Serving in Portugal
In this central agricultural region of Portugal – known for cheeses, sausage, olives, and wine as well as ancient ruins from the Romans, Visigoths, and Moors – students of all ages yearn to learn English to help raise the visibility and the quality oflife in their towns and neighborhoods.
Beja’s aim to become a major tourist hub in the Alentejo region propels educators’ desire to fully prepare students to support and advance this capacity through their English skills. Because of the agrarian history of the area, students have had to leave their homes to secure jobs in more prosperous urban areas of the country.
Here’s how you can help:
- Using Global Volunteers’ Conversational English Teaching Guide, you can design lessons to engage elementary and secondary school students in fun, lively English classes.
- Serve with your teammates and teachers in nine elementary and secondary schools as unique classroom resources.
No matter your background or skills, you’ll be welcomedas a valued resource for bright students in this welcoming community!
Community Partner & Work Projects
Since 2008, we’ve worked through the Office of the Mayor (currently João Roche) in partnership with the Ministry of Education. The municipal offices manage school transportation and facilities, while the Ministry of Education develops and oversees the curricula. Maria João Lança and Gonçalo Mendes are key leaders who organize and facilitate the volunteer experience.
Beja’s aim to become a major tourist hub in the Alentejo region propels educators’ desire to fully prepare students to support and advance this capacity through their English skills.
Therefore, we work directly through English language teachers in middle-, secondary-, and college-level classrooms to teach students practical conversational English lessons. Use your own creativity and ideas from Global Volunteers’ English Teaching Guide. The classrooms are remarkably similar to American schools, with some of the classrooms being computerized. Many materials have been assembled and are available, including age-appropriate maps, games, and songs. Ample time is provided for preparation and, at the evening team meeting, volunteers share experiences and success stories. You don’t need special skills – just a desire to help and patience when communicating with students. Share and start a dialog and watch “the magic” happen!
Talking about the American lifestyle and culture prompts students to interact, question, and practice their speaking ability. It’s largely through sharing life stories and experiences that the teaching, the learning, and the friendships occur!
Service Program Logistics
All programs are led by a trained team leader experienced in managing diverse groups of people. In cooperation with the community leaders, your team leader will facilitate your team’s orientation, assist you in becoming fully engaged in the work project, and manage all project-related logistical issues.
“I’ve been privileged to lead many Global Volunteers teams since 1991 around the globe. Early in 2009, I traveled to Beja for the first time – and didn’t anticipate this community would become my ‘home away from home’. I’ve fallen in love with the people of Beja. Because of the friendships I’ve made with them, I always look forward to returning.”
~ Joe Testa, Volunteer Portugal Team Leader
Three meals a day are included in your service program contribution. A continental breakfast at the hotel includes an enticing array of homemade pastries, breads, and jams. Lunch is served at work sites or nearby cafés where you’ll join local people in their afternoon break. Take this opportunity to discuss the “topic of “TheGlobalVolunteers have been excellent help forsome years now.They provide auniqueopportunity for ourstudentsto communicate inEnglishwithnative speakers in the classroom environment,while at the same time they learn about very different life experiences.” – Irene Galrito, head of the English Department at Escola de Santiago Majorthe day” while enjoying a pastel de nata or other homemade pastries and espresso. Volunteers meet for dinners that are typically served “family style” in selected restaurants. Examples of local cuisine include: olives, fresh salads, fried potatoes, pork, beef, lamb, chicken, fish, and the traditional “black pig.” Local cheeses and homemade pastries and breads are special attractions. Desserts, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages are readily available for an additional charge.
The recently renovated three-star Residencial Bejense (also called Hotel Bejense), located in the old town center, is your ‘home’ in Beja. It is a family owned 24-room hotel and the proprietors – Barbara and her son, Hugo – strive to make everyone very comfortable and secure. All lodging is double occupancy, but single rooms are available for an additional fee with advanced arrangements. Recent renovations include a flat screen TV, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, new bathroom fixtures, and towel bar warmers in every room. Schools, restaurants, shops, and cultural sites are all within walking distance along cobblestone streets. Photos of this lovely hotel can be found here.
All in-country transportation related to your service program is included in your service program contribution. You will be met at the Lisbon airport by the team leader and proceed to the Hotel Acores to stay overnight. Portugal has a well-developed bus service that the team utilizes for transportation to and from Beja. The bus ride from Lisbon to Beja (and back) is approximately two and a half hours. All worksites are within three quarters of a mile from the Hotel Bejense so the team is able to walk to work each day along the pedraromana (cobblestone) streets. Walking is a way of life in Beja and provides ample opportunity to not only “see the sights”, but also to meet and converse with others on the road, to slow down and simply enjoy the moment!
Note: transportation for free-time activities is not included.
You may have gaps in your day before, between, or after classes to enjoy nearby cultural and historic sites. There are seemingly unlimited options for sampling the local culture and art. Weekends are free to explore storefronts along the narrow, winding streets and discover interesting shops tucked into unexpected places. The Beja Castle boasts the tallest tower in Portugal, and ona clear day, if you climb 197 steps, you may see Spain from the top! Visit churches and museums, including the famous Queen Leonor Architectural Museum — housed in a famous convent built in the 14th century. You’ll have time to examine an extensive collection of historic “I’vebeenprivilegedto leadmanyGlobalVolunteers teams since 1991 aroundthe globe. Early in 2009,Itraveled toBeja forthe first time – and didn’t anticipate this community would become my ‘home away from home’.I’ve fallen in love withthe people ofBeja.Because ofthe friendships I’vemadewith them,I always look forward to returning.” – Joe Testa, Volunteer Portugal Team Leaderpaintings, as well as tile work from the Spanish Masters. Part of this Museum is the Santo Amaro church, constructed on an early Christian church foundation. Walk the cobblestone streets to see many beautiful tile walls. Along the way, you can stop for a live performance at the Pax Julia Theater.
Because festivals and fairs abound throughout the year, you may discover special events scheduled for parts or all of Beja during your service program.
You’ll also have the opportunity to visit the areas’ many wineries and olive-producing facilities. Unique to the area are products made of cork. The bark can be harvested every nine years, and trees are marked to indicate when they can next be stripped. Cork is a very versatile and durable material and beautiful purses, wallets, shoes, and jewelry are made from it.
A little more than an hour’s bus ride away is the town of Evora, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There are Roman ruins and, perhaps most fascinating, monks created a chapel of bones, with walls and columns decorated with bones to remind us of the temporary nature of our time on Earth – it is not as grizzly as it sounds! You will find that free time activities abound in Portugal.
Service Program Contribution
Global Volunteers’ service program contribution covers double accommodations at Hotel Bejense, three authentic Portuguese meals a day, in-country team transportation, emergency medical evacuation insurance, all preparatory materials, onsite orientation, a full-time team leader, and administration costs. Single rooms are available for an additional fee. The Beja service program contribution is $3,005 for one week and $3,220 for two weeks. Please ask your Volunteer Coordinator about student, companion, and alumni discounts as well as referral credits. We encourage you to use Global Volunteer’s online fundraising tool where you can create a personalized webpage to request partially tax-deductible donations from family and friends. Airfare and free time activity expenses are your responsibility. The service program contribution and airfare are taxdeductible for U.S. taxpayers.
“Global Volunteers have been excellent help for some years now. They provide a unique opportunity for our students to communicate in English with native speakers in the classroom environment, while at the same time they learn about very different life experiences.”
~ Irene Galrito, head of the English Department at Escola de Santiago Major