Second week of work practice: What is Tomillo?

So, last week was Day of Spanish Constitution Law (Día de la Constitución) which is a national holiday and people go out and celebrate. This is also the reason why my first week was only 3 days long since nobody wanted to work on Friday and they were using their vacation days. This is called “puente”, a bridge where you are able to get a long weekend.

Because I had all this free-time in my hands, I went to see exhibitions and wondered around the streets of Madrid, did laundry, found amazing restaurants like honest greens and did other stuff like cooked paella (one of the dishes I have learned to do years back).


During my first week I met a lot of wonderful people and got so much information that my head was spinning. I was happy to see that Ana and Juan, who I talked with via skype before the practice and they were really friendly and helpful. Juan is my supervisor during my practice and Ana not so much, but she did all the paperwork with me and she was really interested to know what we do in Finland and how it compares to the work they do in Madrid.

What I mean by paperwork are the following documents:

  • Contact details form of a student who’s doing their practices at Fundación Tomillo
  • Form where I accept if it’s okay that they take my photo (no one has but I have no problem with that)
  • Confidentiality and professional secrecy certificate (acta de confidencialidad y secreto profesional)
  • Giving my extract of criminal records for their archive (certificado de los delitos sexuales) as in sexual felonies so it’s a little different than ours since our certificate is about all the felonies

I asked about this because it surprised me that they only ask for sexual felonies if you want to work with minors. What I found out, is that if the organization wants, it can ask a certificate for other felonies, but this is very unusual since for them what matters most is if you have a criminal record of sexual nature. Then they obviously don’t let you work with minors.

But for example, if you have robbed a store, they have no way of knowing this. This to me seems a bit absurd but I guess they want to give you the benefit of doubt. Of course, if someone has made a mistake in the past and robbed some money and 15 years later they want to work with kids, they have probably changed for the better and this should not be a reason for your rejection. I don’t know, makes you think anyways.

On other things, the foundation where I am is being located inside a residential area, so people are living here but the foundation has quite many floors for their offices and conference rooms, as well as classrooms where they give classes and courses for young people. I have learned so much, yet there is still so much I have no idea about.

Yesterday we went to the place where the youngsters have their free-time activities in “Tiempo Joven” and we told them about budgeting and how they can influence in their neighbourhood (barrio). It went well, they are really active and energetic, even though they missed half an hour of their dance class because of us. The timetable for us right now is a bit crazy because Spain has its local elections in 26th of May and they have changed the timetable of the participatory budgeting because of that.

More about participatory budgeting lower and also here.

Tiempo Joven is also part of the foundation. They aim their services for youth between 12 to 21 years old that are in danger of social exclusion. Tiempo Joven which literally means “Youth Time” organizes different kind of workshops mostly after school from 15 pm to 19 pm. They have different classes of dance lessons, theatre, art and sports.

During the weekends there can be trips to the mountains or other activities like martial arts or participating somehow in their community. The aim is to facilitate their activation as citizens and precursors of their own development and the social transformation of their neighborhood and/or community. All these activities are free of charge, they only ask for 7€ payment for insurances, if something were to happen.

It’s a cool looking place but you can see that there is small budget and the facilities are what they are. I mean compared to the facilities we have in Finland, there is huge difference. It shows that 52% of young people are unemployed in Spain. The area where we do work is quite poor and many people are socioeconomically disadvantaged. This was partly the reason why I chose to do my practice here.

Picture from their web-pages. This is the patio/courtyard.

I have also learned about this cool webpage:

CIVICS is the first civic innovation map to be developed on a daily basis by citizens from across Ibero-America. It is a digital, self-mapping tool in geolocated address book format, where you can find and add all the civic innovation happening in our cities, locate their associated events and take part in them.

I found 713 initiatives in Madrid and 102 of them are community development, so I found Tomillo easily on the map. They also have these cool maps they are doing from all the 21 districts which can be very helpful if you don’t know Madrid and want to know what kind of services there are in your neighbourhood.

The district of Usera

About Tomillo

The foundation however is a private, non-profit, independent and non-denominational entity born in 1983 with the aim of contributing to social improvement and development of the individual. Tomillo is Thyme in English and the Foundation takes its name from this plant for its healing properties, modesty, endurance and because it is widespread in Spain. It has around 250 – 300 employees so it’s a medium sized organization funded by grants, contracts, public administration and donations. Their budget was 9,2 million euros in 2017.

Contribute for a change in our society by helping people at risk of exclusion to improve their situation and their community.

Work with children and youth to take responsibility of their life, their environment and society, as well as their families and communities; favouring people to develop their potential and looking for the improvement of their life conditions through education and employment as fundamental tools.


So shortly about the services Tomillo offers:

  • Socio-educational support and family intervention (apoyo socioeducativo e intervención familiar)
  • Citizen activation (activación ciudadana), different things than in Sustainable neighbourhoods
  • Regulated and/or vocational training for students (formación reglada)
  • Support for employment and self-employment (apoyo al empleo y autoempleo)
  • Voluntary participation (participación voluntaria)
  • Social innovation and studies (innovación social y estudios)
  • Sustainable neighbourhoods (Barrios Sostenibles), the program/project where I am doing my practices.


The program offers:

  • Energy efficiency (eficiencia energética). This a program where students of vocational training help the residents to be more sustainable and save from their electric bills. It’s free of charge for the residents and if you want to participate, the students come and change light bulbs to LED, measure different kind of things etc.
  • Rooftop planting (instalación de cubiertas vegetales). In this program, which right now is on a brake, students of gardening have constructed a planting area in a rooftop for the residents to grow vegetables and get to know each other. The object of the program was to help the community come together and learn how to do things together and be sustainable.
  • Citizen activation (activación ciudadana). In this program one of the aims is to improve Park Pradolongo and the neighbourhood of Usera. Park Pradolongo is like a green lung in the district of Usera and it suffers from litter and bad reputation. The idea is to organize events, workshops, projects and other activities to improve the area together with the residents and associates.

Participative Budgeting is also one thing that the program does. It’s like the one we have in Finland right now called “osallistava budjetointi” (OmaStadi) where citizens can tell suggest how the money should be spent. In the OmaStadi online service, residents of the city can draw up proposals and vote on how the City spends €4.4 million annually.

In Madrid this amount is 30 million euros which is divided by its 21 districts. The amount the district of Usera where the foundation works, is close to the amount we have for entire Helsinki (3,8 million euros). The participatory budgeting process is a little different than ours but it’s something I’m going to be working on closely with a youth group.

To know more, go: 

All their programs are free of charge!

Here or some photos I have taken during these days. There aren’t many but I try to take more!

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