The Iberian tour stage 2 - Barcelona

So I finally dragged myself away from the lovely Patricia and family (see goodbye monster face photo shoot), and from the co-operative and food movement in Zaragoza, and have arrived in Barcelona. Today has been my first full day here, which started with a little introduction meeting at Educacion Sin Fronteras (ESF).

ESF are organising the International Congreso: Education and Food Sovereignty taking place later this week. I decided to volunteer to help with the congreso (rather than just come along as a punter), for a couple of reasons.

Firstly I'm a bit nervous that my spanish isn't good enough to take part properly in the small group discussions, so I felt if I could help out with logisitcal stuff I could be useful and learn from it but not necessarily need to be involved in the discussions (though that nearly back fired as I was almost given the task of minuting the questions and answers session and picking out the interesting bits to tweet about - luckily the other volunteers agreed that this would be really stressful in a second language!). Secondly I've always wanted to volunteer for a conference, rather than organise and run it, as we always love people who volunteer with us, so I wanted to be that useful for someone else (but not feel the responsibility for the whole conference!), and also pick up ideas for working with volunteers and running conferences. And thirdly I find being part of the working team is always more interesting than taking part. So we'll see if this reasoning pays off over the next few days.

So the group of 8 of us (all women interestingly - pointed out by everyone!), volunteering to help out with the logistics met up today. I think it's a really interesting approach that ESF have taken - getting together a group of people with no experience of the organisation (through a little advert looking for volunteers for 5 days) to help run the conference (who in sense will be the face of the organisation). I have no doubt that anyone in that group won't do a great job - it's a really varied and skilled group of people, and think it's a good idea for getting more hands on deck and at the same time getting a wider group of people involved.

So basically today the ESF team gave us a brief overview of what their work is, what the conference is about, and what our role will be over the next few days. Patrick explained that it has been a pretty complicated process trying to convince people (the funders and other potential partners) about the need to link education and food sovereignty and how to do so. He said that people understand the need for technical training in ecological production methods for rural producers, but when it comes to looking at education and food sovereignty in the urban context it seems harder to understand. The urban context is where ESF want to focus, looking particularly at Transformative Education (empowering people to educate themselves and take action through education). Paulo Friere (who was also the inspiration for the co-op I visited in Austria) being is a school of thought that ESF feel most connected to/comfortable with (al gusto), the speaker from the 'Rural Universities of Paulo Friere' is the speaker who will link the two themes (education and food sovereignty) on the first day of the conference.

I asked about their practical objectives for the congress, and was told this has been a common question - basically there aims are to develop and agree some strategic focuses (lineas estrategicas) for the different organisations to work on together in the future, as well as sharing information between the different organisations, and importantly learning from each other what hasn't worked and why things haven't developed further than they have until now (for everyone to learn from that).

So there's going to be lots of great people there that I will hopefully get to talk to, and I'm going to get to register people and hand a microphone round to people in the audience to ask questions - yipeee! I'll keep you posted. Tomorrow I'm making up the conference packs and then off to Fermin's (who I know from PBI Guatemala who is a strong part of the trade union movement - and many other activist movements here), for lunch on wednesday with a load of great people from their village. I talked to Fermin about his thoughts on the M15 today which was interesting, and met with Alfredo (who used to be at Can MasDeu - and who is great), but all that will have to wait for another day as I need to hit the sack and keep fighting this cold that the world and it's mother seems to have here.

Hasta pronto chic@s, Helen x

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