My name is Justyna, I'm 23 y.o. from Warsaw. I did my bachelor degree in Journalism, now I'm doing my second degree in Iberian Studies. I like listening to the music (Blur is my favourite band) and reading books (I love Haruki Murakami and good reportage books).
I stumbled across the idea of workcamps on the Internet when I was 19. I thought it was a cool thing to do and I promised myself that one day I would go on one, but later, I kind of forgot about it. One year later I saw that there was going to be an event on my uni for students who want to go abroad and workcamps.pl team was also supposed to come. After reading more about workcamps I decided to give it a try that summer. I wanted to do something that would get me out of my comfort zone, try something new and scary, practice my English, have fun and do something good.
As far I did three workcamps: two in Greece and one in Catalonia, Spain.
Workcamps in Greece were organized by ELIX and they were manual work projects. On the first one we worked in a town Nea Makri really close to Athens. There is an institution called Pammakaristos which takes care of disabled children. We did there some renovation work like painting walls, we also worked in the garden. Our group consisted of 11 participants and 2 campleaders. The work wasn't really hard, in the evenings we would go to the beach or play games together or just sit and talk about everything. During one weekend we did a trip to Athens, and we spent another weekend on the island, it was a lot of fun. That workcamp was a great experience for me and I decided it wouldn't be my last workcamp. To be honest, before going to Nea Makri I was a bit scared, I didn't know what to expect and I had a lot of doubts - but I worried needlessly!
The second one took place near Olympia and our task was to restore the wooden steps of the open theater. We also worked on conservation of the footpaths and forest. We lived in a really small village and we were only 10, ranging from 18 to 65 years old! We were a great team and we had a lot of fun! During free time we would go to the swimming pool, visit Olympia and museums, play endless rounds of tavli (a board game very popular in Greece) and drink frappe all the time.
The third project in Catalonia was an archaeology workcamp organized by Ascalfó association and coordinated by COCAT organization. We did archaeological excavations at Castell Formós, a 9th century castle in Balaguer, a town about 150 km away from Barcelona. We found a lot of ceramics' pieces, some animal bones and teeth. It wasn't exciting all the time - it's a job that requires a lot of patience, but I've tried something new and I'm glad about it. That time we were a really big group of 23 participants from all over the world - Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Russia, Turkey, Denmark, France, Germany, Belgium and Spain (and one of them was my friend from the first workcamp, I was so happy to see her again:)). In the beginning I thought it would be difficult to integrate and to create a good team in such a big group, but we got on really well and we still keep in touch! My friend from Mexico, Silvia, visited me in Poland after the workcamp and we also travelled together to Germany:) In the free time we had some workshops (f.e. making recycled paper and then notebooks from it), we had some intercultural events - like night of playing popular in our countries. We would also go to swimming pool or to see some monuments in the town. During one weekend we went to the mountains, we did some hiking and we swam a lot in the mountain lake (it was great!).
But it's not like we have only a peaceful and happy time during workcamps. On my projects there were some problems, especially on my third workcamp. The most serious conflicts were about using your national language constantly and drifting apart from the rest of group - there were such problems with participants but also with organization's staff. I think it's important for everyone to remember that workcamps are about working together with the group and also that language exclusion is something quite awful.
Don't get me wrong, conflicts always occur, but still the fun from workcamps easily outweighs any problems. I don't know where I will go for a workcamp this year, there's so many places (and friends!) I would like to visit. Only thing I know is that I want to go for another project.
(text original published here)