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Learning and personal development

Community ‘Apprenticeship’

As practised in Cloughjordan

Mentors and Friends can help facilitate wider social and community connection for Volunteers but developing ties with individual community members so they can offer training in some of their own specific skills is a real bonus to the Volunteer experience.

Community member skills and jobs can include:
Craftspeople, chefs, natural bread bakers; musicians, artists and dancers; videographers, storytellers and dramatists; actors, directors and writers; cooks, herbalists, horticulturalists; masseurs, acupuncturists and psychotherapists; civil and water engineers, green builders and town planners; graphic designers, IT specialists and web designers; ceramicists, sculptors and fine artists; beekeepers, sustainable growing researchers and climate activists. 

All of these are members of the local Cloughjordan community, from whom the Volunteers can learn so much on a less formal basis. Many sustainable communities contain people with interesting and useful skill sets.

Reflection on Learning

Group Sessions: 
More is shared on the “Departure” Page in relation to this topic.


What is it/ How do you do it?
The Volunteer Coordinator meets with the Volunteers on a weekly or fortnightly basis to reflect on learning goals and outcomes. Other Reflective Practices may be introduced (see below). 


  • The Volunteers get regular opportunities to reflect on where they are at and what they want to accomplish. This helps them to get problems off their chest, to focus a bit more on what they really want to achieve and to move towards solving some issues.
  • As the session includes a combination of writing down and sharing these reflections, it helps the group stay in touch with and to understand each other, as well as get in touch with themselves. 


  • Takes up the Volunteer Coordinator’s time.
  • Requires creativity regarding the activities to avoid mundane, didactic activities which could create a sense of ‘being at school’ for those partaking and so lose their interest.

What is Needed:   

  • Time and willingness to participate and engage

Guided reflection activities

Reflection Questionnaire

As inspired by Ananda Gaorii, and practised at Ananda Gaorii, Ängsbacka and Cloughjordan

To encourage Volunteers to notice their learnings, self observe their growth and to give them a sense of purpose and added motivation to stay on to complete the programme.  

What is it/ How do you do it?
The Volunteer Coordinator creates a Reflection Questionnaire to be filled out by Volunteers. his can include questions regarding:

  • learning goals 
  • frustrations
  • accomplishments
  • unmet needs
  • realisations 
  • personal projects 



  • It supports more focus and clarity on individual learning goals and therefore promotes a greater sense of achievement.


  • The implementation itself can be time consuming for the Volunteer Coordinator 
  • Requires creativity regarding the activities to avoid mundane, didactic activities which could create a sense of ‘being at school’ for those partaking and so lose their interest. 

What is Needed:

  • Time and space.

Other forms are actual Reflection Sessions, Sharing Circles and related content within the Volunteer Handbook – which can contain various Reflection Activities and other supportive tools.

Sharing Circles

Inspired by Ängsbacka: As practised at Ängsbacka, Ananda Gaorii and Sieben Linden

This is a conscious reflection practice that gives each individual the space to look inwards to gain insight and understanding of their current position. 

What is it/ How do you do it?
The Volunteering Community is divided into small ‘sharing groups’ of 4-6 people, usually within their own working teams, and they attend the sharing practice twice a week. 

This practice involves:

  • finding a quiet private space for your sharing group and standing or sitting in a circle 
  • having an introductory 5 minute silent meditation to ‘land’ in the room. (Usually there is one person with a timer set on the phone)
  • Once 5 minutes has passed, the group hold hands to join the circle and form the circle of trust: they close their eyes and connect with each other. (There is no set time for this part. It lasts as long as one of the members of the circle feels ready to start and then):
  • Gently squeezes the hands he/she holds. 
  • The one who got their hand squeezed repeats this motion until all hands have gently signalled to each other. (Often this happens so fast that it is hard to tell which member started the process)
  • After the hands let go of each other, each member has 5 minutes of uninterrupted attention. (Again this is usually set by a timer.) 
  • The person whose turn it is to share, shares about what is happening for them in that moment. (It is not usually about your day, or what happened the day before, but rather what is alive for you at that present moment. The purpose of the sharing is for the one who shares to experience what is alive in them- not for the listeners.)
  • If the person comes to a stop during their 5 minutes, they still get the remaining time of the 5 minutes. 
  • Whilst the person is sharing, the purpose for the rest of the group is to simply hold space and to witness this person, without reacting or responding. 
  • As a general rule, you do not comment on someone’s sharing either during it, or after it is finished.
  • Once everyone has shared for 5 minutes, the group holds hands again to close the circle. 

The Sharing Circle Steps condensed:

  • 5 Minute silent sitting together (timed)
  • Group holds hands, to form the circle (Someone squeezes when they feel they have held hands for long enough)
  • 5 Minute sharing for each member of the group (Can be longer in case of less participants.)
  • Group holds hands to close

Usually the whole process lasts 30-60 minutes, depending on the group size.

