Why participate in an international work camp? Of course, it supports a meaningful project. At the same time, you get to know new people, new countries and new cultures while having fun. In addition to the technical skills that you take from the work project, there are a number of other things that you can learn through your voluntary work. We asked previous volunteers what they have learned in their work camps.
Engage in a work camp in a team of volunteers, coordinate tasks with the other participants, and work with people you've just met. Collaborating in international teams, which is increasingly important for many of us at some point of our work life, can be practiced perfectly in work camps.
2. Initiative and active participation
Just signing up for a work camp already proves that you want to get actively involved. But also during the work camp your opinion and your own initiative are wanted and needed. You learn to engage in discussions and decision-making processes and to implement (or discard) your own ideas. Plus, you learn how you can actively shape our society through small actions and projects.
3. Openness and respect for other opinions and cultures
Volunteers from very different backgrounds come together at a work camp. You share the everyday life, the accommodation and explore the environment together in the free time. Some life stories that you get to know might be completely foreign to you. The time in the international group is a great way to get to know other opinions and cultures better and to get a glimpse into the lives of people you would probably never have met somewhere else.
4. Foreign language skills
A work camp is your chance to try out what you have learned in English class. And in addition, learning even more useful words and expressions for everyday life while cooking and working together. Maybe you even manage to remember the most important phrases in the languages of your fellow work campers. 안녕하세요 as they say in Korea...
5. Communication skills
Communication is not just about language. As important as what you say is the way you say it. In the workcamp you can learn to understand and discuss different ways of expressing oneself and discussing one another. Perhaps you will also find that the (fairly typical German) way of addressing criticism or requests directly is not at all self-evident.
6. Organizational ability
By participating in an international work camp, you have not only managed to independently travel to another country (possibly unknown to you). Also during the camp, work and leisure have to be organized. Starting with your own journey and planning, up to time management if you're in charge of cooking for the whole group on one day - you can definitely strengthen your organizational skills in a work camp.
No work camp without unexpected changes of plan. Be it the surprising change of weather while working outside, the inedible attempt at pasta at the group's first cooking session or the spontaneous birthday party for one of your fellow work campers - where many different people come together, there will always be some chaos. And chaos, as we know, is the perfect oppurtunity to get creative. In a work camp, you can learn how much fun improvisation can be, that detours often lead to the best places and that you can even develop an amazing party game with only an empty cereal box.
A workcamp is not a kids' holiday camp where instructors take care of everything for you. Although each work camp has one or several group leaders, the responsibility for the work project and the organization of the community life is shared by all volunteers. So get involved, look actively for where your help is needed, and learn to take responsibility.
9. Learning to learn
Every work camp is different and each group offers a new experience. But what you can take from every project is curiosity and the desire to learn more. That, too, is a matter of practice; over time, you will find out what role you feel most comfortable with in a group, what you can contribute and what you want to learn from others.
Did we forget something? What did you learn in your work camp? Write to us to share your experience!
In our evaluation seminars, we use IVE, a system developed in 2015 as part of a strategic Erasmus+ project. I'VE allows work camp organizations to analyse the dimensions of informal learning and the skills gained through work camps together with the volunteers. More information about I'VE is available here.