Sheila took part in an international workcamp for the first time in 1986 after coming across a small newspaper advertisement for a volunteering project in Germany rather by chance. And Sheila has been part of the world of volunteering ever since. From 1988 to 2016, Sheila directed the Welsh workcamp organization UNA Exchange. Read about the impression Sheila's first workcamp made here:
Why did you join a workcamp?
Sheila: "Originally, well, firstly, the first workcamp I did was in 1986, in what was then West Germany. The nearest town was called Würzburg, in Southern Germany. And I think the reason I did it was that I had never heard of anything like this, anything like international workcamps or international volunteering. I saw a small article in the local newspaper in Cardiff promoting workcamps, promoting what is now UNA Exchange, and there was an offer to a particular project to work in the restoration of a castle. I just thought, “Yeah, why not? this is interesting, I just finished college, I have no job...”
I did not know what I was going to do, and the idea of going to Germany for two weeks was quite interesting. It was exciting and I’d say in the 80s, not many people did that kind of thing. It was different. It was adventure. Adventure and excitement."
What did you take from the experience?
Sheila: "I think it introduced me to a set of values I probably had inside me but wasn’t necessarily aware of - concerning community and relationships between people, the power as well of people doing things together, the power to change things, how small things can make a big difference... A very permanent difference in a lot of ways, and then basic human values of being good to each other, of positivity and optimism.
And always believing there is a solution to something, there is a way of achieving something, there is a good outcome that can come from everything. That is difficult to say on this day as this country leaves the European Union but there are good things somewhere in everything. So yes, positivity probably! That’s one huge thing I think."
What do you still carry with you?
Sheila: "Friends. Friendship. Simple. After so much time, thirty years, then that’s obviously a big part of my life and I think it’s the friendships I’ve got - virtually everybody I know in my life I can say has had a connection this world – volunteering world. I’m so rich because of that. Yes, friendship."