Another version of this practice could be to hold a bigger whole group circle of the Volunteering community, where each member of the circle has a short time to express what is alive in them at the present moment. 

Be aware that this approach will be time-consuming. Can be a good choice to set a 1-2 minute on a timer as a maximum time for one person in this context.


  • Even though for many of us an urge arises during the process to express our views or offer helpful advice, the main purpose of this practice is to just be a listener- and to gift our attention to others. The beauty of this type of sharing is that safety is created by just being seen and not receiving any reaction-  especially not advice. 
  • Everything shared in this space is confidential and is not to be spoken about to each other or anyone else. 
  • If however you feel there is something you would like to speak to a member of your group about, you wait 24 hours and if you still would like to, you then ASK the person ‘May I ask you something, or mention something about what you shared yesterday?’. 
  • It is then down to that person to answer yes or no. 
  • It can bring safety to have a fixed sharing group but sharing with new groups can bring valuable new dynamics, too.


  • The intention is to create a peaceful environment for the practice and to ensure privacy, by guaranteeing that no one’s intimate sharing is interrupted by other community members.
  • This practice can therefore create interpersonal trust between community and team members and help act as a coping mechanism, in particular during the busy seasons when there is relentless work pressure
  • People often resist sharing at first but then feel liberated afterwards, for having received the space to be seen and heard. 
  • It also is quite common that being gifted this 5-minute space with the non judgemental attention of the group can create a safe container to allow the release of any emotions that may be underneath the surface. 
  • Whilst you are talking, a conclusion or a breakthrough can often occur.


  • If confidentiality is breached, it can lead to a loss of trust and potential harm.
  • If someone doesn’t feel particularly safe in their sharing group to engage in the practice or to dig deep, it can have an adverse effect, whereby issues/problems become ‘bottled up’ and can therefore cause more stress and instability for the person. 
  • Some people might find their sharing group challenging because of group size, gender balance, and/or lack of trust in personal connection.
  • There might be sensitivity and insecurity regarding changing a sharing group after being in the same group for a long time.
  • This practice, which is designed to be regular, can eat into work time e.g. if a particular sharing opens someone up into a vulnerable or overwhelmingly emotional state, some members of the group could feel responsible to then console them after the sharing has finished, which can spill over into working time.
    (This can happen with short term Volunteers, who may not have yet learned how to balance their volunteering hours in relation to the time devoted to holding space for someone’s emotional process).
  • Sharing every day in the busy months can become tiresome and can lead to one feeling pressured to share something significant.
    In particular, those work leaders who hold a heavy workload can feel that it is a costly and inefficient use of their time.
    (Holding the practice less often might be the solution.)

What is Needed:

  • Time is needed: 30-60 minutes-  depending on the group size  
  • Also a Timer. 
Silent Sitting / Meditation Spot

Practised by Ananda Gaorii, Ängsbacka, Sieben Linden

  • To provide a sense of rest
  • To promote well-being 
  • To act as a tool for managing stress levels

Meditation practices act as quality time with oneself, away from the external stimulation involved with living within a community, and offers a quiet few moments of peace. 


  • Can cause distraction from workflow if the practice is done within volunteering hours and can encourage too great a sense of relaxation around volunteering responsibilities.
  • Requires correct seating and/or posture to support people’s bodies, to prevent back pain or injury. 

What is Needed:  

  • A silent room/meditation space with no interruptions. 
  • Comfortable, supportive chairs or cushions.

Workshops held by the Volunteers

As practised at Ängsbacka, Ananda Gaori, Sieben Linden

These are spaces and time slots specifically designated for Volunteers to be able to offer workshops and activities for the rest of the community. 

For example: yoga classes, singing circles, movie nights, astrology lessons, dance classes, open mic and poetry nights.



  • Adds more to the Volunteer’s experience outside of their volunteering work hours. 
  • This interactive space also provides Volunteers with the opportunity to pilot-run any talents, skills, interests and creative ideas they may have. 
  • It provides a ‘laboratory’ platform, offering Volunteers the space to allow their personal confidence to grow as they step into the gifts they may not have realised were significant  before.



  • For Volunteers who have a lot of creativity and ideas, it is possible they could take on too much which, in addition to their volunteering hours, could lead to them feeling overwhelmed, which could then lead to burnout.
  • Having too dense a programme, with multiple workshops, could create exhaustion for Volunteers if they try to implement or attend everything.


What is Needed: 

  • Available workshop spaces outside of Volunteer working hours
  • A Supervisor or Coordinator to help manage the workshops- and manage expectations!

Digital tools to Support Volunteers Learning

Pre-arrival it is highly useful for Volunteers to be able to connect with you and/or with former, current or future Volunteers. 

Digital tools like: WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal or online meetings via Zoom/ Jitsi can be really useful. 

During their stay in our community, a shared Miro Board might be a great way to receive feedback or to guide the Volunteers on different topics, i.e. learning and personal development

The Virtual ecovillage of Bridgedale and the games that are provided there can really support you and the Volunteers in different situations.