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Voice of the Masters

We traveled back in time with no need of a time machine - our ears were enough. Throughout several months, volunteers from Agora Aveiro listened and collected life stories of elderly people staying in Solar das Camélias, in Albergaria-a-Velha.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes and 50 seconds

© Helder Berenguer

Sometimes it seems that we live in a voice labyrinth. Everyone has an opinion about everything, everyone has an advice to give us, everything around us seems to yell for our attention. Yet, somehow, there are voices not heard, and left behind. While we’re young we have a whole world in front of us - wishes, wills, ideas and ideals. We don’t know what the future hides and, many of us, don’t know exactly where to go. The quest in search for answers may lead us to various places, to the volunteers of Agora Aveiro, it led them to Solar das Camélias, in Albergaria-a-Velha. 

We decided to slow down a little and, through the Local Solidarity Corps project  “Voice of the Masters”, visit the past in the present. A group of five young volunteers from Agora Aveiro, gathered to have some little conversations about what the elderly from this retirement house had to share. These are painful stories, years of lives very different from each other that make the most exotic bouquet of realities that make us reflect about a lot.

Twelve people were interviewed and will now see their stories in paper, in a compilation of “Voices of the Masters”. It’s not easy to hear some of the stories… Let's not romanticize these lives. Some have proved to be very challenging and the motto that we can take from it is really close to: sometimes it is not easy, nor pleasant still, life goes on and we just have to go on with it. Yet, there are also lots of shy smiles between the scars. We call these ladies and gentlemen masters due to everything they went through and lived already, for the times they saw changing and coming forward. They are not superheroes, nor superhumans, they’re people that, frequently, are forgotten and left behind in our society. They’re echoes of the embroidery under construction that we call human life, voices that deserve us to take a break to hear them, even if it may be merely to tell us about that same old story from their childhood, for the fiftieth time. 

We tried to be truthful to the stories we were told yet, some things we are unable to tell. These are interactions that shape us, that stay within us. These are well spent afternoons, from which we leave fulfilled with thoughts and emotions. Voices that we tried to crystallize in time, using our writing. Conversations that make us put everything that torments us in perspective and realign priorities. 

If you give me the chance, I’ll leave you with the advice from my favourite master, my grandma Rosa, whom is not here anymore to give me advices, or share more stories. The ones she told, I plan to keep alive. “Smile, always smile. Because worse than a sad smile, is the sadness of not knowing how to smile”.

Voice of the Masters” is part of “I Love Aveiro” project and is organized by Agora Aveiro in partnership with Solar das Camélias under European Solidarity Corps of European Union. It has also the support of Município de Aveiro and IPDJ - Instituto Português do Desporto e Juventude, I.P..

Liliana Macedo