Yolanda was born in a small town in the Netherlands, and lost both her parents when she was very young. She grew up with different families, and later moved to a house with other young people who found themselves in similar circumstances: collective ways of living came early and naturally to her and her sister.
After completing Master’s degrees in fine arts and education, and gender studies, Yolanda travelled through Europe by bike, researching the practice and potential of alternative political communities and finally settling in the Portuguese city of Porto. Here, she’s become part of a number of collectives that have converted abandoned buildings into assets for the community.
“Casa Viva” and “ES.COL.A”, for example, are self-managed social and cultural centers converted from derelict schools in low-income areas of the city. Both centers organize free debates, concerts, theatre and cinema performances, sports activities and computer workshops, and Casa Viva hosts both a weekly radio program and “Rhythms of Resistance”, a local Samba band of which Yolanda is a member.
Other projects include an urban community garden at “Quinta Musas da fontinha”, where local residents can attend free courses provided by one of the city’s universities that teach them how to use whatever small space they have to grow their own food. As Yolanda says:
“I think it is important to know that we can actually make food almost next to our own homes, especially here in Porto where there are so many abandoned terrains that are just used for piling up garbage. Instead of supporting a system that in my opinion is falling apart, I’d rather construct some alternatives - alternative space and alternative ways of living.”
This is a series about ordinary people who are finding their own ways to lead more sustainable and meaningful lives in European cities. Over the next few months on Transformation, I will be sharing some of these stories to show what is possible in the here and now, if we have the courage and creativity to reach for it.