10 Years with Cazalla

This year the organization where I work will have 10 years anniversary, officially, since the organization exist longer, but that´s another story. For this reason we decided to celebrate, and we are asking people who has been involved with Cazalla Intercultural in any way to publish their story, photos, videos or memories on social media with the hash tag #10añosconcazalla – 10 years with Cazalla.

And since someone needs to start, I got the very strong feeling to make my own summary of my 7 years long involvement with this organization. Yes it is already 7 years. So here it comes 7 facts about Cazalla for each of the year that Cazalla contributed to my life. Let´s see if I will get as well a bit of the sentimental part. And please remember that this is just my personal point of view! 😀


FACT 1 –  Crazy idea? Let´s do it

There are a lot of serious stuff going on in the organization, but from my perspective the crazy ideas are the ones that gives the necessary buzz of motivation to the whole team. There are no limits! If I would tell you to write the project within 20 hours from the moment of getting together to decide what the project can be about till actually submitting it, and from the grants that you don´t have any experience with, how would you call it?

I guess this story is like the story of the alcoholics (sorry if I hurt someone), when you start drinking it is difficult to stop. It was similar with us, we were just finishing an amazing on arrival training for the EVS volunteers, where we even made a video on what the team does in their free time, which was a total craziness (and this video no one will ever see, although we will find robbers who have stolen my hard drive), and since we were on a roll,  we decided to continue.

We met at 5 pm on the square of library, to decided if we want to do something, 2 hours ago we were already writing over there in the bar, and by 2pm next day the transporting company was calling us already that they are coming to pick up the envelope. This is how the Lorca Libre project was created.

But this is just an example out of many. You should have seen the excitement of the team when we have decided to create our own escape room. Fun fact – non of us that time did even one, so we didn´t have any clue what are we getting in. But it was fun.

And right now we are in the same line, currently we have 3 projects (hopefully 4) where we are responsible for development of MOOC – Massive Online Open Course.  Yes we like challenges 🙂

FACT 2 – Nothing ever works / Natural disasters

Yeah… sounds fun. If you come to the office and would like to write the project that is online based, print documents or even do more simple staff you always have a chance that it will not be as easy as it looks like. A week ago we had to print and sing the contract for one project, and it took us only 3 days:) why? Well nothing ever works.

But for this we already got used to, I guess therefore we are able to work in any extreme conditions. For example foods! It was in September 2012, one day in the office just before the deadline, writing and coordinating everything so the projects can be submitted on time. It was raining quite a lot so already the process was not that comfortable since we had to take off our shoes which were quite wet. But then on one moment electricity went off. It was a sign that something serious is happening. Obviously nothing worked. It took us a while to find a place in Lorca where there was electricity and internet, but in the end the project was presented. In the same time we have learn that in the second office we got a small lake and some documents got… flooded.

It was as well quite strange a year before when we had a deadline to present the final report of the living library, and well there was an earthquake. Normally we try to submit documents on time, and if not well you need to inform people who are waiting for the documentation that the delay is going to happen. Normally people find some interesting excuses, but grant managers receiving e-mail – sorry we cannot submit the final report since due to the earthquake we had the be evacuated from the city, and we don´t know when our office will be evaluated as safe to enter:)

And if you think that it is enough for one person, in 2013 I was doing the mid term evaluation for the EVS volunteers in Philippines. I had my flight to Cebu, and from there I was suppose to go to Bohol by boat. Transiting in Manila I was informed about the big earthquake, I ended up without a place to stay, next day I was trying to get to Bohol but it was impossible, so we had to evacuate the volunteers to Manila, and since I had some time till my flight, I went to the beach:) At least there was no tsunami warning.

FACT 3 There is sooooo much work to do

I will tell you one thing, if you ever want to work in the NGO think it twice. There are always project to write, there are always projects to coordinate, there are always trainings to do, meetings to attend, final reports to prepare, audits to enjoy, publications to write, and besides there is always someone coming to the office who does not know about it and wants your full attention. And moreover the competence that is always looked for in the NGO workers is flexibility, meaning you will always do all of this and never miss the deadline.

And there were many attempts to optimize, to divide our work better, to hire more people, to try not to work on weekends and free days, and the result out of my 15 years in NGOs is – get used to it.

And I am writing this part for two reasons – to make the young people who are coming to the office understand that we can be sometimes stressed, and the volunteers to understand that it is simply impossible that after providing us with the financial documents they will have their reimbursement the next day in their accounts. And secondly to make a general public admit that the administration costs in NGOs are necessary. There is still this way of thinking about the social field that all the money that pass through NGOs needs to be spend on the activities and go to the direct beneficiaries. But then who will pay people like me, who stays over nights making the administration, since during the day it was impossible, and who indeed has a very big level of responsibility, and still if needed cleans spaces and do the manual work, no more money will be dedicated to the activities.

Yes, there is a bit of frustration with this, but still I must admit I like my job.

FACT 4 Just do it

Seems like we can talk a lot, disagree a lot, but when it comes to doing things, the things magically happens. Who said that you have to plan event for months, when it can take you two days? Why to stress? This is the way how the things are done. And many times it happens to us that someone went for holidays, or for a meeting for a week, and after coming back the event that we were discussing a month when we can meet to plan it has already happened. Who would thought that one day someone is coming to the office informing that the office will be moved to the other building and in two days I was already working from the other building (of course after stopping all the other work, and moving all the stuff). And who though that the project that was not finished on time due to the printer problem, and should be sent by post till 8pm (when they closes a post office in Lorca), will be magically sent complete, although it was not printed? Why to think to much? JUST DO IT.

