Melting pot of cultures
Are you going to join the labour corpse?, your mum is going to ask. And you have to explain to her that a workcamp has nothing to do with the labour corps, except for the fact that you do need to work. Workcamps are simply volunteering projects, in which people coming from different countries participate. They do work, but they also make friends. This is how a common Europe is going to be built, you can tell your mother.
Pierogi and paella
This is the shortest definition of a workcamp. What can you do there? Each day… something different. “Today, I have been a part of a kitchen team, which means that I was responsible for preparing meals for other campers. And happily I didn't need to weed or level out the ground. Can you imagine that I do physical work here. Although we work five hours a day, we do serious work and something useful for the town we are staying in”, wrote Justyna in a letter to her family. She did not work in the kitchen alone, as she was accompanied by a colleague from Spain. So the menu was as multicultural as the whole workcamp: Justyna prepared pierogi and her fiend made a fantastic paella.
“It is incredible how many things you can learn there by simply talking to other people. Gizil has told me about the situation of women in Turkey and Geovanni has described everyday life in the city of Mexico. I have had many opportunities to confront reality and stereotypes about other nations. I stay 24/7 with the representatives of different cultures and I can observe how they behave in everyday situations and as a result learn about their customs and mentality”, added Justyna. You can read her report at: www.workcamps.pl.
The world is your oyster
Justyna opted for a short-term project, which is an excellent idea for beginners. You leave for 10 days or a couple of weeks and work five hours a day. Volunteers work with children, tidy up the area, help during construction work or protect the environment. At least these are the topics of workcamps organised by „Jeden Świat” (One World Association). Stowarzyszenie Promocji Wolontariatu – FIYE Poland has a similar profile. But you must remember that a workcamp does not stand for free holidays, during which you wield a spade a couple of times and get some pocket money for it. You must pay a fee to start with, which amounts to PLN 150 or more, and you must cover travel costs. Prior to leaving for volunteering, you must obtain European Health Insurance Card. If you would like to travel beyond the Europe, you can look for projects in international organisations, such as Concordia. It organises long term and short term volunteering projects in 60 countries across the globe. Workcamps usually last from two to four weeks. The fee amounts to a few hundred pounds.
Privilege, not Work
What can you do? Paint the walls of an orphanage in Ukraine, promote a farm producing ecological food in Japan, counteract AIDS epidemics in Kenya, hold educational workshops, take care of sea turtles in Mexico. Unfortunately, to get there you must cover travel, insurance, visa, and vaccination costs, but it is well worth it because you will see magnificent views and you will experience a lifetime adventure!
‘We went to Cueva La Saturno. There is a freshwater lagoon inside a cave where you can swim and jump off the stalagmites. It looked and felt like something out of a Disney film – it was so unreal and beautiful” – wrote Natalie Aldham in her diary about a volunteering project in Cuba.
We stopped in the middle of the desert. We spent a night in a yurt. What an experience! To me the workcamp was not about work, I felt privileged that I could see the beautiful country untouched by the western culture and spent some time with children who, unlike their peers from the USA or Europe, do not know what greed is, said another volunteer after coming back from Mongolia.
In Poland, you can apply for participation in Concordia projects via Stowarzyszenie Promocji Wolontariatu.