Trip to Portugal in April 2024

Trip to Portugal in April 2024

At last, the time had come: At the invitation of the two socio-therapeutic living communities ASTA and Casa de Santa Isabel, Bart Vanmechelen was able to make the trip to Portugal, which had to be postponed due to the coronavirus measures.

The first stop was ASTA in Cabreira Located in the granite mountains not far from the Spanish border, this old shepherd village has been reawakened and brought to life by a vibrant community with and for people with support needs. They work together on the farm and in craft workshops, baking 70 loaves of bread once a week in the large wood-burning oven in the center of the village. The highlight of this visit was a walk through the ancient landscape with its giant granite boulders and the lovely green valley around the clear river while the “companheiros” told the story of the landscape experiences of the little shepherdess after whom the village was named. A great connection and reverence spoke from their words and gestures. The wisdom of rural life with the knowledge of how to use the plants, living with and from nature on the farm, the shepherds with their sheep, the careful artistic process in the wool, ceramics and wood workshops and the rich community life with music, daily rituals and the annual festivals lit up in their enthusiastic stories. The shimmering mica in the hard rock evoked the image of how in this inclusive community the earth is transformed into a shining star.
In his contribution to the conversation with co-workers and “companheiros,” Bart spoke of the inner path of schooling of anthroposophy as a source of insight, enthusiasm and intuition for social therapeutic work and warmly invited everyone to the festive conference at the Goetheanum in October.

Then the journey continued to the Casa de Santa Isabel. A 1.5-hour drive from ASTA, on the edge of the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela, an anthroposophical therapeutic community was founded 47 years ago.
While the enthusiastic staff talked about the history of their colorful care community, the proud companheiros displayed their crafts in the workshops. Their loving dedication and craftsmanship were visible in the quality products, from hand-bound books to colorfully woven textiles, to delicious cookies. The farm, wood workshop and forestry project also provide existential support for this organization.
For several years, the organization of the Casa is in a process of development in which the leading pioneers are gradually being succeeded by a new generation of enthusiastic leaders.

On the occasion of his visit, the Anthroposophical Society in Portugal had also invited Bart to hold a lecture on 100 years of the Anthroposophical Society, 100 years of the Course on ‘Education for Special Needs’ and the founding of the new section of the School of Spiritual Science. The lecture was streamed via Zoom and so, in addition to the contributors and members of the Society present, quite a few members from Portugal and Brazil followed with great interest this talk about how anthroposophy and its inspired care for people with assistance needs around the world are bringing healing impulses for the future.
In a workshop for the staff members, practical exercises were given to experience how a meditative inner processing and deepening of the work enables us to connect with the spiritual sources of insight, enthusiasm and life forces.

In conversations with co-workers and with the leadership team, there was an exchange about current challenges and about how to learn with and from each other in international cooperation, what the present time demands of our initiatives and what practical offers we can develop for this.

Thus, common themes and opportunities for cooperation became visible also between the two Portuguese initiatives and together we can look forward to the international conference in Dornach and to a joint offer of continued professional formation of the employees.
A verse from the poem “Escuto” by the Portuguese poet Sophia De Mello Breymer Andresen still echoes in the memory of these enthusiastic conversations:

“I know only that I walk as one who
is seen, loved and known
and therefore, I lay in every gesture solemnity and risk.”