs, harvesting flowers or food, natural building or other land-based activities. Life here is diverse and exciting, and during working hours we hope that our volunteers give as much love and attention to the tasks as we do.
We have system for Daily Tasks (cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, chopping vegetables, preparing the guest room, ‘beautifying’, cleaning toilets…). These daily tasks are a part of living as a community and your help with these is a part of the daily work routine and massively appreciated.
Since we host events, guests, and workshops we ask that the volunteers are open to be welcoming too. What does that mean in practice? We are looking for people who are open, friendly, and self aware of their boundaries, punctual and professional in their dealings with others – with an attention to detail and making places beautiful.
What can a day look like?
- Personal time and Silence in common spaces until 9am
- 9am Welcome the Day and daily check-in and breakfast
- 10am – 1pm community work (including cleaning tasks)
- 1pm lunch
- 2-5pm community work
- 6pm Give thanks for the day and check in
The daily rhythm is really important for the smooth functioning of the community, so we can all have time to work, eat, have our own personal time, hang out, and rest and it’s necessary for our volunteers to fit into the schedule. In the summer months we have a long mid day REST from the sun, and in other seasons, we will be flexible with the schedule to accommodate our daily needs.
The day schedule given above is for Spring time.
Weekly rhythm and REST
We acknowledge the importance of contemplation and rest, not only for us but also for the land. Everyone is free on their days off to do what they please or enjoy the surrounding countryside. As we live here all the time, we often have our own plans so please be prepared to find your own entertainment on your days off – sometimes we just disappear to be by ourselves, or have plans with friends.
But if you love nature, want some time for contemplation or personal projects, or want to explore this area then you’ll really enjoy your rest days. There are lots of lovely walks you can take in the area and a nearby river beach, or consider hiring a car or taking a train to a nearby village.
What sort of people are we looking for?
Based on what you have read so far, you will either be interested to continue reading and feeling a pull towards the community life here, or not. We are looking for people who feel drawn to being part of co-hosting and serving the daily life of this place for a period of time. Those with experience of cooking for large number of people are super welcome, as are those who like to do odd jobs and be willing to ‘muck in’ with whatever needs doing. We are looking for people who like to learn, experiment, and like to work as part of a team.
The minimum amount of time we ask is 3-4 weeks, unless you have volunteered with us previously.
Get in touch if you cannot commit to this timescale …
Methods of exchange
We ask for a donation of 40E per week for people coming to participate with us. Over the years we calculate that by simply being here, an individual consumes on average of 5E per day in terms of fuel for cooking, toilet paper and basic food. And so instead of asking for 35E per week, we ask for an extra 5E towards to the project, to go towards the animal food, from each of volunteers. We too, Barbara and Emma are also volunteers at Mount of Oaks – we are the guardians of the vision and the land and do not receive a regular wage either!
We have basic tents for you to sleep in, but welcome to bring a hammock if you prefer to sleep in the wild outdoors! We ask you bring your own sleeping bag, and we have blankets we can offer you. You will eat well, like we do, seasonally and with fermented foods in your diet – yummy and good for the gut!
We are open to the needs of families seeking to have a volunteer experience. As such we willing to have a conversation with parents wanting to come. We are very realistic about the childcare needs and as such will chat about what might be a possible exchange.
We are animal lovers here! In theory we are open to volunteers bringing their animals under the condition that they are well socialised towards people and other animals. We have chickens that roam free in the afternoons – we would not like any accidents with dogs and our pets! Similarly – this place is open to many people passing through. We need to know in advance that you will be responsible for the care and discipline of your animals – that means for example collecting any of their poo that appears in common spaces.
Arrival and Departure
On the date of arrival we ask that you arrive in Fundao, our local market town, which is a 30mins drive from Mount of Oaks – or Alpedrinha, our local village with a train station. If you arrive into our local village (Alpedrinha) by train we can collect you for free. We ask for a donation towards our time and fuel if you need us to collect you in Fundao. You will be responsible for paying for this taxi/lift, but we will let you know if there is anyone else arriving that day – you then could share the lift and reduce the cost immensely.
Here is the link to the Google Map if you are planning on coming by car.
Once you are familiar with our place and walking in the area, it is possible for you to walk to the nearest local train station (Alpedrinha) if you would like to head out for the day to explore or are heading home. We will be able to help with arrangements for leaving if you have need of that.
