On my way to the second project

Soon after, it was time to embark on my second volunteering project. This time the project was about renovating an old brewery in Moravia, the part of the country that I still did not have the opportunity to explore properly. The workcamp lasted two weeks and 10 volunteers participated.

I was nervous and excited at the same time.

It is a common practice that the campleaders arrive on site one day before  the volunteers to “set up” the place. This time one of the first things we did was to create a workcamp’s rules and a program . When finished, I was now feeling ready to welcome volunteers.

This time my co-campleader was experienced, and the local partner used to be a campleader with INEX for some years. I thought that this time I was part of a dream team.

And as in the previous workcamp, everything was running smoothly from the beginning, but this time… till the end! I am not 100% sure that this success can be explained by better preparation, but it definitely helped.

This time as everything was working smoothly, I was able to fully emerge myself in the project. And something really caught my attention, the devotion of the local partners to the workcamp.

Just the story of how they met and decided to go for the project is still crazy to me. They are a group of three friends who met in a pub in Prague.

Once one of them received a call from the other two. An abandoned historical brewery was being sold in their hometown. “Do you want to buy it with us?” “Yes”. So that was the birth of this project and they are now working on it during their free time.

So beware of who you are drinking beers with, you might end up buying a historical building with them. 

At the beginning of the workcamp they took us on a tour of the brewery and explained what each room was used for, and what they would like to transform it in the future.

One evening they told us about the history of the brewery that they were able to retrace thanks to the city’s archive. We also saw the moment when they entered the brewery’s history and all the work they were able to achieve. And I have to say I was impressed by their determination. 

The amount of work that needs to be done to maintain and develop all the projects they have is tremendous but it is far from stopping them. 

Here my biggest learning outcome is that it is important to be surrounded by good friends who are able to push each other to achieve mad things together. 

And in the blink of an eye, the project was already over. This project was definitely the highlight of my summer and an important milestone of my ESC project in Czechia. 

Knowing you are able to overcome previous difficulties brings a lot of joy. Also seeing such inspiring local partners made me think that I would also engage in a lifetime project of my own one day.

Third and last workcamp

This time I was going back to the office, with a feeling of satisfaction. After all, I was able to handle a group, which is a valuable skill to have. The plan was to help with the end of the season from behind my work computer. But as often in life, things didn’t quite go according to plan.

One of our projects was lacking campleaders, and some volunteers would be left on their own for one whole week. So I went to another workcamp for the last time in the season. 

This project was in the western part of the country. The goal was to help restore a former concentration camp. It was for two weeks and the workcamp was focused on the Czech German relation after the war till nowadays. 

As I mentioned earlier, preparation is a key factor to a successful project. However, this time as it was a last-minute decision, there was no space for that. Fortunately, when I arrived at the place, I met the former campleader who was about to leave. He explained to me how the workcamp was working, introduced me to the volunteers and gave me key contacts. In other words, I received a proper handover, which helped me to step in comfortably as their new campleader.

Overall the project went smoothly. Sometimes it was a bit hard to fully feel like a campleader because the volunteers knew more about the place than I did. After all, they all have been living and working there for the past week. I was a bit worried about the free time activities, but fortunately this time the local partners were planning them.

And this time my biggest learning outcomes came from those planned activities. In every workcamp there is a part that we call the “study part”, in this part the volunteers and campleaders can learn about a specific topic or learn a new skill. 

As I mentioned before, in this project there was a focus on the relations between Germany and the Czech Republic. Before the workcamp my knowledge of this topic was close to none. 

At each of my workcamps, I had at least one campfire, this time I was sitting next to the local partner. So we talked about this particular part of history. This makes me think that this is another big reason why I would recommend to anyone to attend at least one workcamp in their life because you always end up meeting incredible people with inspiring stories.

In addition to that, to educate the volunteers and me about this part of history and the development of those relationships in the future, to do so we would visit archives of the nearby city where we would get to know historical facts of this piece of history, as well as visiting German cities who were now having partnerships with cities who organised those deportations.

This reminded me of how a good option it is to get to know a new place by volunteering. Indeed, going out of the beaten path is an amazing opportunity to connect with a local community and meet interesting people along the way. It also helped me to know more about the country in which I was volunteering for quite a long time now. 

Final words

I was now off to Belgium after leading three volunteering projects in Czechia for some well-deserved vacation. Thinking back about it I learned a lot about myself, and I will definitely remember this summer for the rest of my life. Before leaving you I’d like to share some words with you.

It’s up to us to make the world a better place and share love and kindness. For all the volunteers that I lead, I hope you will all go back to your home place and do the same thing with your family and friends.

And some of my personal wisdom: We will all end up in a box, so do not take life too seriously and spread the love around you. 

Do you want to work on your personal development while discovering the beauty of the Czech Republic and getting to know the culture and people?

Read the first part of Alex’s story