Written by Laura Laitinen
Translated by Helena Lehti
I have attended workcamps several times, and as I am listing reasons to go, I feel like going once again! Attending a workcamp is easy, because often taking two or three weeks off work or your studies is not too difficult. Travelling in Europe is quite affordable, and you don’t spend much money during the camp. Now let’s get to the real reasons!
1. By giving you will receive!
Voluntary work can easily be thought of as a trade: by working I get to live in a foreign country. My own experience tells me, that voluntary work isn’t a trading business. When you put in your own effort for a common cause, and your own personality into building the camp atmosphere, great moments are bound to follow!
2. Travelling doesn’t need to be about spending
Last summer I went on a package tour, for the first time in a long while. I was amazed at how often the guides reminded us to buy souvenirs. At workcamps, there’s no need to think about souvenirs, because you will not be able to forget your trip and the new friends you met. One of the core values of volunteering is sustainable development.
3. Friendships are built on shared experiences
Two weeks can seem like a short time in your calendar, but when you spend two weeks sleeping in a tent, doing physical work, staying up at night and travelling with new people, it feels like a long time. Working together brings people closer and creates companionship and friendship.
4. Moving away from your comfort zone
In everyday life, it is easy to get stuck thinking that you are only capable of doing the things that you are used to, have been trained for, or that you have practised. At workcamps, you are faced with completely new circumstances and tasks. As a volunteer, I have sawed twigs, picked out snails from salad leaves, and tried to communicate with children who only speak Arabic.
5. Special places, that you would not find otherwise
Campsites are often fascinating. I have attended a camp in a Czech castle used by medievalists, and one at a Palestinian farm, where the growing of olives and apricots continues despite of the surrounding threats. Without exception, the camp hosts have all made an impression on me. They have all been people who work passionately with economically insignificant, but ethically valuable causes.
6. Physical labour
As a city person, I sit most of the time. Outside work, such as raking leaves or shovelling, is refreshing for me. Carrying a big backpack, sharing common spaces, cooking and working outside, are a fun struggle, where you start to re-examine what is necessary, and what is not.
7. New skills
I love to learn new things, and have enjoyed trying out new recipes, and practising foreign languages on camps. Many skills required at workcamps have to do with working in a team. The fact that you’ve learnt these types of new skills doesn’t necessarily sink in before you need them at the next camp or in some other new group situation.
8. Interaction and intercultural encounters
It can be strange to represent your own nationality among other nationalities. What does it mean that I am Finnish? How does my cultural background show up in an intecultural situation? You will find both cultural differences and shared interests with your new camp friends.
9. The importance of little things
I really think it matters how you spend your time. Workcamps participate in beneficial projects, and the responsibility for little big things is carried together. It is good to choose a camp that works for causes that are especially important to you.
Each camp has been a one-of-a-kind experience, that would not have taken place in my normal everyday life! Workcamp memories are like treasures that you can look back on by browsing through photographs and Facebook messages.