We have a policy of asking volunteers to stay a minimum of 4 weeks (on your first visit to us) – and a maximum of 4 months. The longer you stay the more you’ll learn about the rhythms and day-to-day life at Mount of Oaks and the more responsibilities you will be given.
If you would like to come for shorter period of time you are welcome to come as a guest or pilgrim. You’d be more than welcome to help out where possible like collecting herbs or helping with the kitchen team, but we will not consider you a volunteer or expect 6 hours a day of work.
Other bits and bobs…
Please bring your own tent/accommodation – if you are not able to do so, you can rent one from us – ask about this in the application form.
Again, to be clear – 6 hours a day of honest work 5 days per week.
As far as health insurance goes, we ask that if you are from the EU that you bring your E111 card. If you are outside of the EU, we ask you have necessary travel insurance.
Once dates are agreed, the next step is to transfer €40 to our association bank account to secure your volunteer place. This is a deposit and indicates to us that you are committed to coming. Why do we do this? We have had several disappointing situations where volunteers at the last minute did not show up – this left us without the help we had planned, and took the place of other possible helpers.
We ask that you do not smoke in the common areas.
We eat mostly a vegetarian, often vegan diet. Though on important rare occasions we eat our own chickens/roosters. Our diet is local, seasonal and mostly organic. If you have other dietary needs/requirements we ask you let us know about those in the application form. We require that you are willing to join with the kitchen team cooking and cleaning as needed on a rotation. We enjoy eating and cooking!!
We ask that you bring only natural products for washing (we have natural soaps ans shampoos made locally if you want to pick one up) as the waste water from the shower and bath feed the trees in the citrus grove. All other natural products are available from our local Bio Market – a monthly event in our local village of Alpedrinha.
What we offer?
We have a pond for swimming in spring/summer, a sheltered common place, a common kitchen and camping kitchen, several beautiful compost toilets, and ways to charge your electronic stuff by solar power. The land itself is off-grid.
We offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner to volunteers. For breakfast you will prepare that yourself – this includes bread, butter, muesli, oats, seasonal fruits, jams and cow’s milk. Lunch and dinner is communally prepared. On ‘days off’ you will prepare all your own meals and provide for yourself for your food needs. We will have a stock of basic groceries for you to use – but if you want fancy things or you have special needs, these can be purchased locally.
We will have a stocked camping kitchen, which is open for the volunteers with a stove and utensils for your use along with fresh spring water for drinking.
Weekly feedback meetings are a part of our rhythm, so we will meet individually and hear how you are doing. We also often listen to a weekly pod cast, sometimes from http://www.onbeing.org, which you are welcome to join too.
Showers are either from a solar system or the rocket stove – either way it is hot and lovely! We also have a special multi-purpose space for meditation, yoga, or simply sitting in silence and observing the beautiful birds you’ll find in this area of Portugal.
There is free wifi in the local village, 20 mins down the hill. We have limited use of the internet at the Mount of Oaks – use for administrative purposes mainly. However, if you have internet as part of your phone contract, the signal here is pretty good!
If you have your own yoga practice you are welcome to offer a morning or evening session. There are several of experienced teachers living in the area and giving instructed classes. In other years we have had a weekly practice at Mount of Oaks, but not sure about this year yet!
We hope to provide a loving environment where people’s gifts and talents are acknowledged, where conflict is not ignored, and where respect and kindness is encouraged.
What to bring?
- Shoes for working (flipflops are not considered as working shoes)
- Natural products for washing
- Your own towel – unless you rent from us.
- Ear plugs – we live in a rural area – sometimes you can hear dogs or chickens.
- Head torch
- Musical instrument if you wish
- sleeping bag/roll mat – unless you are renting from us
- Water bottle
- Charger/adapters for UK plugs
- Hat (needed to protect the head from the sun!)
- Sun screen – ideally something ecological
- Insect repellent – if you do not have an ecological one – you can get that here!
- Yoga mat/Pilates mat
Please follow this link and fill in the application form. Once you have filled this in, we can make a plan to have a conversation. We also ask for some sort of reference, as you will see in the application form. Once we are in direct contact with you, we can arrange a time to chat and finalise details and consider any dietary needs.
We look forward to hearing from you!