06. July 2020

A decade of workcamp volunteering

Sue participated in her first international workcamp when she was a teenager. Her experience in Estonia motivated her to discover even more places and that is how a decade long love for workcamps started:

Why did you join a workcamp?

Sue: "When I volunteered in my first workcamp in Estonia, my driver was curiosity. I was 16 and I wanted to explore the world. I had never been to Estonia before. So I ditched school for the last two days before the holidays – yes, I know… but it was worth it! – and I flew to Tallinn. This was the beginning of a decade of workcamp experiences. Now it's been 10 years already! Crazy!

In the camp in Estonia, I expected to learn new skills, but it was more, a real flood of new impressions: Place, people, work, language, culture, food, lifestyle... In other words: When I came home, I immediately checked out the next workcamp dates.

In the following years, I volunteered mainly in Italy, because I simply love Italy. We had a great group there up in the Abbruzzi mountains. In that camp I met workcamp leaders who I still think about today, because they did such a great job (thanks Rocco, thanks Stephanie!).

In Rosieres-des-Salines we helped in a horse stud, where France's best horses lived and in the evenings we all watched the football world-cup matched together. A great group experience, where even the British volunteers kept the fingers crossed for the German football team (after their own team had no chance left to win). A workcamp in the USA was the next step and that workcamp was one of the best experiences of my life!"

What did you take from the experience?

Sue: "First of all, I made friends. In these 2 to 4 weeks you are so close to the other participants and locals. You work together, you have fun together, sometimes you also get on each others' nerves... In other words: You get to know each other so much better in a few weeks, than you would normally do in everyday life. This can create bonds that last a long time if not a lifetime.

In 2017, a friend from Hong-Kong came to visit me here in Germany, after we had met in a workcamp 6 years before. She celebrated Christmas with me and my family. Her best gift: she saw snow for the first time in her life. (She made me almost have a heart attack when in my bedroom at 6 o’clock in the morning she screamed out : ”LOOK AT THIS! This is awesome!”). My family had many workcamp guests over in the last years: They met guests from Taiwan and Japan, Russia and Stuttgart. So even if they didn't travel with me, my family lived some of the workcamp experience as well.

Through my workcamps I also learned – and this is probably the most important realization of my life so far –  that the world has so so many experiences to offer, you never have to be afraid to run out of chances."

What do you still carry with you?

Sue: "In fact, the memories, gifts, photos, posts, give-aways became more and more by the years and that’s why I have a box in which I keep all the things, that remind me of the greatest moments in my workcamps. And of course, I’m really thankful for social media, because it makes it a lot easier to keep contact with people you once met in the camps.

I also developed new cooking-skills. I learned to cook original South Italian Panzerotti, which are just amazing! Learning cooking skills also came with a memory that I didn’t plan to have:  a scar from a burn in my face and on my right arm. Cooking with a lot of oil, there was an oil explosion that burned my face so hard, that I had to be taken care by an Italian firefighter and doctor. But I didn’t want to fly home earlier, so I decided to stay there in the camp. The others helped me a lot to get the work done and they ignored (and even made a lot of fun of) the fact, that I couldn’t shower for almost 2 weeks. It was still an amazing camp.

So all I can say is: Now I do not only have a list with places I want to visit, but also one with places, I want to re-visit."