I made the most important step in 2013 when I started volunteering in one project in Pilsen called Pilsen 2015 – European Capital of Culture. It opened me to completely new horizons, later in 2016 I found out about international volunteering and it very quickly became my hobby and new lifestyle.
I participated in workcamp for the first time in 2015 in Pilsen on “Plovárna” – a former city bath, I didn’t know anything about it, only that there will be some international volunteers coming to help. Later my new friend and colleague, who was a camp leader told me, how it works. She explained to me, that this workcamp is coordinated by NGO INEX-SDA and everyone can easily apply without any requirements. It was completely new information for me as I thought I need to be sent on a worcamp by another NGO.
In March 2016, I attended my first event of INEX, it was an information meeting for new volunteers. They explained to us everything about workcamps, how it works and what we can achieve. For the first time, I saw the offices of INEX which are located in the loft of Prague house. What can I say, it was an amazingly pleasant place. At that time, I had no idea how many times in the future I will have the opportunity to visit this beautiful place again. Although could I possibly know that INEX will become my love and passion and I will be coming back again for many meetings or workshops? It could be very probable, mainly because of the friendly atmosphere of the organization that you can feel right at the first sight.
After the very first meeting, I immediately sent an application and a few days later I was accepted for my first workcamp. It was in the summer and I traveled to France for a month, although the camp was for three weeks. We had a great group of people, also almost all of them participated in a workcamp for the first time and we stayed in a beautiful place close to a water mill on a river, where we found our haven from the hot sun. Our main activity was the reparation of water dams, which was sometimes super challenging but at least we could work from the water, so the body could cool down. However, we enjoyed many different leisure activities and trips, and the locals were always open and ready to entertain us and grace us with their perfect French food. Long story short, I liked France so much and I simply was not ready to go home, so I called INEX and applied for another last-minute workcamp for one week – thanks to that, I had the opportunity to visit also some parts of Paris.
Later on, I started going on workcamps regularly, ideally once, better more times per year. On Corsica, I saw an amazing nature with unknown scents and participated in the reparation of the old well in the garden of Napoleon Bonaparte’s family. On Mallorca on the other hand, I tried to be an archaeologist for the first time and I had a chance to see a sea from snowy mountains. Later, in Grabštejn castle in the north part of the Czech Republic, I enjoyed romantic evenings in a castle courtyard. On a farm in Moravian Pravice, I learned how to milk a goat and in the Rychleby mountains, I tried to live without electricity and the internet surrounded by nature and mostly a group of the best friend I could ever ask for. Nevertheless, I joined the workcamp in my hometown Pilsen, the place where everything began a few years before. However, I was also asked to try to be a camp leader and it enriched me surprisingly in the field of self-knowledge, mainly I discovered, that I am able to give some psychological support to others.
Although I don’t have enough free time anymore, for example, like during my students years, I want to continue with going on workcamps and exploring other countries, meeting new friends and maybe trying some different activities, which I haven’t done yet. From my point of view, workcamps are the best way of traveling, because you can go to someplace, where somebody is waiting for you, a meaningful program is prepared and you can deeply discover local culture by living several weeks in one place. Above that, you can meet the local people and enjoy their country even more, compared to ordinary traveling between all the tourist sights, plus you won’t spend so much money on a workcamp.
Europian solidarity corps
Moreover, my volunteering hasn’t stopped only by participating at workcamps. A long time before meeting INEX, I was thinking about European Voluntary Service, because I met some volunteers in Pilsen during the project of the European Capital of Culture. I wished to shift my volunteer career to a higher level, so after finishing my studies, and some long time of searching and applying for a project and thanks to quick administrative procedure with INEX, I left my home for one year and moved to Bulgaria. It was a unique experience, which changed me a lot. During our training, I met many volunteers from different countries and we even became best friends. I had a chance to learn and to use the English language almost like my native language because I didn’t use any other language during the whole year and I almost forgot the Czech. I tried to live in a close community of young people and learned about permaculture gardening, which I even started to do after coming back home. I fell in love with Bulgaria and I traveled across the whole country. I adopted the Bulgarian mentality and a bit of the language and by the end of the training, I started to feel like a half Bulgarian. Thanks to the wonderful experience, I stayed there three months longer after finishing the project and I didn’t want to leave. If I have found some interesting job there, I would definitely stay forever like many other volunteers… maybe I’ll return one day.
INEX isn’t only about volunteering. Since I know them very well, I am participating in various educational events organized by INEX or other related projects. I started to visit workshops of Dobrovolnická Akademie – Volunteer Academy, where I learned for example something new about photography or social media. I also enjoyed several weekend trainings of INEX for volunteers or camp leaders, and the events were totally amazing. We got closer in touch with the people working in this organization and I met other volunteers with similar interests.
After these events, I felt like a part of the family of INEX, but I didn’t belong to them officially. So, I was very pleased to accept an offer to become a member of INEX this year, the year of my 5th anniversary of our relationship. I’m not a part of the dream team of employees of the organization, but I can have some insight into the overall working of the organization, or eventually to say my opinion, what could be done better. I have this nice feeling of belonging to them without spending too much time there.
I’m glad for every occasion of meeting this fantastic group of people and I will always do my best to support INEX and volunteering in general. I believe and wish there will always be more and more volunteers.
Thank you for all the nice moments spent together and unforgettable experiences at home or faraway abroad and I hope this is only the beginning. The partnership with INEX changed me a lot, thanks to it I met most of my friends and found many new hobbies, and also realized that volunteering is one of the most important things in my life.
“My heart beats for INEX”. 😉