FACT 5 Work can be done everywhere

Yes we have an office, well in fact in the last 7 years I went through 6 different offices, but the truth is that the best work is being done in the most extreme conditions. Why? Well because of many reasons that are explained a but in the parts noting ever works and there is sooooo much work to do.

So if you ask where we work, I would ask you to rephrase the question, where we don´t work.


The most common places where the things are created are – airports and planes, trains, bars (sometimes with the nice sea view or in the exotic places), medical centers (waiting for your appointment), local bar family (especially around midnight when the party has started), parks where the good Pokemons are appearing, and many more. While writing this article a colleague of mine told me that we could have dine some work last time when we were in casino to add something new to this list. But if you consider networking as work, casino can be ticked.

There were two very special projects created in two very special places. First one – Silk Road to EVS, first project of Cazalla which was done on the global level. Since as always there was not enough time to do it in the office, I had to write it during my holidays in Poland. That time I was invited as a guest for the film festival I was organizing for years, and well I was writing in the cinema. Not only in the cinema room while the shorts has been screened, but as well in the places from where people were screening movies, and in all the secret rooms of one of the oldest cinemas in Wroclaw.

Second project was STAR – Stand Together Against Racism, a continuation of our beloved Lorca Libre. The deadline was just after the training I was going in the woods in Lithuania. In the place where we were there was a lot of mosquitos, one house where we were sleeping and participants were partying during the nights, a lake, more mosquitos, and woods. I was there with a dear friend of mine Wladzio who was as well writing. We were not able to write in the house where we were staying since participants would oblige us to party with them, so we had to find solution. There was a wooden table and in between two wooden walls in the middle of the forest, that we decided to use (at least the walls were protecting us a bit from the wind). We have installed our computers, installed mobile phones a bit up to get some light from it lanterns, and took some bottles of whisky to get warmer. In this way we were spending our nights, having breaks every 30 minutes to discuss our progress and suggest ourselves some new arguments that we can put.

Well I didn´t finish over there, so I ended up in the bla bla car on my way back:) 

FACT 6 It´s all about fun

Well not really, we struggle and quite often, but there are as well many stories how from the serious things we can get some fun.

Since this article is rather story telling way of me telling my experience in Cazalla, it is a place to tell a ventilator story. It was a nice spring of 2014 when we got an e-mail from the European Commission that we are going to have an audit of the project Silk Road to EVS. Yes we liked this project a lot, but audit? What is it? Yes there is always the first time… So the nice spring of 2014 changed into a hectic spring of 2014, understanding what the audit is and what they really want form us.

We recovered all the documentation (and only very small part was a bit touched by the flood), send scans of everything that was requested, prepared the tea and coffee for the auditors for the days that they were planning to visit us, and everything started.

I must admit audits are fun! There were 2 Spanish auditors, and a person from European Commission monitoring the whole process. And everything was going very smooth until we reached the costs of the 100 meters of aluminum. They were very nice coming to ask and asking with the big curiosity – for what an NGO needs 100 meters of aluminum for the dissemination event. When they asked, we started asking as well ourselves. Non of us had a clue that this invoice was doing there, and 100 meters sounds quite a lot!!!

Surprise!!! Facebook helps! It was not that much of money but we wanted to discover what was it really about, so we started having a look on the photos from the event, and BAZINGA! We found a photos from one of the squares of Lorca where we were making with children flowers from the thin metal sticks, that on the invoice appeared as 100 meters of aluminum.

Most probably you are asking yourself how it is connected to the ventilator? Well it was the other cost that appeared within the invoices. Most probably the summer of 2013 was very hot, and we bought the ventilator and somehow it ended up in between invoices. But the auditors were so nice, especially after our capacity to legitimately explain 100 meters of aluminum that they said – if we will manage to provide photos using the ventilator for trying something that is connected to the activities, they will accept this cost as well. Well we did not have anything like this, but since we had so much fun with the experience we wanted to take a photos with the ventilator and all of us riding a bike (please don´t ask my why the bike, but I remember clearly the bike), and give this photo to the auditors as a nice memory from our meeting. Such fun right?

FACT 7 We are so different… but we have the same objective

If we will take all the people who are and went through Cazalla, there is one thing in common – NOTHING 😀 Each person is a different world with the different habits and styles of work, and of course different opinions. Sometimes people ask what are we doing so long during our weekly meeting – well the truth is different opinions:D When there were elections in Spain and we were discussing whom to vote, everyone was going different direction, and I guess there were no two people who voted the same way. Currently we are doing the leaflet of the organization and the same, since it is something that should represent all of us, it is already for about two years in the preparation mode since it took as a while to agree on something.

I remember some time ago we went through organizational development, and our colleague who was running the process made the individual interviews with all the people somehow connected to Cazalla. There was one very interesting exercise – we were ask to imagine that we are in the training as participants, and during the coffee break other participant approaches us and ask so what is your organization about. And we were suppose to answer. It was interesting since out of this we were able to actually define what Cazalla is about, but each person had it´s own individual approach how she or he sees the organization. The good thing in all of this was that in the end all of us expressed the same purpose, and this is what keeps us together and keeps us moving. It is true that we all might have a bit different how (meaning ways to reach our goals), but we have the same WHY. And I will try to formulate it once again hoping that it will not create any disagreements, our why is to make Lorca more inclusive, empower young people to be active and responsible citizens and MAKE DIVERSITY GREAT AGAIN. 😀

One thought on “10 Years with Cazalla

  1. Wow… it’s been five years already but I still feels that my heart is still in Lorca. I am about to cry right now. Kudos to you Aga for continuing the the mission and vision of Cazalla. Honestly I regret that I only served there for 5 months but I have no choice. I miss all of you.. A LOT! Thank you for being part of this programme…


    Liked by 1 person

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