22. October 2020

Volunteering At -25 Degrees Celsius (Finland)

In the summer of 2019 Udit, who was studying at the University of Tübingen at the time, took part in his first international workcamp near Stuttgart. Since then, he has been involved on a voluntary basis with IBG, either as a group leader in workcamps in Germany, as a participant in camps abroad or as a team leader in virtual camps. At the beginning of 2020, Udit fulfilled a long-term dream and took part in one of the northernmost and probably coldest workcamps there is - a winter workcamp in Lapland:

"Visiting the Land of Santa Claus, with sub-zero temperatures, has always been a dream for me right from my childhood days.

Last January, I got the chance to fulfill this dream of mine when I got an opportunity to participate in a workcamp at Vasatokka, a youth centre in the northernmost part of Finland (right in the north-pole region). Doing a workcamp in such conditions was definitely going to be interesting, and at the same time physically challenging. With temperatures falling down to -25 degree Celsius, and having just 4 hours of daylight (we didn’t see any sun in the two weeks), the climatic conditions were especially not friendly. However, I was looking forward to experiencing all this (both the ups and downs) and hence decided to do a workcamp in Finland in the middle of winter.

While the climate of Lapland might be extremely cold, the people are definitely very warm at heart.

It’s true that Finland is considered to be a very silent country (well the darkness and the cold weather does make a lot of things extremely deserted and silent), but whenever you see someone, you always notice a smile on their face. From my experience, the people from Lapland are very friendly and open and try to socialize and enjoy their lives despite the cold weather. The food is definitely rich in lots of potatoes and meat (we ate the reindeer meat too), and they have some very different kinds of breads (more hard and crunchy). Also, the Finish love their saunas (and can get a bit crazy at times by rolling in the snow after a sauna). All in all, I would definitely like to relive the Lapland culture.

My favourite memory...

While the entire workcamp and all its activities were memorable for me (from skiing, to sliding down the snow, to alpine camping), one highlight definitely had to be the northern lights (yes, that’s what every single volunteer in the workcamp was there to witness). Almost 10 days had passed, and we didn’t see a sign of northern lights. Disappointed, we thought we had to go back home without a single glance of the northern lights. However, just the night before we were going to leave, we spotted them - and that too in full vigour! They were just dancing, all around the sky. It really seemed magical, and 10 months down the lane, that memory is still etched in my mind. It wasn’t just a 10 minute “natural light show”, but a full-fledged 2 hours phenomenon, which was just unbelievable.

There are two things about myself that I learned about in the workcamp.

First of all, I really did challenge my physical self, and handled the extreme cold (not just handled it, but also worked in it withfull vigour). Secondly, what I realized was that just sitting in front of the computer for 24 hours (regardless of how important the work is) wouldn’t make me happy. I remember I was writing my master thesis at that time, and a two week break from it, being in the nature, being with such amazing people, definitely made me realize that all you need is a CHILL PILL at times."