CLARA Rural Camp

Justyna Turek

February 11, 2020


TEAM PARTICIPANTS: Robin Hancock, Gabor Lukacs, Sophia Wu, Kitija Matisone, Simon Rozman, Aniko Brachmann.

The challenge / Research

In partnership with CLARA Centre for Rural Future, we worked on a new service to connect urban children with rural villagers in a small village called Santa Clara in Odemira, Southern Portugal.

Through our research we found that many young people in Santa Clara parish are  moving to the cities, leaving the older people behind. As a result older people often feel lonely and lacking in purpose, traditional craft and farming skills risk being lost, and the area is one of the poorest in the region. There is also degradation of the natural environment due to modern farming practices; recently the local reservoir was contaminated due to agricultural runoff.  

These can be summarised as the three key issues facing the region:

·         A shrinking, ageing population, often in poverty

·         Environmental degradation

·         Loss of traditional craft and farming skills that could be used to help regenerate the region economically and environmentally

The why

We wanted to work closely with CLARAs to ensure that our service helped them meet their long term goals. These included:

·         Integration of the local community of the Odemira region, embracing their skills, perspectives, and traditions

·         Valorisation indigenous resources to improve the local economy

·         Attracting new visitors to the region to stimulate new sustainable economic opportunities

They were also keen to address the ongoing rural exodus, and revitalise the social fabric of the region.

The idea

Clara Rural Camp is a service that connects urban children during their school holidays to older locals in the Odemira region. During their stay they can learn traditional crafts and farming techniques under the guidance of the camp leaders and older locals. This has multiple benefits for the urban children and their parents, the older locals in Santa Clara, and the Odemira region as a whole.

For the urban children, they have the opportunity to reconnect and build a relationship with the natural world. There are many scientifically supported benefits to spending time outdoors for children, including improvements in confidence, social skills, communication skills, physical skills and knowledge and understanding of nature. There are also many benefits to interacting with older adults.  

For the urban children’s parents, they have the chance to spend some time together away from their kids for a short time. Some parents may also need to work during the school holidays. They can also get involved with some of the activities if they want to.      

For the older locals, they have an opportunity to pass on their skills in traditional crafts and farming, and their deep knowledge of the local ecosystem to the next generation. There are also added benefits including a greater sense of purpose, life satisfaction, mental wellbeing and healthy ageing.

For the Odemira region this is an opportunity to integrate the local community, valorise indigenous resources to improve the local economy and attract new visitors to the region.

The how

Long term goals and outcomes

There are several long term goals of Rural Camp

For the urban children the goal is to help them to build a deeper appreciation and connection with nature that they may not get in the city. Over time their relationship with the area and the local people will grow and develop, hopefully encouraging them to come back in the future as tourists or to settle.

For the urban children’s parents the goal is to again build a greater connection with the area so they regularly return with their families for their holidays. Over time this will help develop the local economy.

For the older locals the long term goals are for their local knowledge, skills and wisdom to be passed down to the next generation. In the area of farming in particular this will help the land to be used sustainably for future generations. For the older people themselves, knowing that their way of life will not be lost will give them a greater sense of purpose and meaning. There are also potential economic benefits as more tourists visit the region and buy local produce and craft items.

See the presentation of the project here.

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