“I am not exactly like the other participants at this conference,” said Ana Miguel, and in some ways the school teacher from Portugal actually did differ from the people of national adult education associations, the heads of institutions and the employees of Brussels based European organisations.
Ana Miguel and the other project organisers do not organise national campaigns or lobby parliamentarians and ministers. But they are certainly raising awareness on adult learning in the city of Torres Vedras, 50 kilometers north of Lisboa.
Every Wednesday evening Ana Miguel invites the citizens of Torres Vedras for a walk in the city centre. For each walk there is a theme.
“We go to an art exhibition and are introduced to the art works. Another evening we visit a local association and the chairman explains about their activities. Or we visit historical places together with a history expert,” Ana Miguel tells.
The participants differ each evening.
“We have no members, no programme, no courses. Instead we combine learning, mild physical exercise by walking, and creating relations between people – even intergenerational relations,” says Ana Miguel.
It may seem very basic, but according to Ana Miguel it has to be very basic: “There is a very hard crisis in Portugal these years. Many people have no job, and they are poor. So many stay at home all day and get socially isolated. Just getting them out of their house or apartment is a big step, and it may be a first step to further activity and learning.”
“Andar na rua” is a real grass root initiative. Ana Miguel and everybody else are organising the events as volunteers. That was also how it started.
“The municipality of Torres Vedras invited the citizens for a meeting to discuss the plans for developing the historical centre of the city. I went there with my colleagues from the secondary school where I work,” tells Ana Miguel.
“There were lots of people and lots of ideas. But most ideas was either expensive, or they depended on getting somebody else to do something, the municipality, the government or a big company.
My colleagues and I wanted propose something that we could do ourselves. That is why we proposed city walks. Together the citizens could look at the buildings and the squares of the historical centre, learn about the places and discuss what may be changed.”
That is how the project started. The teachers invited inhabitants of the city centre and the participants of the adult education courses that take place at their school. From that point it developed into weekly events.
“I think that my work at the school, and my volunteering in “Andar na rua” is complementary,” says Ana Miguel.
And though she was not like the other participants, she enjoyed the ARALE conference: “I learned from the presentations, and I like to tell other people about our project.”