Tell us a bit about you.
I am Portuguese and I did my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Lisbon in Languages, Literature and Culture. Then, I moved to London to complete my Master’s degree in Creative Writing and Publishing at City, University of London. I am now a journal specialist for the Humanities and Social Sciences program with my company, Frontiers. It has been quite a ride but a very pleasurable one.
What was your personal motivation for volunteering with Be Enriched?
In 2020, I opted for remote volunteering opportunities because of the pandemic. I did some content writing and some social media campaigns.
This year, I decided to do something in-person. When I was growing up in Portugal, I was into scouts. Since a young age, I have been used to going to similar community centers to do food collection and spend time with the local communities. I wanted something that would bring me back to what I knew but hadn’t done for a while. With my passion for cooking, it seemed like a great opportunity to put my cooking skills to good use. In fact, it is not the cooking itself, but cooking for people that I love. It has always been one of my greatest pleasures in life – cooking for people. Be Enriched volunteering combined both my love for cooking and being able to help local communities.
What was your volunteering like?
When I arrived, I joined two other volunteers in preparing a three-course vegetarian meal. I instantly chose the dessert. Although there was some basic ingredients in stock, the challenge was to come up with a nice and creative dish. I decided to make a caramelized peach tart. With lots of personal touches to the original recipe, it turned out to be a complete improvisation on the upside-down peach cake!
At midday, the visitors started to arrive. It felt really important to spend some time talking with them over a cup of tea or coffee. We served pumpkin and tomato soup followed by mushroom risotto and, of course, my caramelized peach tart for dessert. It was rather humbling to be able to share the warm meal with the visitors and spend more time getting to know these people and listening to their stories.
But then I had to clean up all the mess that I ‘improvized’ with my caramelized tart!
What did you learn from your time with Be Enriched?
It might not be what I learnt, but what it reminded me of. The past year and a half has been hard for every single one of us. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that there are people out there, right in the center of our communities, who have been much more affected and secluded by the pandemic. Being caught in or frustrated by our own issues, we tend to overlook such situations. This volunteering opportunity gave me the ability to share a warm meal and to share kind words. It was very humbling. I felt gratitude for everything that I have and also realized the importance of doing this more regularly: to be there, to hold fellow person’s hand and to share a smile.
And, of course, it was great to be a dessert chef for a day!
When prompted to share the peach tart recipe, Carolina, like a true patissier, decided to keep it an ‘improvized secret’. But everyone is very welcome to come down to the canteens, and if you see Carolina in her next volunteering experience, you might be able to try it.
Find out more about volunteering here: www.be-enriched.org/get-involved