In Europe, international workcamps can last from ten days to three weeks. The international workcamps in Africa normally last from two weeks to almost a month and workcamps in Latin America generally last from three to four weeks. Asian workcamps can have a very different length, ranging between three days up to three weeks. Usually, the work will take place from Monday to Friday except for Muslim countries where the official free day of the week is mostly on Fridays. The weekends are normally free to enjoy and plan leisure activities.
English is the most common camp language. If you need another or an additional language, this will be stated specifically in the workcamp description.
Activities in Workcamps and Projects
Generally the local organisation defines its own way of working and this sometimes reflects the work that will be expected from the international volunteers. It can involve:
Animation and social training
Leisure time activities with children
Construction, renovation and manual work
Path cleaning, reforestation and agricultural work
Arts (e.g. music, theatre)
Other workcamps can be more directly related to basic community development such as the building of roads and clearing parts of the jungle for bringing clean water to the village. Often the work can be physically strenuous and different to what some volunteers will be used to. Usually care is taken that there will be several refreshment breaks during the day.
During the work camp the volunteers can be hosted in a variety of accommodation: in family houses or in a building provided by the local co-ordinators, in a youth hostel, or in tents. Although anything is possible, it should be kept in mind that accommodation is nearly always simple and sometimes primitive. It is preferred that people bring their own sleeping bags unless otherwise written in the work camp information sheet.
It is expected that the volunteers will participate in the daily life of the hosting community with the aim to maximise the exchange with the people concerned with the project. This is even more so in the exchanges, which take place in Latin America where the international volunteers are mostly hosted individually with local families.
In addition to the IVP membership and application fees, Australian volunteers pay their travel costs from Australia to the work camp location, insurance cover (see insurance section) and in some countries, there is an extra project fee which is paid to the hosting organisation. Food and accommodation are provided and paid for by the project host. In the case where there is an extra project fee, this covers not only the costs of board and lodging for the programme period, but more substantially, it is used to support the organisation and its programmes. In countries where this fee is charged the host organisation depends in most cases entirely on the voluntary income to run their programmes. Organising workcamps costs money, as it needs a fair amount of preparation and co-ordination throughout the year. The fee paid will help cover these pre-programme costs.
Workcamps offer an excellent opportunity for exchanging ideas about social, political and other issues about the local situations. Apart from the daily work of the project, it enables volunteers to have the opportunity to participate in debate, propose visits and meet with other local organisations. Every work camp does not have an organised study programme. Often the informal talks with other volunteers, project workers or local people give the scope for debate and learning. However, on many workcamps an effort is made to organise a more structured study participation, either closely linked with the social aim of the project organisation or linked to national or international campaigns SCI is implementing at the time.
Work Camp Leader or Coordinator
In most camps, though not in all, a work camp leader or camp co-ordinator will be appointed to facilitate the camp. A large part of the role of the co-ordinator is simply being the point of communication between the camp organisation, the host project and the volunteers. It is the primary task of the leader to try to meet the aims and expectations of all three. This should be done in the most harmonious way so that all are satisfied and so the maximum numbers of objectives are achieved.
A camp leader’s function is threefold: to lead, organise and mediate as appropriate. But above all, a camp leader is a member of the group and the relationship with the volunteers should never be hierarchical, even if participants expect him/her to play a decisive part in the course of the camp.
What can volunteers expect the camp leader to do?
– Organise orientation and evaluation meetings
– Include volunteers in decision making processes
– Liaise between volunteers & project partner
– Co-ordinate work and rosters
– Consider the needs of different cultural backgrounds and help with overcoming language barriers, but not being a translator
– Lead the theoretical discussion about the project’s work & goals
– Help with conflict solving
– Initiate discussion about political, social, cultural affairs related to the camp
– Represent SCI in public
– Inform the volunteers about the work, structures & aims of SCI
– Keep track of the entire program