It was during the first year of my master’s program in Düsseldorf (Western Germany) when I was planning to visit Japan, but with a less touristic approach. Hearing about my plans, a fellow student introduced me to these intercultural short-term projects, the so called “workcamps”. I got hooked immediately, did some research, picked my sending organisation, IBG e.V., in Germany, selected a project and three months later I was on a plane to my long awaited destination. 

The workcamp-spiral 
After this first experience as a volunteer in Japan 2019 I wanted to have a closer look into the whole workcamp process. Having studied intercultural communication during my Bachelor, I was really interested in learning about these special group dynamics of such a project in a non-formal way. So I took part in the INSPIRIT program (you can read more about that HERE) including a camp leaders’ training and lead my first project in Germany the same year. Even after leading another camp during the first pandemic summer 2020, my urge to look more behind the scenes became bigger. In the end, that is what brought me here, to INEX-SDA in Prague. 

Why leading more workcamps?
I decided to do a voluntary year, through the European Solidarity Corps program, at INEX-SDA after finishing my studies in Düsseldorf to experience the whole workcamp cycle from the perspective of an association organising them. And of course I would not let a chance pass by to lead a few workcamps during my time with INEX. Not only because every project comes with its own dynamics, precious things you share with and learn from each other. But also because each organisation has a slightly different approach of how to prepare its campleaders and I was curious how INEX developed their process. Even though I participated in several trainings in Germany with IBG, and already knew about the basics of conflict management, group dynamics, communication etc., there is always more to learn and also some formalities and responsibilities differ. For example, it was new to me that campleaders at INEX write a press release about their workcamp for local media. Or that camp leaders normally do a preparatory visit about six weeks before the project. Which means traveling to the project site in person to get to know the premises, tasks and project partners first hand. 

Which workcamp to lead?
The most appealing for me was to lead workcamps with different approaches. For example, I already had a wonderful leading experience at the workcamp “Create a Place of Reconciliation at Rabstejn” (in Ceska, Kamenice, close to Decin). It focused on common Czech-German history and in two weeks we had to develop ideas for a new monument addressed to Sudeten Germans.
Taking part only during a long weekend, my next workcamp “Oskorusobrani – Oskoruse Festival” turns out to be totally different. There, we will help the community of Tvarožná Lhota (region Bile Karpaty), to prepare their festival for celebrating the Czech fruit “Oskoruse”.
There is also another workcamp I am planning to lead and that is “Společné Kořeny – Gemeinsame Wurzeln” in Tišnov, close to Brno. I am very excited to be part of this project. It is a new workcamp with quite an interesting and diverse schedule planned. From ecological aspects, like learning about street mapping and planting trees, over rediscovering Czech-German history during excursions to Jewish museums and quarters to the creation of an interactive presentation about a former Sudeten German.
Beside from these various  leading experiences, I hope to jump into quite a few unknown waters, challenge myself and make some more friends from the Czech Republic and beyond. 

In the end, for me that is what workcamps and volunteering in general are about: facing new challenges, connecting with new people and places through these challenges and helping each other to grow beyond ourselves step by step. 

If you would like to find out how this works out for me in this case and maybe find inspiration for your own voluntary experiences, you can follow my journey on Facebook and Instagram stories.  #JuleWorkcampuje #sodvahou